How to Age with Optimism

Having a “glass half full” approach to life has long been considered important for overall wellness. But evidence suggests that there may be truth in this folk wisdom.

Humana recently surveyed 2,000 people aged 60 and over, and found that 87 percent of seniors who identify themselves as “most optimistic” reported their health as good to excellent. This is compared to 44 percent for those who said they’re “least optimistic.”

Also, the most optimistic people reported nine fewer physically unhealthy and seven fewer mentally unhealthy days per month than their least optimistic counterparts.

Seniors who rated themselves as most optimistic also reported positively on other attributes linked to health, including sleep, confidence and overall happiness.

* 91 percent of the most optimistic respondents reported feeling confident in the past week, while only 52 percent of the least optimistic respondents did, a difference of 39 percentage points.

* 90 percent of the most optimistic respondents reported feeling happy in the past week, compared to 44 percent of the least optimistic respondents, a difference of 46 percentage points.

* And only 31 percent of the most optimistic respondents reported getting a restless night’s sleep in the past week, while 62 percent of the least optimistic respondents did, another difference of 31 percentage points.

Despite these impressive numbers, having an optimistic mindset is often easier said than done. The stresses of life, social stereotypes and one’s natural temperament can all impede approaching aging with optimism. Dr. Yolangel Hernandez Suarez, Humana vice president and chief medical officer for care delivery, has the following advice for anyone struggling to stay on the sunny side of life:

1. Take ownership and recognize that your health is your own. To achieve your best health, you need to set personal goals – just for you.

2. Engage with your doctor or other health care professional and build a trusting relationship.

3. Find a higher purpose that makes you excited to get up in the morning. Humana’s survey found that the majority of respondents (86 percent) who identify as optimists also rank a sense of purpose as an important attribute for aging.

4. Remain socially engaged, not isolated, and nurture close relationships. The importance of social engagement is recognized by the 71 percent of Humana survey respondents who identify as optimists and get together with friends or relatives either monthly or weekly. Further, 80 percent of optimists say maintaining an active social life is an important motivator to stay healthy.

5. Stay active and remember that physical activity is important. Find something that’s right for you and that you like to do. Almost all of the most optimistic survey respondents (97 percent) say remaining physically active is a major motivator for retaining good health.

6. Practice gratitude and make it a habit to look for and appreciate everything you’re thankful for in life.

“As a boomer myself, I know that the majority of the decisions about my own health take place outside of a doctor’s office,” said Dr. Hernandez Suarez. “With the knowledge that optimism may be linked to health and well-being, I’m focused on making positive health decisions through all aspects of my life. Our goal at Humana is to empower everyone to approach health in the same way.”

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Virtual Colonoscopy Is Becoming a Reality for More People

Colorectal cancer deaths are slowly declining, but shocking racial and ethnic disparities remain.

According to the American Cancer Society, Latinos living in the United States are more likely to develop and die from this disease than those in many Central and South American countries. African-Americans are at least 41 percent more likely to die from colorectal cancer than whites.

Both groups are also less likely to get screened, and their cancers are often found later.

What can be done?

A growing number of medical groups, patient advocates and members of Congress say virtual colonoscopy – known medically as CT colonography – can overcome cultural stigmas and anxiety associated with this screening.

“CT colonography can attract those who would otherwise not be screened, allow doctors to remove more polyps before they become cancers and help people avoid getting this disease,” says Carolyn R. (“Bo”) Aldigé, president and founder of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

The evidence is there

Virtual colonoscopy is an American Cancer Society-recommended screening exam. Studies show that it is as accurate as standard colonoscopy in most people – including those 65 and older.

Virtual colonoscopy increases screening rates where it is offered in the U.S. and abroad. Former President Obama chose to have the virtual exam.

Michael Sapienza, President and CEO of the Colon Cancer Alliance, says the virtual exam can “jump-start screening by offering access to a less-invasive option that millions of screening age who choose not to be tested find more appealing.”

Unfortunately, the prep is the same

However, the virtual exam is far less invasive than standard colonoscopy. The CT scanner uses low-dose X-rays to make 3-D, moving images of the colon that doctors examine for polyps and cancer.

The test does not require sedation. It is over in minutes. And you may not need someone to drive you to the exam. Afterward, you can go back to daily activities.

Private insurers are starting to listen

Thirty-six states require that insurance policies sold in their state cover virtual colonoscopy. Insurers who take part in federal exchanges are required under the Affordable Care Act to cover the exam. CIGNA, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna and other insurers cover these tests irrespective of ACA requirements.

Challenges remain for Medicare patients

Screening those on Medicare with virtual colonoscopy may cost nearly a third less than standard colonoscopy. Yet, Medicare is among a shrinking number of insurers that does not cover the test.

“We need more Medicare-covered options, including CT colonography, to increase Hispanic screening rates and save lives,” says Elena V. Rios, MD, MSPH, president and chief executive officer of the National Hispanic Medical Association.

Patient and provider groups want Congress to pass a new bill that would provide Medicare coverage for virtual colonoscopy.

“With Medicare coverage, CT colonography can increase screening and reduce unnecessary deaths,” says Judy Yee, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Colon Cancer Committee.

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Medicare Plans Offer More Health And Wellness Benefits for 2019

Beginning next year, Medicare Advantage plans will be allowed to cover a broader array of health-related services that may help people with Medicare improve their health.

Starting in January 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded the health-related benefits that insurers are allowed to include in their Medicare Advantage plans.

Rides to the gym and in-home safety measures such as bathroom grab bars are among the new benefits added to certain Medicare Advantage plans for 2019.

Original Medicare combines Medicare Part A, which helps cover hospital and other types of inpatient care, and Medicare Part B, which helps cover doctor visits, outpatient and preventive care. Original Medicare does not include coverage for most prescriptions.

Medicare Advantage plans cover everything that Original Medicare covers and may include extra benefits, services and often prescription drug coverage through a private insurer such as Humana.

Most Medicare Advantage plans offer extra coverage and services, such as vision, hearing and dental benefits, health and wellness programs, and a 24-hour nurse advice line. And most include Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Health and wellness benefits often include fitness programs and gym memberships, and transportation to medical appointments. For 2019, Medicare Advantage plans provide members access to an expanded choice of over-the-counter personal care items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, pill boxes, cough and cold medicines, eye drops, vitamins, heating pads, compression stockings and other supplies for diabetics, plastic bandages and other first aid items.

The new Medicare Advantage supplemental benefits approved by CMS for 2019 also include virtual medical visits and virtual psychiatry, in-home support services and caregiver support.

People with Medicare can see which new health and wellness benefits are being offered for 2019 on Medicare Advantage plans in their neighborhood by going online to the Medicare Plan Finder, or for Humana Medicare Advantage plans at www.humana.com/Medicare.

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Florida Orange Juice Fuels Your Fun This Spring

Spring is full of fun celebrations and holidays, but did you know that May 4th is National Orange Juice Day? Celebrate with your friends and family by raising a refreshing glass of Florida Orange Juice and enjoying first-hand the “Amazing Inside” Florida Orange Juice that helps fuel your fun every day!

Drinking eight-ounces of Florida Orange Juice is the perfect way to start off the weekend – either during breakfast or by adding it to your favorite Cinco de Mayo or Derby cocktail.

The popular refrigerator staple is known for its “Amazing 5” benefits: no added sugar, vitamin C, potassium, folate and great taste; and an 8-ounce serving of 100-percent orange juice helps Americans meet their recommended daily fruit intake.

The vitamin C, potassium and folate in Florida Orange Juice offer several nutritional benefits for your body, such as helping support healthy skin and bones, proper muscle function and red blood cells. It also contains only natural- occurring sugar straight from the orange and is different from other orange juices in that it comes directly from the sandy soil of Florida, making it not only nutritious but also giving it a one-of-a-kind taste – like pure sunshine in a glass!

While fueling your fun with the “Amazing 5” found in Florida Orange Juice, you can also help keep your body hydrated, thanks to its electrolytes, which can help you to keep going strong throughout the day. Even on your routine weekdays, 100-percent orange juice is a great way to increase your vitamin and nutrient intake for all your activities – whether it’s a pre-soccer practice snack for your kids or incorporating it into delicious recipes throughout the week, such as smoothies, salad dressings and make-ahead dinners.

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