FSA Facts to Note and Keep in Mind

Did you realize that enrolling in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) can actually save you some hard-earned cash? The money set aside is pretax, so it’s practically like lowering your co-pay and prescription costs.

Check with your HR department to see what their deadline is for enrollment in an FSA plan. Then follow these tips.

Estimate your medical and dental spending. Think about what expenses you might have in the coming year. Ever thought about Lasik eye surgery (yes, it’s covered!) Other eligible expenses include prescriptions (even birth control), transportation to medical appointments, glasses and contact lenses, doctor co-pays, sleep aids, and many over-the-counter medications. You’ll need a note from your PCP to get reimbursed for certain expenses like massage therapy or sunscreen if you need them to treat a specific condition, but you can usually request a note online.

Find out how to get reimbursed. Some plans will give you a debit card preloaded with your allotted amount for the year, which eliminates the need to fill out paperwork and submit receipts. If you’re in a “paper plan,” the company will ask that you mail or fax your receipts to them so that they can cut you a check (or direct-deposit the money into your account). Generally, money will be deducted from every paycheck over the course of the year, but you don’t need to wait until the money has been deducted before you can use it. If you’re shelling out for something pricey like a new pair of glasses or contacts, it’s helpful to find out how quickly you get reimbursed so you won’t overdraw your checking account and get into a bind.

Use it or lose it. If you haven’t used the money in your FSA account by March 15 of the following year, you will lose it. If you still have money left, you could splurge on a new pair
of glasses, stock up on OTC meds like Tylenol, or get a flu shot.

The Benefits of a Bath

The American way is the no-nonsense shower. Get wet, get clean, get it over with, get onto the next project. But there are many reasons why taking an occasional bath makes sense and can have mental and physical benefits. Here are 10 points, all supported by medical research and anecdotal evidence, to think about next time you’re singing in the shower.

Stress Reduction
Getting into the tub with some swirling water can help unwind the stress of the day and let your brain relax.

Better Sleep
Immersing yourself in hot water for 15 minutes before bedtime raises your body temperature and enhances your ability to fall asleep.

Hydrotherapy
Get relief for arthritis, aches and stiffness as warm water increases blood suppy to aching joint and inflamed areas of the body.

Oh Buoy
The buoyancy of water relaxes muscles and warm water decreases muscle tension for greater flexiblility.

Breathe Easier
Steam rising of hot water can open up nasal and bronchial passes, and aids in maintaining upper respiratory health.

Headache Relief
Some people find relief from headaches by soaking in a hot tub.

Heart Health
A recent Mayo Clinic studyfound that soaking in a hot tub provides some benefits of exercise, such as lowering blood pressure, without the strain.

Cover Your Back
Four of five Americans suffer from chronic back pain. Hot water alleviates lower back pain
as well as the common ailment of knee pain.

Skin Game
Soaking in a tub is an easy way to treat large areas of skin for itching, eczema, hives, dry or crusty skin, inflamed or chafed skin and poison ivy or oak.

Serenity and Peace
A hot tub can be a statement of taking control of your personal life and time, and locking out all the other demands. Aromatherapy, candles and music can rejuvenate you.

How to Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer

Men who get moderate amounts of exercise regularly may reduce their risk of prostate cancer. That according to a new study published in the November 2009 issue of Journal of Urology, which reports that prostate cancer was less likely to be diagnosed in men who got exercise regularly than those who led a sedentary lifestyle.

A team at the Duke University Prostate Center and the VA Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina analyzed data from 190 men who underwent biopsies for suspected prostate cancer and found the association. About half of the patients who exercised moderately, or those who engaged in three to six hours of walking each week, were two-thirds less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than their sedentary counterparts. Also of note: The researchers found that men who got exercise equivalent to one to three hours of walking each week were 86 percent less likely to develop an aggressive form of the cancer.

Is there a direct link between exercise and reduced risk? Not for certain. But the findings fit with the fact that exercise, or at least some degree of physical activity, is linked to reduced cancer risks in general. One possible theory for the lowered risk is that those who exercise also tend to have a healthy diet and lifestyle. Another possible reason is that exercise can lower the level of sexual hormones in the blood, like testosterone, that are known to promote prostate cancer growth. Yet a third explanation: exercise can boost the body’s anti-oxidation mechanisms which also helps reduce the odds of acquiring prostate cancer.

A second recent study, published in a British medical journal suggests the same statistical association, i.e., that being physically active may help reduce risk of prostate cancer. The study, done at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, found that those who walk, bike or have a physical occupation show lower risk than those who sit at a desk day after day.

Nearly 200,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year and, according to the National Cancer Institute, more than 27,000 will die of the disease.

Low Calorie Diets Extend Lifespan

A recently concluded 20-year study of Rhesus monkeys holds the promise that dramatically restricting calories —in this case a 30 percent cut—may add years to your life. The monkeys showed fewer signs and diseases of aging, lived longer than monkeys who ate more, and even looked better.

healthy eating

The findings provide support for a scientific movement, known commonly as Calorie Restriction or CR, which has long posited that a consistent ultra-low calorie diet may prolong life in humans. The theory has been around at least since the 1930s, and has spawned The Calorie Restriction Society, whose members believe that this daily regimen is “the only proven life-extension method known to modern science.”

Previous evidence about the link between eating less and living longer was based on studies of more primitive creatures like worms, flies, yeast, fish and rodents. The new study at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, is the first to include large mammals. In addition to living longer, the dieting monkeys showed less cancerous tumors, heart disease, diabetes, and brain shrinkage. Lead researcher, Rick Colman, Ph.D., an associate scientist at the Center, put it simply: “Monkeys in the calorie restricted group are more likely to live healthier, longer.”

Since calorie restriction, by its nature, involves the less intake of nutrients, food choices become critical. Fruits, vegetables, grains and lean protein tend to be favored over sugars or high carbohydrate items. On average, Americans consume between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day; someone practicing calorie restriction would need to get this down to 1,500 to 2,000 daily calories.

Obviously, no one is yet sure if the findings can be generalized to human beings, and the research will go on. But experts extrapolate from the monkey study that if it works, people in their 30s who start the process could extend their lives by 8 to 10 years. Which raises the question: If you could prolong your life, but the price would be eating 30 percent fewer calories every single day, would it be worth it?