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It’s Like Playing the Lottery

June 30th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

During tough economic times, paying your insurance bill may seem difficult.

But not paying it could be devastating.lottery_card

Try cancelling that car insurance policy and you may soon find yourself facing huge fines, jail—or even losing your license.

Forego a homeowner’s policy and you’ll soon be hearing from your lender, who’s as invested in your home as you are and requires you to insure it to protect you both from disaster.

And what about that life insurance policy you’ve had hidden away the past few years? What would happen to your family if you decided to cash it in now and use the money to pay other bills—or take a vacation instead?

Because we never know if we’ll really need it or not, buying insurance is a bit like playing the lottery: As one man said, “It’s a gamble, but you have to have it.”

Are things tough at your house? If so, we understand. But during these difficult times, resist the urge to skimp on insurance. Instead, find other ways to save money so you have the provision you need when you need it.

It may seem like you’re playing the lottery; but if you ever need to file an insurance claim, you’ll feel like you’ve hit the jackpot!

[Footnote:]

To lower your insurance rates, let us help at InsureMe.com.

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Nature’s Most Violent Storms

June 25th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

One of the most frequently occurring weather events, tornadoes have struck southern, mid-western and plains states with fury this spring and summer.

Photo Credit: NOAA Photo Library

Photo Credit: NOAA Photo Library

As we’ve nervously watched weather reports, listened for tornado watches and warnings, and headed to our basements or cellars when necessary, we’ve begun to realize just how vicious these storms can be.

Referred to by experts as nature’s most violent and devastating storms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate neighborhoods in seconds, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Along with that kind of risk for damage and injury comes higher home insurance rates in tornado-prone areas.

Consider these facts, courtesy of FEMA:

  • Tornadoes may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • They’re most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months.
  • Though they may occur at any time of day, tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m.
  • They usually move forward at an average speed of 30 mph, but they may also remain stationary or move up to 70 mph.
  • A southwest to northeast movement is most common, but they have been known to move in any direction.
  • Peak tornado season is March through May in southern states and late spring through early summer in the north.

As an Oklahoma native growing up in a region of the country known as ‘tornado alley,’ I will never take the power of tornadoes for granted.

In fact, having lived through more tornado sightings than I can count on both hands, I can personally testify to the fear and panic that sets in when you hear that ‘train’ pass overhead—or see it tear a path through the middle of a neighborhood, taking inanimate objects, homes, pets and people right along with it.

Those are nightmares best left to your dreams…unless, of course, you’re a weather watcher!

Because of tornadoes’ destructive nature and the possibility of injury and harm they carry, we recommend you keep your eyes on the skies this summer. Meanwhile, check out Jeb’s article, “5 Fascinating Facts about Tornadoes.” Should you ever face a life-threatening tornado in the future, you might just learn something from the past that will help you survive.

And please; if tornadoes threaten your home or safety, don’t try to ride out the storm. Take those dark skies and high winds seriously, and take cover!

More Tornado Resources:

Frequently Asked Questions about Tornadoes

Tornado Trivia Quiz

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The Cannibus Debate

June 23rd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know how popular marijuana, or cannibus, is with young Americans.man_holding_joint

Often the drug of choice at teen parties, get-togethers and celebrations, “weed,” or “pot,” as young people call it, enjoys a popular following, especially amongst the younger crowd.

But now, with times tough and more and more Americans dropping or failing to renew their insurance policies due to lack of finances, marijuana’s popularity is increasing amongst people of all ages.

Though illegal in all but 13 states, many Americans are now self medicating with cannibus in an effort to avoid paying the high cost of care and traditional prescription drugs.

Classified a “controlled substance,” marijuana use breaks federal law. But with many people struggling to purchase pain medication, the government practicing leniency where pot is concerned, and marijuana so easily attainable in most states, orders for medical marijuana are way up in 2009—and the debate about cannibus use rages on.

For more information on the cannibus debate, see Jeb’s article: Yes We Cannibus. Then feel free to let us know where you stand on the subject. Should medical marijuana use be legal?

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A Little ‘Wining’ Never Hurt Anyone

June 19th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

Lovely summer dayRemember when you were young and your parents told you to stop whining? Well, next time you’re tired and grumpy, try a different kind of ‘wine.’

Or this weekend, while you’re grabbing a beer with your buds or enjoying a martini at home, consider drinking wine instead.

New research shows that men who consume about half a glass of wine a day can expect to live almost five years longer than those who don’t—and 2.5 years longer than their friends who drink only beer or other liquor.

That’s enough to make a wino out of anyone! But remember: moderation is key.

While scientists have known for some time that phytochemicals—naturally occurring plant compounds found in wine—reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and slow the progression of neurological degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, a recent Dutch study revealed the true pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: sipping wine can help you live longer.

The study followed more than 1,100 middle-aged men over a 40-year period, examining diet, habits, overall health and the impact of drinking beer, liquor and wine.

Researchers investigated how much alcohol the men drank, the form in which it was consumed and for what period of time, and whether the men smoked or had any serious illnesses.

As it turns out, the wine drinkers in the group died at an average age of 77, as opposed to the normal average of 72.

Even when researchers factored in socioeconomic status, dietary factors and other lifestyle habits, the link between wine and longer life remained, a recent report in Reuters revealed.

Though researchers aren’t sure yet if these benefits extend to women, due to a difference in the way male and female bodies metabolize alcohol, here’s one female willing to take a chance! What have I got to lose?

For more information on ‘wining’ and dining for longer life, check out our article, “‘Wine’ a Little, Live Longer.” And while you’re out enjoying yourself this weekend, order a teaser of red wine at dinner. You’ll feel better and live longer.

Hat Tip to Reuters News & WebMD:

A Little Wine May Make for a Longer Life
Drinking a Little Wine Linked to Men’s Longer Life
Half a Glass of Wine for Longer Life?

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Snacking Smart

June 16th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

appleMany of us grew up in households where snacking was taboo.

We were told that eating between meals would ruin our appetites; and usually the only time our parents let us snack was when we came home from school and dinner was still hours away.

Experts know differently now—and it’s obvious that snacking has gotten a bad rap it doesn’t deserve.

As long as we monitor portion sizes and calorie counts, snacking can be part of a healthy, balanced diet for kids and adults alike, say the American Association for Retired People (AARP) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), both recognized authorities on the subject of nutrition.

In fact, snacking carries a number of health benefits our parents and adults of earlier generations never recognized.

For instance, pairing healthy snacks—like protein-rich nuts, low-fat cheeses, low-fat yogurt and peanut butter—with fresh fruits and vegetables helps maintain energy levels throughout the day, curb hunger and prevent overeating at meals.

It also helps maintain constant insulin and blood cholesterol levels, possibly reducing the likelihood of diabetes and obesity in the process—and promoting healthier lives and lower health insurance rates for our children and future generations.

No matter what your age, snacking can be good for you, if done correctly and planned ahead of time. So find out how to snack healthily, avoid the vending machine when you hit that mid-afternoon slump—and feel better all day long.

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Traffic Triples Risk of Heart Attack

June 9th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

For the sake of your health, keep your cool in traffic!

For the sake of your health, keep your cool in traffic!

Enduring traffic can be more than a little stressful.

From rude drivers, to constant stop and go, to accidents that inevitably tie up major thoroughfares, it’s all some of us can do to keep our tempers from flaring and taking our frustrations out on everyone around us—like that guy who just cut us off or the driver who squeezed in at the front of the line where the road narrowed.

But no matter how badly you’re tempted, don’t do it. In fact, don’t do anything but try to relax while sitting in heavy traffic. Not only could you risk your health if you do otherwise; you could also risk drastically raising your health and auto insurance rates.

How? According to a new German study, traffic can be heartbreaking. The pollution and exhaust we breathe while backed up on the freeway seems to exact a heavy toll on our health.

Combine that with increased stress levels, concentrated emissions and amplified noise, and research now shows our risk of heart attack soars to more than three times the norm for up to an hour after sitting in heavy traffic.

How do we know? Researchers at the Institute of Epidemiology in Munich, Germany, interviewed 1,454 people who waded through traffic and then suffered a heart attack within 60 minutes.

The study tracked what participants did the day of the heart attack, where they went, their means of transportation and the amount of time they spent in traffic.

Analysis and follow-up showed their risk of heart attack multiplied 3.2 times normal rates.

Of course, those in poor health, the elderly and children topped the list of those at greatest risk. But even more puzzling: traffic proved five times more dangerous to women than men. It will take some work to find out why.

Drivers weren’t the only ones affected, either. Bus and bicycle riders suffered just as much, leading researchers to suspect a strong pollution/heart attack connection.

Annette Peters, PhD, who led the study, says, “One potential factor could be the exhaust and air pollution coming from other cars. But we can’t exclude the synergy between stress and air pollution that could tip the balance.”

Efforts are now underway to try and determine the effect various elements have on humans sitting in traffic. Meanwhile, until results are more conclusive, you might want to try taking “the road less traveled,” to borrow a phrase—and avoid heavy traffic whenever possible.

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Sleep and Health: the Undeniable Connection

June 5th, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

Does a lack of sleep leave you like this every day?

Does a lack of sleep leave you like this every day?

Do you struggle to get enough sleep, like about half the adult population in our country?

If so, you probably feel sluggish during that “low point” in your day, when you just can’t seem to hold your eyes open without a double mocha latte or a shot of cappuccino.

Well, you may be able to glide through your week on five or six hours of sleep a night for a while; but eventually, a lack of sleep will catch up with you—in more ways than one.

Unfortunately, struggling to stay awake during the day may be the least of your worries, scientists say. A recent article in the New York Times revealed the true effects of sleep deprivation: health problems such as high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, depression, diabetes and heart disease.

And issues like that can also affect your insurance rates, as many who buy private health insurance later find out.

The amount of sleep each person needs varies, with some breezing through their days on just a few hours’ slumber and others barely functioning without nine or 10 hours. But new research shows that most people need between seven and nine hours to stay both alert and healthy.

“Lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body,” says Eve Van Cauter, a sleep researcher at the University of Chicago.

It’s this disruption in the body’s basic processes that can cause things to go awry, leading to all kinds of health problems we may never encounter otherwise.

But that’s not all. Recent studies also indicate that the amount of time a person spends sleeping affects his or her chances of living a long life.

“There’s recent evidence showing—in both men and women in several countries—that chronic sleep deprivation increases risk of early death,” Carl Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, told WebMD recently.

Several large sleep studies cite other problems connected with sleep deprivation too: problems like poor work performance, driving accidents, relationship problems and issues with mood and anger.

If you struggle with insomnia, or don’t get to bed early enough to get a full eight hours, you could be affected more than you know. Find out how deadly a lack of sleep can be—and do what you can to stay healthy, get enough sleep and live long.

More Resources on the Sleep/Health Connection:

At Every Age, Feeling the Effects of Too Little Sleep

Scientists Finding out What Losing Sleep Does to a Body

Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think

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Feasting on Flesh and Blood

June 3rd, 2009 by Penny Hagerman

bedbugHave you ever awoken one morning to discover red, itchy bumps on your skin—or a rash you couldn’t explain?

You know they weren’t there the night before; yet red welts now cover your skin, some may even blister, and you have no idea how they got there.

Well, guess what? You may be a victim of bed bugs, those nasty little creatures that sometimes infest our homes, apartments, hotel rooms, hospitals and college dormitories; hiding in mattresses, bedding, under baseboards or loose wallpaper and coming out at night to feast on our flesh and blood.

Nasty, huh?

It sounds worse than it really is. Though transmission of more than 40 human diseases has been attributed to bed bugs, there is little evidence that they transport any communicable disease, says Jerome Goddard, Ph.D., of Mississippi State University, and Richard deShazo, M.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, both of whom recently examined the medical effects of bed bugs on health.

Though in extreme cases, bed bug bites may cause severe skin reactions in some, the body’s usual response is those small red bumps you may have already discovered, which tend to heal on their own without incident.

However, once infestation occurs, eradicating those little nuisances from your home may be harder than you think.

If you suspect you may have bed bugs, don’t let embarrassment get the best of you—and don’t just put up with the little critters. Read our article titled, “Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite,” take steps to protect yourself and your family, and get rid of those nasty things now.

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