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Each February we focus on ways to improve our heart health in honor of American Heart Month. This year we want to help you by turning your attention to the foods you eat and how to make smart choices with our “This or That” challenge!

Below you will see two foods to choose between. Your goal is to choose the food that is the healthier option. Answers can be found at the end of the challenge.

 

Diet Soda vs Carbonated Water

Skip the drink with the high levels of artificial sweeteners and choose carbonated water! Diet drinks have been linked to symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Some symptoms of this include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and lower than normal HDL cholesterol levels. Pour yourself a glass of carbonated water and put a slice of fruit in your glass instead!

 

Butter vs Olive Oil

Pour on the olive oil to maintain good heart health. Butter is full of high amounts of saturated fat. Butter is also known to raise the bad cholesterol levels in your blood. Olive oil and even canola and sunflower oils contain heart healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

 

Sweet Potato Fries vs French Fries

Warm up your new Air Fryer and start cooking sweet potato fries with a little olive oil. French fries are full of fat and salt and a study linked eating 2-3 servings of fries a week to a higher chance of an early death.

 

1 oz Salted Nuts vs 1 oz Potato Chips

Pass the pecans, please! When you choose nuts over chips, you are also choosing your health. Regular nut snackers are 14% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 20% less likely to develop coronary heart disease.

 

1.5 oz Dark Chocolate vs 2 Chocolate Chip Cookies

No matter how much you love Grandma’s cookie recipe, your heart needs you to choose the dark chocolate. A study has found that those people who eat dark chocolate 3 times a week reduce their risk of a heart attack or stroke by 11%.

 

T-bone Steak vs Grilled Salmon Fillet

Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! Salmon is chock full of omega 3 fatty acids which reduce fat in your blood and reduces clogged arteries. Steak is famous for high levels of saturated fat and LDL cholesterol.

 

Coca-Cola vs Red Wine

Pop the cork, not the soda tab. Carbonated sodas are full of artificial ingredients and sugar. Red wine has been shown to increase your good cholesterol levels and has many antioxidants that can help protect the lining of the blood vessels in your heart.

 

You are now a “This or That” Food Challenge winner! Go celebrate with a grilled salmon dinner, a glass of red wine, and a handful of dark chocolate!

 

Sources:

https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/ss/slideshow-foods-bad-heart

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-hearthealthy-food-swaps

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281

Everyone knows that eating healthy, getting exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking leads to a healthy lifestyle. Did you know that sleep is also an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle? With 1/3 of our lifetime being spent sleeping, this part of our life must take importance. Let’s delve into why sleep is important and what you can do to improve this area of your life.

 

No Snooze, You Lose

At different stages in our life, we require different amounts of sleep. From birth to 4-years old, toddlers need about 11-14 hours of sleep. They are growing and learning both cognitively and emotionally and this takes lots of energy. To restore that energy that is expended during these active toddler years, they require lots of sleep! School-age children are some of the most active humans on the planet. Being at school from 8-3 everyday really wears their little bodies out. Because of their activity, these children need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night. As they grow into their teen years, kids need 8-10 hours. And, as adults, we need 7-9 solid hours of sleep a night.

 

Why?

During our restful time of sleep, our bodies are hard at work restoring, rejuvenating, growing muscle, repairing tissue, and synthesizing hormones. To say the least, our bodies are never at rest. When we are awake and moving, we are busy processing stimuli, converting calories to energy, and growing, to name a few basic functions.  When we sleep, these processes continue but our body also does the intricate work of strengthening our immune system, fighting disease and infection, and processing the day’s emotions through dreams. Scientists say the benefits of good sleep include:

  • Sharper brain
  • Healthier heart
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Weight control
  • Mood boosters
  • Steadier blood sugar

 

Rhythm Section

To get the optimized benefits of sleep you have to get your body in the correct circadian rhythm.  According to the National Institutes of Health, “Circadian rhythms direct a wide variety of functions from daily fluctuations in wakefulness to body temperature, metabolism, and the release of hormones.  They control your timing of sleep and cause you to be sleepy at night and your tendency to wake in the morning without an alarm.  Your body’s biological clock, which is based on a roughly 24-hour day, controls most circadian rhythms.  Circadian rhythms synchronize with environmental cues (light, temperature) about the actual time of day, but they continue even in the absence of cues.” Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and even external lights can interfere with this rhythm and therefore have a negative impact on your overall health.

 

How?

To get the best sleep and the right amount of sleep, you need to optimize that circadian rhythm. Here are some tips:

  1. Stick to a consistent schedule of both bedtime AND waketime
  2. Go for a morning walk—getting your body up and moving when it wakes up from overnight sleep helps reset your rhythm.
  3. Limit evening technology
    1. bright lights confuse the brain into believing it’s still daytime
    2. blue lights—specifically in laptops and cellphones—should be turned off within 2 hours of bedtime

Understanding the importance of and the benefits from a good night’s sleep will help you prioritize this task each day. Start doing the basic work of setting a consistent bedtime and build up to turning off that cellphone game early.  You can’t afford to skimp on sleep—your body depends on it!

Today’s workforce looks markedly different than it did just 10 years ago. 1 in 3 workers in the US are millennials and this makes them the largest generation in our current workforce. The way this generation communicates makes it necessary for the office to adjust its messaging strategy. What was seen as top-notch communication tech in the early 2000’s has been replaced by new options. As we peer into 2020, let’s take a look at some new ways to communicate effectively with employees both in an office setting and across the globe.

Video Conferencing

Utilizing tech to communicate in your workplace is essential. Office spaces that were previously filled with people who interacted with one another daily now house screens and common space workstations. Because of this, video conferencing has become a necessity to build a sense of unity and community within a department. Employees that are in the office are able to see and interact with their coworkers that may be at their home office or even across the globe in a different country via video services like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Skype. Collaborating on projects no longer requires you to sit across the table from your team as you can sit in front of a computer screen and share ideas and update progress.

Project Management

Since it is no longer commonplace to have all employees in the same office each day, managing workflow digitally is a necessity. Sites like Basecamp allow projects to be created and teams assigned to jobs within the project. As tasks are completed, team members update their progress online and everything stays organized. Information is easily shared because anyone can log on and read the latest update or ask for help. Emails aren’t lost in an inbox or spam box as the communication happens on one platform. It’s a great way to manage both a physical or virtual office.

Sharing is Caring

There are so many options for sharing files across platforms and with team members. Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive are just a few examples of online tools to assist your team with sharing data, storing information and files in the cloud, and syncing files across multiple devices. These options can range from very basic and free to very secure and costly depending on your needs. Some services only offer small file storage and sharing capabilities and so you’ll want to do your homework to find an option should you have a large image file or data file that needs to be shared.

TXT 2 TLK

According to a survey with OpenMarket, 76% of millennials say texting is more convenient and allows them to communicate on their own schedule. 19% of them say they never check their voicemails. Why is this important to you? With millennials comprising the largest percentage of of the current workforce, you need to make sure you are communicating with them the best way possible. Texting to communicate upcoming events, meetings, reminders, or even to conduct employee surveys is a great option for relaying information to your staff. One thing to remember is that when sending a message via text, the context or heart behind the message is somewhat harder to convey than when delivering it verbally. Make sure the message is not open to interpretation so that the end result isn’t skewed.

As we ring in the new year, take the time to consider new ways to communicate and conduct business in your physical and virtual offices. Test out the methods mentioned here and maybe you’ll find a great new avenue for connecting with your employees!

Having just wrapped up Thanksgiving, we are now only 2 ½ weeks out from Christmas! While we start planning the perfect gifts for everyone special in our lives, we are also thinking of traveling to visit family and friends. Whether you go by car, bus, or plane, traveling during the holidays needs to be safe. Follow these tips to help you get to your holiday destination safely this season.

 

Car Travel Safety

  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before you travel. Being sleep deprived results in slower reaction times and distracted driving.
  • Buckle everyone up in your car—not just those in child-safety seats. If you are riding, you need to be buckled in.
  • Put your phone away. That text or that phone conversation can wait. If you need to communicate while traveling, have your passenger handle your phone.
  • Make a roadside emergency kit. Include essentials like jumper cables, phone chargers, flashlights, batteries, water, snacks, and blankets. Make sure your spare tire is undamaged and you have a jack and tire iron in your vehicle should you need to change a tire.

 

Apps to Help with Holiday Travel

  • Hotel Tonight—If you find yourself getting tired as you drive, consider stopping and getting some sleep. Hotel Tonight helps you find last minute hotel openings near you.
  • GasBuddy—Don’t spend your time driving around in unfamiliar areas to find the cheapest gas prices. Use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in your immediate vicinity.
  • Waze—Most everyone knows about Waze by now. This community-driven navigation tool allows you to see where slowdowns are happening near you as well as road debris, accidents, and alternate routes.
  • iExit—Trying to remember all the food places listed on the highway exit signs is hard! iExit gives you a list of what’s near each highway exit from food to hotels to gas stations.
  • SitOrSquat—One of the top complaints of holiday car travel is finding clean bathrooms when you need them. This app rates public bathrooms by their cleanliness. Brilliant!

 

Air Travel Safety

  • This goes without saying, but listen to your flight attendants. They give valuable information to passengers in case of an emergency. Pay attention to the pre-flight instructions including where to locate emergency exits.
  • Get up and walk around a little during long flights. This keeps the blood moving in your legs that are probably cramped into the tiny space between seats.
  • Skip the next drink of alcohol. You want to be clear-headed in case an emergency happens. Wait and have that glass of wine once you land and are safely at your destination.
  • Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. If there happens to be an emergency mid-flight, you need to first place the mask on your face and then help others around you. This ensures that you are able to clearly hear instructions and are able to help someone nearby who may not be able to get the mask on themselves.

 

Following these simple travel tips will help get you to your destination safely this holiday season. Remember, surrounding yourself with the ones you love and value is the goal. Get to those loved ones safely and your holiday will be memorable!

We’ve all heard the saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” and we know it’s true! Pets give us unconditional love, companionship, and joy. But, are we willing to pay the price when a hefty vet bill comes along? Pet insurance may help you stomach that unexpected emergency room charge due to Fluffy’s uncanny ability to eat anything within reach—even if it’s rotten!

In 2017, over $16.62B were spent on veterinarian bills in the United States. In that same year, Americans also spent over $1B on pet insurance. This begs the question “is pet insurance worth buying?” While this market continues to grow, 99% of pet owners report NOT having pet insurance. The number one reason? Cost. Premiums are at their lowest when you own a puppy or kitten and increase as the pet gets older. This results in the insured only keeping pet insurance for an average of 3 years. The cost of insurance can increase 5-fold between the puppy and adult years.

Pet insurance is one of the fastest growing markets in the US. This insurance can be purchased with increased levels of coverage. The most basic level may cover treatments for some common illnesses or accidental injury. The mid-range coverage could cover preventative care as well as immunizations. An example of premium coverage is surgical cost and liability for if the pet injured someone. Prices for these levels range from $15/ month to $45/month.

Pet insurance is now becoming a more commonplace employee benefit.  Contingencies.org says that 6500 employers in the US and Canada offer pet insurance to its employees. A report by SHRM says that of those offered pet insurance as an employee perk, only 6% of pet owners utilized that benefit in 2012. By 2017, that number rose to 9%. Employees say this is an important benefit because, for many, pets are considered part of a family and if you insure a human member of a family, why wouldn’t you also insure your pet?

If your company does not offer pet insurance, here are some tips on what you should look for when considering purchasing pet insurance:

  1. How much do my premiums increase as my pet ages?
  2. What is covered and not covered? Does the plan include pre-existing conditions?
  3. Can you purchase just accident coverage for if your pet injures someone?

With our pets being a vital part of our family, having pet insurance can give you peace of mind that you don’t have to shoulder the entire cost of an injury or illness of a pet. Not having to make decisions for their care based on money is a blessing to their families. For over 6,000 companies and their 80,000 employees this perk is worth every penny.

 It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, it’s not Christmas—it’s Open Enrollment!!

When the autumn leaves fall and the weather turns cooler, we know it’s time to start thinking of open enrollment hype and meetings and meetings and meetings. So how do you change normal and ordinary communication about employee benefits and change them into rockstar communication? We have some tips that may help!

 

COMMUNICATE EARLY

People need time to process all the information you share about their employee benefits. Once they have received the info, they typically need to ask questions, compare/contrast plans, and weigh decisions. By communicating with your employees early, you give them plenty of time to make their choices without feeling rushed by a short deadline.

 

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY

HSA, FSA, PPO, HMO, LTD? What? You can see how your employees can get confused with all the terms and plan names that get presented to them during open enrollment. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests creating a glossary of common terms for enrollment meetings. Another way to clearly communicate benefits is to think ahead to the common questions asked each year and make a FAQ sheet with the answers.

 

COMMUNICATE FREQUENTLY

Did you know that it takes 8 times to read something before you retain that information? Think of all the material that gets shared at open enrollment meetings. There is no way that an employee would be able to retain that info in one sitting. So, communicate about your benefit plans all year long. Do trivia contests with prizes in your company newsletter about different benefits topics. Use multiple channels to frequently communicate such as print, digital, and animated videos!

 

COMMUNICATE PERSONALLY

Share “real life” examples of a sample employee with specific health issues and how they can utilize their benefits. This helps your audience think of additional situations in which they could see themselves needing some of the insurance products offered in your meetings. Host small Q & A sessions after larger meetings to allow for more personalized attention. When you communicate personally, you are able to explain the value of the benefits to your employees better.

 

By focusing on these communication techniques, you will reap the rewards of a well-informed and connected employee when they are choosing benefits. Plan ahead, speak with a clear message, personalize example situations, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Here’s to a great open enrollment season!

As 2019 is nearing an end, many people are looking at this year’s medical expenses to plan for how much they should set back for next year. In investigating these expenditures, you may notice that you still have money in your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for 2019. FSAs are unique in that any unused money from this plan year is forfeited once the new year begins. You definitely do not want to leave money in your FSA once 2020 rolls around. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to use up your hard-earned FSA money that you may not have thought possible!

  • Acupuncture
  • Acne treatment
  • Breast pump and supplies
  • Chiropractic treatments
  • Dental treatments—orthodontia, medically necessary water fluoride treatments, caps, fillings, x-rays
  • Eyes—glasses, surgery, contact lenses
  • First aid kit
  • Genetic testing—including BRCA gene testing
  • Motion sickness medicine
  • Nutritionist consultations
  • Sunscreen
  • Smoking cessation program
  • Vaporizer
  • Vasectomy
  • Weight loss programs/surgery

There are even some high-tech gadgets that may fall into the medically qualified expenses category:

  • Acne light therapy
  • Electronic stimulation instruments for pain
  • Medically necessary mattresses
  • Smart thermometers

Don’t leave your FSA money on the table in 2019! You have earned this money so make sure you use it to its full potential.

This list is not an exhaustive list of ways to spend your FSA money nor does it guarantee your insurance program considers these to be qualified expenses. Check with your HR department and insurance agent if you have questions about qualified expenses.

 

The typical family in the US looks quite different today than it did 30 years ago. School, sports, church, clubs and activities, and longer work hours have changed the way we allocate our time as well as how we eat.  With families getting busier and busier, how do you make healthy eating a priority? It’s actually pretty easy!

New Look/Old Concept

Do you remember the food pyramid that your health teacher showed you in elementary school? It looked a little something like this:

Grains were depicted as the largest food group, taking up the most room on the pyramid. We were encouraged to eat 6-11 servings a day! Dairy and meats comprised less than ¼ of the recommended foods. Today, the food pyramid has been completely reworked to now look like this:

Gone is the illustration that suggested one food group was more important than another. New guidelines encourage a balanced plate of food and help users visualize what their actual plate should look like. Here are some simple tips for busy families to follow to achieve balanced nutrition.


Make a Meal Plan

Sit down with your family and brainstorm some meals that everyone likes. After you have a good-sized list of family favorites, make a menu of what you are going to make for dinner this week. When you go grocery shopping, buy only the items you need to make these dinners and stick to it. Not only will this cut down on making multiple trips to the grocery store each week (who has time for that?) but it also allows you to plan a balanced meal and ensures you have the ingredients to keep it balanced. Fewer trips to the store also means less money spent on impulse items!


5 Food Groups & Being Sneaky

Instead of placing a greater emphasis on one type of food, like in the old food pyramid, the United States Department of Agriculture now encourages an almost even distribution of food groups. Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy should be nearly equally represented on your plate. Have a picky eater who just will not eat veggies? Sneak them in! Grate carrots to include in your lasagna sauce or throw a handful of spinach leaves in your child’s breakfast smoothie. Be creative to keep that plate a balanced one.


Meal Prep = Saved Minutes

The number one excuse busy families make for not eating healthy is that it takes too much time to cook at home when they need to be on the go.  It’s just easier and faster to grab a meal in the drive-thru versus making one in the kitchen. That doesn’t have to be so! When you make your week-long meal plan, you can choose the amount of time you can allot to meal prep. Don’t choose labor-intensive meals when you have a short window of time to cook and eat. Also, set aside a couple hours on the weekend and prep as much of the meals as you can for the week. Grill all the chicken you need at one time. Chop all the vegetables for the week and measure them out into baggies for each recipe. Portion out healthy snacks for the week so they are quick to grab on the way to the next activity. By spending a small amount of time planning ahead for the week, you will save yourself from bad food choices when you are at your busiest (and hungriest).


Creativity is Key

Food boredom is real. We are all guilty of saying “nothing looks good to eat” when we stare mindlessly into the pantry or refrigerator while searching for a snack or trying to figure out a meal.  To keep a busy family from getting bored of eating the same old stuff, be creative with your meals! And being creative doesn’t have to mean making flower shaped sandwiches or taking extra time to cook. Creativity is as simple as a Google search for “Grab and Go Breakfasts” or “Quick Healthy Meals.”

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be out of reach for a busy family. By following these very basic and very simple tips, you can cook up a balanced plate of food for your loved ones each week. Your waistband and your wallet will both thank you for adopting some new nutrition habits. Your friends at your favorite fast food drive-thru may miss seeing you everyday, but you can always stop by and drop off a healthy snack to share.

Right now our national unemployment rate is 3.7%–edging towards a 50-year low. With this low rate, companies are actually finding it increasingly harder to hire and retain great talent. One way to combat this issue is by increasing employee engagement through volunteering.

In survey after survey, employees state that they want to work for companies who care for others.  In fact, “71% of employees surveyed say it’s very important to work where culture supports volunteering,” according to America’s Charities Snapshot. There are different types of volunteer options when looking to begin a volunteer program at a company. For example, entire companies can come together for a big “Day of Service” event.  Or perhaps there is an ongoing need in the community, like Meals on Wheels, and employees sign up to help when needed by the charity. Offering pro bono services to non-profit community groups or donating skills for specific projects are other ways to assist charities in your area.

The issue of time worked and pay typically comes up when talking about employer sponsored/encouraged volunteering. There are a couple different ways that companies structure this. One way is to simply pay employees for their usual time at the workplace even though they are not actually working on company business at the time of the volunteer project. This is typical of big “Day of Service” campaigns during the workweek. Another way is to encourage employees to donate their break or lunch time to complete volunteer service projects. Finally, and this is the emerging trend in employee benefits, is to give each employee Volunteer Time Off (VTO) hours as part of their benefits package.

The benefits of VTO are numerous. One of the biggest values of VTO is that of employee recruitment and retention.  PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a survey and the results were that “59% of Millennials gravitated towards companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility programs.”  For retention, the value is even higher, “74% of employees say their job is more fulfilling when given the opportunity to make a positive impact at work.” Companies also see a benefit in camaraderie across departments and company hierarchy. Working together towards a common goal builds these interdepartmental relationships. Also, by playing towards strengths unseen in a regular office setting, employers have a chance to discover untapped leadership skills and completely unknown skill sets of employees. Finally, your company’s brand image is boosted by the view of its involvement in the community.

Whatever the benefit that your company assigns to a healthy VTO program, be it retention, image, or team building, the fact remains that there WILL BE a benefit. If you are looking to begin the search for the right fitting program, there are great resources available for you. Check out this quick read on Charities.org and also the great tips on SalesForce.com. Start the conversation today with your leadership and start making an impact in your community!

Let’s say you are getting ready to make your favorite breakfast—avocado toast. You’ve toasted the bread, cut the avocado in half, and are ready to remove the dreaded pit. Of course, your knife slips and you end up slicing your hand—making you the latest victim of “avocado hand.” It seems you cannot stop the bleeding with a simple bandage so now you need to make the decision on where to go to seek help. Do you choose an urgent care facility or the emergency room? What’s the difference?

Urgent care centers and emergency rooms are both great options for times when you are unable to see your primary care physician (PCP). The reasons for choosing these facilities can be because the injury or sickness has occurred outside normal office hours for your doctor or that you are out of town when an emergency hits. As you know, the first choice for non-life or limb-threatening conditions should be your regular doctor—they will have your medical history on file and your medication list at the ready. When this is not an option, you will need to make the choice on what level of care you need.

Urgent Care Centers

Urgent care centers fill the gap between when you are sick or minorly injured but cannot see your PCP and when you are in need of hospital emergency care. Most urgent care locations are staffed by doctors or physician’s assistants. These centers can get you in and out quickly and some even take appointments. Since you will not see your PCP at these clinics, it’s always best to bring a copy of all the medications and dosages of meds you take. If you have a special condition, like epilepsy, make sure you disclose that to the urgent care provider you see. In the case of your avocado hand, your urgent care physician may be able to do minor stitches and bandaging at the facility. Most have access to x-ray machines and basic diagnostic tests. The typical range of costs for care at these centers is between $50-$150.

Here are some conditions that typically can be seen at urgent care centers:

  • Fevers, flu or cold symptoms
  • Ear infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Cuts and bleeding that may require stitches
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Minor back pain

Emergency Room Care

Hospital emergency rooms provide care for life and limb-threatening situations ranging from heart attack and stroke to car accident injuries. Staffed by physicians, nurses, and specialists, emergency rooms have access to highly knowledgeable and diverse medical teams.  In emergency rooms, care is given to the most serious injury/illness first—not on a first-come, first-served basis. Because of this, wait times in emergency rooms are widely varied and may be into a several hours-long wait. Again, it is wise to bring a list of any medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, with you when seeking care since the ER will not have this information from your PCP. Costs for emergency services can be anywhere from $50 to more than $10,000 depending on the severity of the injury or illness.

Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:

  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness/numbness on one side
  • Slurred speech
  • Fainting/change in mental state
  • Serious burns
  • Head or eye injury
  • Concussion/confusion
  • Broken bones and dislocated joints
  • Fever with a rash
  • Seizures
  • Severe cuts that may require stitches
  • Facial lacerations
  • Severe cold or flu symptoms
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

When faced with the decision to visit an urgent care center or emergency room, you have to first evaluate your symptoms. Once you have done this, ask yourself this question, “Does this condition have the possibility of permanently impairing or endangering your life?” If the answer is “yes,” then you have an emergency and should proceed to the nearest hospital ER. If the answer is “no,” then take your towel-wrapped avocado hand to your local urgent care center for stitches or whatever care they recommend. You will save yourself time and money by making a good choice on your care.

Switching over to AEIS Advisors was the best decision we’ve made this year. Ronald and his team were able to identify discrepancies on our billing statements which got missed by our last broker, and they saved us over $8,000 in credits! AEIS has proven to be an attentive and caring company, looking out for the best needs of their clients."

- Director of Operations

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