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Get In the Fight - It's YOUR Life!

Another year has passed and you proudly look back at the accomplishments of last year. Challenges were met, and changes were made, in an effort to have a better life by improving your health. And you did it!

Many have started an exercise program or quit smoking and stuck with it! Many have changed their diet on their own accord, or at their doctor's suggestion.

Many took the flu shoe and started taking their prescribed medication regularly, trusting the advice of their doctor. Many kept current with mammograms and thoughts took the initiative to get involved in colon cancer screening. However, several are patting themselves on the back for getting past another year without anybody noticing they didn't make their colon screening appointment. Well, we at the Colon Screening Program of Capital Health Plan noticed.

Everyone age 50 to age 75 should be actively involved in colon cancer screening to help fight colon cancer. Studies have shown that African Americans have a higher incidence of colon cancer and more fatalities if colon cancer develops; prevention should start at age 45. There are some who have family histories that put them at increased risk and, if that is the case, don't hesitate to ask your doctor how early you should get involved in colon cancer screening.

Unlike breast cancer screening, which is intended to detect breast cancers that have already occurred, colon cancer screening has a second benefit. It can prevent most cancers, which is the true benefit of colon screening. Since most cancers are caused from precancerous growths, painlessly removing abnormal growths before they change into cancer cells can prevent colon cancer from occurring. But, if a cancer is found during colon screening, early removal of the cancer before it spreads beyond the colon can be life-saving.

The best part of all, colon cancer screening is easy!

  • At Home Stool Sample: Since growths bleed, the Colon Screening Program can check a small spot of stool for non-visible blood. The test only requires one stool sample and there are no dietary restrictions when collecting the sample. The collection process is incredibly easy and sanitary.
  • Colon Exam: After a bowel cleansing, a slender, lighted tube is used to look at the lining of the large intestine. If the patient prefers to remain alert during the exam, there is only pressure and light cramping felt. Most patients can easily tolerate the exam and even go back to their normal routine the very same day.

It's 2015 and the time is now! Don't reward yourself for missing opportunities to preserve your health. On your list of accomplishments this year be sure to add joined the fight to prevent colon cancer.

If you have questions about colon screening, talk to your primary care physician. Your primary care physician can discuss your risk of colon cancer and if screening is right for you. You may also call the Colon Screening Program at 850-523-7350.

Away From Home Care

Away From Home Care®  is a program that Capital Health Plan participated in to cover our members who are out of our service area for 90 consecutive days or more. Members can take advantage of the Away From Home Care® benefit when families are apart such as a child away in college, family members residing in different HMO service areas, and/or long term travelers. This benefit allows our members to seek routine and emergency care while outside our service area for an extended period of time.

There are certain criteria tha tmust be met for you, or your dependents, to be eligible for Away From Home Care®:

  • A member must be out of the service area for at least 90 consecutive days.
  • A policyholder can ONLY be out of the service area for a maximum of 6 months each year.
  • Dependents on the policy can be enrolled for up to one year and renew their guest membership each year.
  • Other retrictions may apply.

It is a very simple process, as easy as 1-2-3-4:

  1. Call Capital Health Plan Member Services. Have the address, phone number, county, and state where you (or your dependent) will be. Member Services will verify that there is a participating HMO in the service area.
  2. Look for an application in the mail (to be completed by the policyholder).
  3. Complete and sign the application; send it back to Capital Health Plan at least 15 days before you would like it to be effective. If the application is for someone over the age of 18, he or she must sign the paperwork as well.
  4. Look for plan information in the mail from the Host HMO.

All family members are eligible for Away From Home Care®. Each family member will need to have his or her own guest membership. Capital Health Plan offers worry free travel, wherever you may go!

National Health Care Decision Day

National Health Care Decision Day is Thursday, April 16, 2015. National Health Care Decision Day encourages everyone to communicate their health care wishes to family and medical providers before the need to make medical decisions arises. This is known as an Advance Directive. Capital Health Plan's Advance Directive of choice is Five Wishes. Five Wishes has become America's most popular living will because it is written in everyday language and helps structure important conversations about care in times of serious illness.

The end of life is often treated as a medical moment rather than a process that completes the circle of life. If asked, most will tell you that they want to be allowed to have a natural death. Almost everyone can relate to a story of a loved one experiencing pain or isolation in the end of stages of life. This can all be avoided by completing Five Wishes now before you become ill or incapacitated.

Do you feel uneasy or confused about how to start this vital conversation with your loved ones? The Planning Early About Care at the End (PEACE) Program at Big Bend Hospice provides you with the information you need to get started. The ongoing discussion begins with an assessment of your motivation, your knowledge and your beliefs regarding health care at the end of life. The results from this assessment will help you articulate your preferences. values and goals to your family and loved ones. To reach a PEACE facilitator, please contact Big Bend Hospice at 850-878-5310.

Additional information on advance care planning can be found here. There are videos that offer suggestions on how to get a coversation started with both your health care team and your loved ones regarding end of life care planning. You can also find checklists, books and websites that focus on advance care planning.

The Capital Health Plan Health Promotions Department will be distributing Five Wishes on Thursday, April 16, 2015 at both Capital Health Plan Health Center locations. Please plan to pick up your copy. Life can change in an instant. Please give your family the gift of having completed an Advance Directive today.

If you have questions concerning Five Wishes or you are not able to stop by on Thursday, April 16, 2015, please call the Capital Health Plan Health Information Line at 850-383-3400 or Big Bend Hospice at 850-878-5310.

Nominate a Senior in Our Community

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 Silver Stars Celebration is one of Tallahassee’s premier senior recognition events, honoring a select group of people for their special contributions. The Tallahassee Senior Center, which spearheads the event, invites the community to nominate a senior for a Silver Star. Capital Health Plan is proud to be a major sponsor for the 2015 celebration which culminates in a festive awards dinner at the FSU University Center on May 21, 2015.

We bet you know some shining women and men who reach age 60 and just keep bringing more brightness into the world. Who can be a star? Your friends, neighbors, relatives who…

  • Since age 60 have accomplished outstanding achievements
  • Demonstrated exemplary service to others and our community
  • Are inspiring models of active aging

From athletes to caregivers, Silver Stars illuminate many paths in life. Past honorees include athletes, executive directors, community advocates, caregivers, volunteers, and entrepreneurs. If you know someone 60 or older whose life of service you admire, whatever the arena, share your appreciation! Nominate a senior star and let the whole community know.

Nominations are sought from the community and must be received by February 13. Send a nomination form or a letter of nomination - not to exceed 100 words - to: Silver Stars Nomination, Tallahassee Senior Center, 1400 N. Monroe St., Tallahassee, Florida, 32303. Be sure to describe the individual's outstanding achievements or contributions since reaching age 60. Include the nominee's and nominator's contact names and information, and be sure to get permission from the nominee. Nomination forms can be downloaded here.

For more information on the Silver Stars Celebration, click here.

Medications and Older Persons: How to Avoid Problems

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

Receiving a medication is one of the most common outcomes of a trip to your health care provider. Every day we are bombarded by television commercials, advertisements in almost every magazine, and full-page newspaper ads for the latest "discovery" of miracle drugs. Many patients expect a medication after an office visit, and believe they "didn’t get their money’s worth" if a new prescription wasn’t offered. But the hidden story is somewhat darker. Often medications aren’t the best approach, and sometimes they can be downright dangerous. So what’s an informed patient going to do to ensure they get exactly which medications are likely to work, be safe, and avoid complications?

Medications have done a lot to help older persons cope with the common conditions associated with aging. Blood pressure control, relief of heart pain, better ability to live with arthritis, treatment of infections, and help with low thyroid are great examples of how medications can provide a lot of benefit. But there are also risks. Annually, about 7,000 people a year die from medication errors. In fact, 30% more money is spent on dealing with the complications of medicines than on the medicines themselves! In the 1980s, most problems were related to hospital medications but now 55% are occurring in the community setting. Because the chance of taking multiple medications is higher as we get older, it is not surprising that 57% of people over age 65 have a medication problem (called an "Adverse Drug Event") each year.

As we get older, the risk of a problem occurring increases dramatically. Changes in our bodies (more fat, less water), changes in kidney function (less efficient clearing of medications out of our system), and sensitivity of our organs (brain, heart, kidneys, digestive system) all increase the likelihood of a medication problem. Add to that the chance that a person is taking multiple medications for different problems and the risk becomes even greater. Finally, most recommendations for treatment that health care providers follow are made on the basis of a single problem. For instance, experts recommend 2 or 3 different medications to prevent another heart attack after the first heart attack. But if the person also has diabetes, acid reflux, and arthritis suddenly "expert guidelines" are recommending 6 or more drugs.

Certain medications are particularly risky. Most of those are in the category we call "psychoactive" medications – drugs for anxiety, sleep, depression, or psychosis and narcotic pain medications. In fact, any drug that works directly on the brain is risky in terms of causing falls, confusion, or even epileptic fits (seizures) if suddenly stopped. Heart medications, such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners, and medications to control the rhythm of the heart are also risky. Finally, medications that are called "anticholinergic" have a special risk to older persons. Acetylcholine is an important chemical in the brain that we need to think clearly. Certain antidepressants and bladder relaxants can lower the acetylcholine in the brain and cause confusion.

Finally, there is the problem of new drugs coming on the market. Even though the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has to approve a drug before it is released on the market, the number of people involved in studies is always much smaller than the number in the general population using it once it is released. That is why we’ve seen some major "blockbuster" drugs taken off the market in a few years after being released. For instance, Vioxx and Bextra (for arthritis) were removed from the market due to it causing heart problems after over 80 million people had taken it. Fifty percent of withdrawals from the market happen within two years of the drugs release on the open market.

So what can you do to protect yourself from having a medication problem?

  • Keep a list of your current medications - prescription and over-the-counter - and show it to all of your doctors at every visit.
  • Use one pharmacy for all your prescriptions.
    • The pharmacisit can catch a potential bad interaction between medications
  • Never ask for a medication that is advertised on television.
    • If prescribed a new medication, ask whether it's been on the market for over 2 years.
    • If it hasn't, asl for a substitute that has a known history of safety.
  • When a medication is recommended, always ask:
    • Is there anything I can do to treat my problem instead of taking a medication? For instance, exercise is better at controlling the lef pain of preipheral vascular disease than any drug.
    • Will this react with any of the medications on my list? Be especially wary of taking two or more psychoactive drugs.
    • Is there any medication on my list I can stop before starting this new medication?

 

Dr. Brummel-Smith holds the Charlotte Edwards Maguire Professorship at the Florida State University of Medicine. He leads the Department of Geriatrics, one of the give academic departments in the FSU College of Medicine. Geriatrics is one of the priority areas in the college's mission.

Live Well & Eat Well This Holiday Season

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

Gathering with friends and family over the holiday season is something that everyone looks forward to year round. There's delicious gravy, casseroles galore, and exquisite desserts at each gathering...but these savory dishes tend to add on the unwanted pounds. Want to avoid tipping the scales this season? Make sure you're in control of what you each by following these subsitutions:

WHAT A RECIPE CALLS FOR  USE THIS INSTEAD...
Whole milk (1 cup) 1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk, plus one tablespoon of liquid vegetable oil
Heavy Cream (1 cup) 1 cup evaporated skim milk to 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup plain low-fat unstalted cottage cheese
Cream Cheese 4 tablespoons of soft margarine (low in saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat) blended with 1 cup dry, unsalted low-fat cottage cheese; add a small about of fat-free milk if needed
Butter (1 tablespoon) 1 tablespoon of soft margarine (low in saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat) or 3/4 tablespoons liquid vegetable oil
Egg (1) 2 egg whites; or choose a commercially made, cholesterol-free egg substitute (1/4 cup)
Unsweetened Baking Chocolate (1 ounce) 3 tablespoons unsweetended cocoa powder or carob powder plus 1 tablesppon vegetable oul or soft margarine; since carob is sweeter than cocoa, reduce the sugar in the recipe by 25%

You can make many of your favorite recipes and treats healthier by using lower-fat and no-fat ingredients. The healthy substitutions above can help you cut down on saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, while noticing little, if any, difference at all.

Source: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/ HealthyCooking/Smart-Substitutions_UCM_302052_Article.jsp

Capital City Senior Games

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

SAVE THE DATE: March 7- 16, 2015

Capital Health Plan is again a proud sponsor of the Capital City Senior Games.

Lace up your sneakers and get ready to go for the Gold! If you are an active adult or want to be an active adult there is no better way to get in shape than to start training for the Capital City Senior Games. If you are age 50 or older you qualify. All competitions are divided into age groups that range from 50-54 up to 90+.

You don't have to be an athlete to enjoy the games. Fans are welcome to all events including the Torch Run at Lake Ella on Thursday, March 12, 2015. Visit www.talgov.com for more information and what games will be held.

The Capital City Senior Games are certified by the Florida Sports Foundation and gives local athletes a chance to qualify for the Florida Senior Games State Championships and the National Senior Games.

Flu Vaccine: Get Your Flu Shot Today!

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 flu season has started early this year. Make sure you receive your flu vaccine!

Capital Health Plan Members can receive their flu vaccine thru the following methods:

1. The flu vaccine is a covered benefit through your primary care physician's (PCP) office. Call your PCP to verify if an appointment is needed. There is a $0 copay for flu vaccines and/or pneumococcal vaccine if the office visit is only for the vaccine. Other services may require a copayment.

2. Flu vaccines can be obtained from the local health departments listed below. You should contact the facility directly for scheduling.

3. Additionally, for members who have a prescription drug benefit with Capital Health Plan, retail pharmacies in Capital Health Plan's network can administer the flu vaccine. You will need to work with your pharmacy regarding their specific appointment processes and you should have your Capital Health Plan ID card available when receiving the vaccine. The Retail Pharmacy vaccination program applies only to adults 18 and over. Pediatric patients should see their PCP.

If you have questions, please contact Capital Health Plan Member Services.

Ask Dr. Nancy: What is your risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years?

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

Through technology, new tools have been made available to help us understand our personal health risks.

Heart attack risk assessment tools have gained momentum recently due to recommendations by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC). They recommend the use of a risk calculator to help physicians and patients create individualized treatment plans to reduce cardiovascular risk. Cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death in the United States;therefore, we can expect that someone we know, or even ourself, will be part of those statistics.

Some of us are at higher risk than others. Our risk depends on numerous factors such as age, lifestyle habits, race, smoking, blood pressure, weight, cholesterol levels and family history. The risk calculators, generally, are programmed for people without known heart disease or diabetes and are 20 years of age or older.

The risk calculator allows users to input of a variety of information and returns an approximate risk number, for example, "20% risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years". You can modify the information to see what will happen if you take action to reduce your risk. For example, if you decide to exercise or keep your blood pressure down, then your overall risk will decrease.

AHA and ACC recommend if you are at high risk already, meaning you have heart disease, are a diabetic between the ages of 40-75 or have an LDL-C level of >190 mg/dL, then use a high dose statin medication (no matter what your cholesterol is on blood testing). If you don’t fall into one of the known high risk categories, use the risk calculator to determine if medications are recommended. If your risk is 7.5% or greater, then it is worth a discussion with your primary care physician (PCP).

If you are already on a statin medication, the guidelines no longer recommend getting cholesterol levels down to a certain number. High dose statins are recommended for people at high risk; lower dose statins are recommended for people at lower risk.

A welcomed trend we are seeing is that there is more emphasis on "outcomes" or what happens to the patients. This means there is a greater emphasis on trying to reduce heart attacks rather than reduce a lab values. As more research is done, we can expect these guidelines to be refined over time. One thing that will not change is the recommendation for a healthy lifestyle. The recommendations are simple. Moderate exercise; 150 minutes a week, and a healthy diet with smaller portions of fresh foods, will go a long way to reduce your risk for many diseases.

For more information regarding the risk calculator for heart attacks from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology please click here.

Ask Your Member Services Department

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

When should I go to Urgent Care?

Understanding your options now will give you peace of mind later when you have to make quick decisions about urgent health care needs.

Many sicknesses and injuries may cause you to seek immediate help; however, only severe and life threatening conditions require a trip to the Emergency Room (ER). You will find that you save time and money by going to an Urgent Care Center instead of an ER. When an ER is inappropriately utilized it typically will cost you, in premiums and increased cost shares, twenty times more than an Urgent Care Center. If you have an illness or injury that requires immediate attention that you would normally see your primary care physician (PCP) for and cannot get an appointment that same day, Urgent Care is the right choice.

Your PCP is your health care partner and central coordinator for everything pertaining to your good health. S/he knows you well and provides health care advice tailored to your needs. We therefore encourage you to see your PCP, if possible.