Celebrate American Heart Month This Feburary

Don’t take your heart for granted, especially now that it’s February and therefore American Heart Month. Take the time this year to pick up some new habits to support a healthier circulatory system. Don’t forget about updating your life insurance policy with Century Insurance Group either!

Floss Daily

Flossing is an essential daily health task that offers a lot more than just protection of your gums and teeth. Recent research has revealed a surprising and powerful link between gum inflammation due to food accumulation and heart disease and other serious health problems affecting this organ. What’s the best way to remove food debris? Flossing once a day, everyday.

Control Sugar Intake

It was once thought that heart attacks and clogged arteries were caused by dietary cholesterol, but it’s now known that few people absorb the cholesterol they eat into their veins. It’s now believed that it’s sugar instead that is the primary cause of artery plaque because it’s converted into cholesterol by the liver. Cutting out sugary drinks and snacks could cut your attack risks by half or more.

Skip the Trans Fats

While even saturated fat is not considered as dangerous as it once was, trans fats are still a dangerous ingredient to consume when it comes to your circulatory system. Trans fats are too artery-clogging and cholesterol-affecting to consume in more than the tiniest possible amounts. Aim to stay as close to possible as zero of an intake.

Get Up

Finally, avoid sitting for longer than two hours in one stretch, whether you’re working at the office or relaxing at home. Sitting for too long dramatically increases your chances of blood clots. There’s also a strong general link between sitting for long periods as a habit and serious cardiovascular health events.

5 Steps to Better Home Organization

Did you know January was “Get Organized Month”? No? It’s not surprising, considering it takes plenty of us at least a few weeks to get back to our normal routines following the hectic holiday season. But if you’re one of the many who missed out on celebrating, take heart: There are plenty of things you can do right now to improve your organization habits, and it all starts right at home. And what better time to get started than once the holiday decorations are safely stowed away. Ready? Here are five easy tips to get you started on your own home organization journey:

  • Start by decluttering. Divide your home into areas, then divide areas into target zones, like a cabinet, closet or even an individual drawer. Tackle one target zone at a time – maybe just one a day. Set a timer to motivate yourself to work faster, and limit your organizing time to short intervals to avoid feeling frustrated by the enormity of a task.
  • Dedicate areas to specific tasks. For instance, in the kitchen, have one shelf dedicated to snacks or an area solely for baking, then keep all the baking tools in that area. Having needed tools in a dedicated spot helps you be more efficient, and it also cuts down on clutter.
  • Find more storage space. We could all use more storage, and the good news is, most of us actually have more storage space than we realize. The key is to think beyond tradition and look for unused areas – and containers to fit them. Over-the-door racks, under-bed boxes – even a single shelf above a doorway can be pressed into service for all sorts of storage needs.
  • Keep your clutter “hotspots” clear. That means throwing out junk mail as soon as it comes in, putting away laundry as soon as it’s folded, and not bringing in any item that doesn’t have a useful purpose and a designated place to be kept. Do a “spot check” before bed to make sure everything is put away.
  • Enlist your family. Yes, this is a hard one. You can start by buying a laundry basket for each person. When you find one of their items lying around, place it in the designated basket and make sure that person puts those items away before bed each day. Having a convenient (that’s essential) place for coats, boots, hats, gloves and backpacks also makes it easier for kids (and spouses) to stay organized and cuts down on nagging time.

The most important part about improving your home’s organization? Take it slowly. It’s easy to tackle multiple projects all at once, but all that does is make you feel overwhelmed – and that means you’re more likely to give up entirely. Setting small goals helps you celebrate little achievements more frequently, so you can stay motivated and stay on task.

Protect Those Gifts! 6 Tips for a Safer, Happier Holiday Season

The holidays are a time of getting together with friends and family, parties and decorations, presents and good things to eat. With so much going on, who wants to think about homeowners insurance? Actually, your homeowners insurance (and especially your theft coverage) plays a pretty big role in your holiday peace of mind, even if you (hopefully) don’t realize it. That’s because the holiday season is also a big season for burglars and thieves, who are just as interested in what’s under your tree (or hidden in your closets) as you and your family members are.

And once the holidays are over, they’re also keeping an eye on your trash. Why? Because they know if they see an old TV or other once-costly item in the trash, there’s a good chance that means you’ve bought a new, better, even costlier item to replace it. They’re also looking for boxes from expensive items like game systems or computers. They even hang out online, visiting social media sites to see what gifts people are talking about. Sound too complex for burglars or thieves? Not at all – it’s their “job.”

Of course, no one wants to have their property stolen, and making sure you take a few simple steps can reduce your risks dramatically:

  • Don’t locate your tree in front of a window; it may be pretty, but it also provides a clear view of presents.
  • If you go visiting, try to leave an extra car in the driveway and use timers – including ones you can control remotely – to tune lights and TV on and off at different times.
  • Put all boxes from new items inside your trash cans, not out in the open where they can be seen.
  • Try to arrange for package deliveries when you’re home or have a neighbor look out for them – or better still, request a delivery signature if you can so they can be re-delivered at your convenience or pick them up at the UPS store or nearby Amazon locker location.
  • Make sure you have extra theft coverage for “big-ticket” items like jewelry and collectibles that aren’t covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy.
  • Try not to post about your holiday plans online, especially if you’re going to be traveling during the holidays – even for the day. Keep your messages private instead or better still, wait until after the holidays to post about what you did.

Having an up-to-date homeowners insurance policy with adequate theft coverage is one of the best ways you can protect yourself, your loved ones and your possessions Once your policy is in place, it’s there hard at work in the background, helping you enjoy your holidays with greater peace of mind.

Try These 6 Tips for Better Cold Weather Fitness

Frosty, cold weather can put a crimp in the plans of even the most dedicated fitness buffs, and for anyone who’s not 100% committed to physical activity, the lure of cuddling on the couch and avoiding outdoor fitness activities can be almost irresistible. But before you toss in the towel and resign yourself to a winter of hibernation, take heart: There are plenty of ways to stay active outdoors in the cooler weather without suffering discomfort.

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  • First, make sure you’re healthy enough for cold-weather activities. Cold air can cause additional stress for people with some medical issues like asthma or heart problems, so ask your doctor if exercising outdoors in cold weather is OK.
  • Dress in layers. You may feel a chill when you’re first starting out in your exercise routine, but it doesn’t take much to heat up – and all that perspiring can leave you even more chilled than when you began. Dressing in layers lets you adjust to your environment so you stay at an optimal temperature.
  • Cover your head and hands. You lose a lot of heat through your head, and your hands – and your ears – are often the first to succumb to the effects of cold weather. Wear a warm hat and gloves, and consider wearing glove liners and a lightweight cap under a heavier hat to wick perspiration away while still providing plenty of warmth.
  • Spend extra time warming up. Cold weather means muscles stay stiff longer, and that can lead to injury. Spend a little extra time warming up to ensure your muscles are ready for action.
  • Stay hydrated. Everyone knows you need to drink lots of water when being active in the heat, but it’s just as important to drink plenty of water when you’re exercising in the cooler weather. Water isn’t just important for replacing fluids lost to perspiration; it’s also essential for keeping muscles and joints functioning properly, especially when under physical stress.
  • Use sunscreen. The sun may not feel hot during the cold weather, but those UV rays are still there, and that means you can still get a sunburn – not to mention increasing the speed of age-related changes in your skin. Using sunscreen also helps prevent skin cancer, so slather it on all exposed areas about 10 to 15 minutes before heading out.

Fitness activities are important for physical health as well as emotional well-being, especially as the days grow shorter. Plan your activities carefully, and you can enjoy your outdoor workout even after the snow starts to fly.

Back-to-School Stress: 5 Tips to Help Kids and Parents Beat Anxiety

The back-to-school season can be a time of mixed emotions for both parents and kids. Yes, there’s the excitement of new experiences and reconnecting with friends for kids and the benefits of getting back into a more predictable schedule for parents, but there’s also the anxiety that comes from the morning rush, homework hassles, last-minute school projects and other issues that can cause stress to rise, especially in these last few weeks before school starts once more. To keep things calm, here are a few steps you can take now to make heading back to school less stressful and more enjoyable:

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  • Start shifting sleep schedules at least a week before school begins. For most kids, sleeping schedules shift dramatically once school is out, with later bedtimes that don’t work well with early morning activities. At least a week before schools tarts, have your kids go to sleep and get up a little earlier each day to avoid sleeping problems and fatigue during the first weeks of school.
  • Get organized ahead of time. Going back to school is a lot easier when your kids know they have all the supplies they need well in advance. Few things cause more stress and frayed nerves than running out at the last possible moment to buy necessary supplies, so make sure to stock up a week in advance.
  • Prepare for a productive homework routine. Having a quiet area dedicated to schoolwork can help your child focus and concentrate. This is a good habit to start while your child is still young, but even teens can benefit by having a space that’s only for their study needs.
  • Set expectations early. Talk with your child about morning routines, bedtimes and homework habits before the year begins and avoid lecturing. Instead, keep it upbeat and let them have some input as well.
  • Plan some things to look forward to. For most kids, summer is a time of family vacations, hanging out with friends and, above all, freedom. Once fall arrives and schools tarts, things can start to look pretty bleak. Planning a few fall activities to look forward to (like attending local football games or festivals or even a back-to-school cookout or picnic with your child’s friends) can help ease the sting of getting back to work while providing your child with something exciting to look forward to.

There’s no doubt going back to school can be stressful – more so for some kids than others. If your child is habitually anxious, take some time to talk with them and show them your support and understanding. Sometimes knowing mom or dad is in their corner is all it takes to get over those initial feelings of anxiety and start the year with a more positive – and happier – attitude.

6 Steps for Enjoying a Healthy, Safe Summer

When it comes to perfect summer weather, few places can compete with Central Oregon and Bend specifically. With almost 300 days of sunshine each year and average summer temperatures rarely exceeding the mid-80s, Bend and the surrounding Central Oregon region provide the perfect venues for exploring the outdoors. Still, just because the weather may be ideal, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to protect yourself from overexposure to those glorious rays of summer sunshine. Here’s how to stay safe while you’re out and about this season:

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  • Use plenty of sunscreen. Guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology say the average person needs about a shot’s glass-worth of sunscreen (about an ounce) to adequately cover the body, but if you’re larger than average, you’ll need to use more. And remember: It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
  • Stick with creams and lotions. Some research suggests spray-on sunscreens can create a cloud of chemicals that can be inhaled. Using traditional creams and lotions is a better option, and today, there are plenty available that won’t leave you feeling sticky or greasy.
  • Know when to apply sunscreen. Ideally, you should apply sunscreen about 15 to 20 minutes before heading outside to give it time to penetrate and begin working. Apply it every few hours or more often if you’re sweating a lot or if you go swimming.
  • Wear protective clothing. Even with sunscreen, it’s a good idea to wear a hat with a broad brim to protect your head, and even a light-colored long-sleeve shirt can provide you with extra protection from the heat as well as any UV rays that make it through your protective layer of sunscreen.
  • Stay hydrated. Your body loses a lot of fluid through the skin on warm days, whether or not the humidity is high – fluids that are required for optimal health and function of all your organs and systems. Keep a water bottle handy and be sure to drink water throughout the day to keep your body replenished and avoid heat-related issues like heat stroke.
  • Avoid midday sun exposure. The sun’s rays are at their greatest intensity between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so if you can, try to limit your exposure during those times, or if you must be out, try to stay in the shade and make sure to apply sunscreen regularly.

Let’s face it: When it comes to beautiful summer weather, those of us in Central Oregon are especially lucky. Take advantage of that luck by following a few common-sense health and safety guidelines before heading out to enjoy all our area has to offer.

Planning a Camping Adventure? Follow These 5 Tips to Avoid Unpleasant Surprises

Summer is ripe with opportunities to enjoy more time outdoors, and few places offer more beautiful places to enjoy nature than Oregon. In fact, the state boasts over 250 parks that host more than 42 million visitors each year. If you plan to go camping in Oregon or elsewhere this summer, here are a few steps you can take now to help ensure your camping experience is safer and more enjoyable:

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  • Don’t forget the first aid kit. Make sure it’s well stocked before leaving, and include things like bandages, tweezers, painkillers, antacids, anti-itch medications, blister remedies, and snake or insect sting kits. Modify the contents of your kit to suit your camping destination and your activities, and make sure the kit is waterproof, especially if you plan to canoe or kayak for part of your journey. Also make sure your tetanus shot is up to date before leaving.
  • Practice food safety. Keep chilled foods in coolers and separate raw and cooked foods with several layers of foil or plastic wrap. Carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes for times when potable water isn’t available.
  • Know the safe way to build – and tend – a fire. Sitting by a campfire in the evening and cooking your food over an open flame are two of the pleasures of camping. Unfortunately, a fire that isn’t built or tended properly can quickly get out of control, and every year, hundreds of thousands of acres of forests are destroyed from wildfires gone out of control. Do your part by being aware of weather conditions – don’t have a fire if it’s been very dry or if it’s windy – and when you do have a fire, use designated fire pits when possible and never, ever leave a fire unattended for any length of time. Douse fires well with water, even if you don’t spot any embers. The U.S. Forest Service offers more tips here
  • Use care when encountering wildlife. Give wild animals a wide berth whenever possible, and if you’ve brought your pets along, be sure they’re well protected. Pets should also be vaccinated ahead of time to prevent them from picking up a disease that can be passed from one animal to another through droppings and other contact.
  • Let others know about your plans. Whether you’re going camping for one night or one month, providing a trusted friend or family member with your itinerary serves as a safety net in case something goes wrong and you can’t alert authorities on your own. For longer trips, schedule “check-in” times and make a plan for alerting authorities if you stray from those times.

As with most things in life, a little careful planning can go a long way toward preventing injuries and other issues that can spoil a fun camping vacation. For more camping safety tips, visit the U.S. Forestry Service camping tips webpage.