The Health Wire

Beyond providing basic medical care coverage, your HISD benefits have a lot to offer to keep you and your family healthy, happy and fit. Here's the latest news from our health care providers and partners. Check back often.

Focus of the Month : Go tobacco free for oral health

Using tobacco in any form is bad for your health—particularly your mouth. Of course there are the obvious signs, like receding gums, chronic bad breath, and stained or loose teeth. Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for gum disease and oral cancer. Nearly 10,000 people in the US die from oral cancer each year. Overall, smoking is the top cause of preventable disease and death in the country. If you use tobacco, it’s not too late to make a change. Within minutes of quitting, your body begins to heal, so take action today.

It’s American Diabetes Month

November is American Diabetes Month, so what better time to learn more about this common medical condition? Nearly 30 million Americans are affected by diabetes—10 percent of our population—and that number is growing. There are two types of diabetes. Only 5% of diabetics have Type 1, which cannot be predicted or prevented. However, you can lower your risk for the more common Type 2 by staying at a healthy weight, eating well, and being physically active. This month, get involved and help us imagine a world without diabetes.

Think before you post

Love it or hate it, social media is a reality of modern life. Studies have shown that when used positively, it can lower your heart rate, reduce stress, and spread happiness. But we’ve all heard at least one horror story of a careless post gone wrong. That’s why it’s important to make smart decisions online. Before you post, ask yourself—is this something I want my boss to read? My ex? My grandmother? Have I included any identifying information that could put me or my kids in danger? Am I violating someone else’s privacy? Once something is online, you no longer control it. Be sure that post is something you can live with.

Stay energized all day

It seems like these days we’re always on the go. With so many demands on our attention, a lack of energy can become a major problem. If you’re having trouble keeping up, what can you do? First, identify and try to minimize the things that are sapping your energy. Managing frequent distractions—from phone notifications to physical clutter to coworker interruptions—can make a big difference. If you’re often surrounded by negativity, that can also start to affect your attitude. Instead, spend time with people who inspire you. And finally, get up and get moving! Strange though it seems, the more energy you use, the more energy you’ll have. 

The storm may be over, but many of us will be feeling its effects for weeks and months to come. If you need help, know that there are many resources available. Our Aetna Employee Assistance Program can help you find housing and transportation, file claims, access FEMA and similar resources, and receive counseling services. If you need medical assistance, you can use Teladoc® at no cost to you. Call 855-220-4585 to register and you’ll be connected to a board-certified physician who is ready and able to help. And if you need financial assistance, you can receive a loan or hardship distribution from your retirement plan. We’ve been humbled by the strength, kindness, and generosity on display this past week. 

Find your happiness

What makes you happy? For most people, it’s not necessarily the first things that come to mind. Earning more money, being more attractive, even living in a nicer climate—these things may temporarily lift your spirits, but they’re unlikely to cause lasting joy. So what does work? Well, research shows that you can get happier by taking actions with less tangible results. These can include thinking positively, helping others, expressing gratitude, and even just savoring the moment. By focusing less on physical things, you’ll be better able to appreciate the good aspects of your life. And over time, you’ll find that you’re happier overall. 

Overcoming dental anxiety

Have you been putting off a trip to the dentist? You’re not alone—as many as 1 in 5 Americans avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. Reasons can range from fear of pain and shots to worry about loss of control and personal space.  So what can you do? First, speak with your dentist. Ask questions about your treatment and make sure your concerns are understood. Next, work with your dentist to make a plan. Finally, speak up if you feel uncomfortable during your exam. Let your dentist know if you need to take a break. 

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Back-to-school is approaching, and your children will be having lots of interactions with other kids. Keep in mind that diseases such as the measles, the mumps and pertussis (whooping cough) can be caught and spread by typical adolescent behavior – just kids being kids. These diseases, which can be serious, require hospitalization, or even cause death, are preventable with the use of vaccines. In fact, vaccination is one of the best ways to protect children from 16 potentially harmful diseases. So, it’s important to protect your child at every age and keep up with a regular immunization schedule. As the saying goes, “better safe than sorry.”

Blue Light? What’s that?

These days you know you spend a lot of time looking at some form of electronic screen. But what you might not know is that your cell phone, tablet, laptop and TV give out what is called “Blue Light.” The effects of this high-energy source of light include blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry and irritated eyes, headaches and even macular degeneration. So, guarding against blue light is something to take seriously. A simple solution – eyewear with blue light-filtering technology. Hey, your life is now high tech, why shouldn’t your glasses be the same?

Make sure your vacation is stress-free

School’s out and it’s almost time for your next summer getaway. But as you pack your bags to enjoy your time off, are you feeling the heat of vacation stress? The pressure to have the perfect trip can be daunting, and may sometimes lead to more stress than relaxation. As you enjoy your time off, remember to take a breather and set realistic expectations so that sidelined plans don’t get the best of you. Remember, it’s your time off to rejuvenate, so be sure to make your vacation count by allowing yourself to unwind without the pressure of back-to-back activities.

Enjoy your summer, sunburn free!

It’s summertime! As you pack your beach bag and prepare to hit the water, remember to protect yourself from the sun to decrease your risk of skin damage. Whether you’re soaking up the sun by the pool or just running to the store, you can never be too careful protecting your skin. As you and your family enjoy your vacation outdoors, remember to take smart measures to avoid too much sun. Taking small steps like wearing a hat, reapplying sunscreen and staying in the shade during the hottest parts of the day could help you avoid melanoma and skin cancer.

Healthy gums. Healthy heart.

Did you know that gum disease could increase your risk of heart disease? Studies show that heart health could be linked to oral care. If you have experienced swollen gums, loose teeth, or bleed when brushing your teeth, you could be showing early signs of gum disease. The good news is that finding your way to healthier oral hygiene is simple – work on getting into the habit of flossing regularly, brushing your teeth twice a day, and visiting the dentist regularly. In addition to helping out your mouth, it could help your heart!

Calling the HISD Benefits Service Center is now easier than ever

Starting May 25, you’ll find it faster and easier to get answers about your HISD benefits. When you call the HISD Benefits Service Center, we’ll ask you to enter three pieces of information: your HISD employee ID, your date of birth and your ZIP code. Then, we’ll securely confirm your identity in seconds. We’ll then connect you with one of our experts, ready to help with all the info you need. It’s that simple.

Protecting your loved ones starts at home.

For many of us, getting older comes with sight, balance or health issues—making falls in the home that much scarier. But did you know a few simple steps could make your home much safer? Extra railings, properly lit stairs and walkways, and nonslip surfaces can help prevent accidents and injuries. Learn about the little things you can do to make home a safer place to live for everyone, inside and out.

Brushing—are you doing it right?

You’ve probably heard it all before: for the healthiest smile, you should brush your teeth at least twice a day. But is your brushing technique really getting the job done? Start with a soft bristled brush that is comfortable to hold and reaches your entire mouth. Next, brush all surfaces of your teeth using a gentle, circular motion—let the tips of the bristles do the cleaning. Finally, brush the roof of your mouth, the insides of your cheeks and your tongue. This makes your whole mouth feel cleaner and keeps your breath fresh.

May is National Mental Health Month

Even if you don’t suffer from a mental health condition yourself, chances are that you know someone else who does. It’s estimated
that 1 in 4 Americans will experience a mental disorder in any given year, though fewer than one-third of adults and half of children
will receive any form of treatment. Mental health issues can range from anxiety to depression to substance abuse. These are real
medical conditions and should be treated as such. Mental Health Month is intended to raise awareness and understanding of these
disorders. By highlighting available screenings and treatments, we can help millions of people get the help they need.

We’re currently starting a healthy lifestyle challenge through our VIVERAE wellness program. By making healthy choices like eating breakfast, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep, you can earn daily challenge points. Reach 40 challenge points by May 14, and you’ll earn 15 wellness program points. All participants that achieve the 40 point goal will be eligible for a drawing for one of thirty $100 gift cards. In addition to the program rewards, you’ll benefit from building good habits that can help you live healthier. Click here or give us a call at 888-VIVERAE (848-3723).

It’s time to get screened

If you’re 50 or older, it’s time to schedule a colon cancer screening. It may not be something that we really like to talk about, but it’s better to have an awkward conversation than to miss finding a treatable cancer early. Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, and it affects both men and women. It also usually occurs in people over the age of 50. But because cancers take years to develop, a routine screening can pick up the early signs before they turn into cancer. So don’t let a curable cancer go unnoticed—schedule your screening today. 

Did you know that eating breakfast every morning can give your kids better dental health? Studies have shown that children who skip breakfast are more likely to develop cavities and have to visit their dentists more often. Children who eat breakfast tend to eat fewer snacks during the day. Plus, milk appears to reduce the negative effects of sugary cereals. By making sure your kids have a healthy breakfast every day, you can help set them up for future dental health.

Start good dental habits early

Are you staying on top of your little one’s dental health? It may not seem that important to care for teeth that are just going to fall out, but setting your child up with good dental habits now can help keep that smile glowing for years to come. For starters, set a good example! Show your child what good dental hygiene looks like, and your baby will follow your lead. Then find a supportive, patient dentist and make an appointment as soon as you can. Ideally, this would be within six months of the appearance of your child’s first tooth. Start things off well, and your kid will be all smiles! 

Planning for success

Between work and family obligations, modern life can get a little overwhelming. Proper planning can help you take control and give you a sense of purpose as you work through the items on your to-do list. While it may not always seem worth it to make plans in a constantly changing environment, consider the benefits. A good plan can help you prioritize your goals and determine exactly what you want to achieve. It can also help you break down the specific steps that will get you there. With the right plan in place, you can remain focused on your goal as you confidently work towards success. 

You can take control of your heart health

February is American Heart Month. It’s a good time to remind yourself of the risk factors that can contribute to heart disease and how to avoid or reduce their effects. Take a moment and read this bulletin that will: 

  • Educate you on heart disease
  • Teach you about the risk factors that you can control 
  • Show you how you can reduce your risk of heart disease 
  • And direct you to valuable resources to learn more about having a healthy heart.

Your heart’s health is in your hands. Take control and reduce your risk. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dubbed September National Cholesterol Education Awareness month. Visit their site to find out how to avoid joining the 71 million Americans with untreated high cholesterol and learn to be heart healthy instead.  

No wonder one in three children is overweight or obese

Did you know that the average child spends more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen? Or that one in four young children eats fast food most days? And only one in three gets the recommended minimum physical exercise they need each day to be healthy? Visit the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition to see what you can do to help turn these facts around.

September is Baby Safety Awareness Month

Learn how to play it safe.

Babies are expensive. There’s no argument there. So when friends and family offer you hand-me-down baby items, it’s tempting to take them up on their kind offers. But be careful. It’s one thing to swaddle your newborn in a gently used baby blanket, and another to take a chance on your baby’s life with a used car seat or other equipment that may not be safe.

The trick is knowing what’s safe and what’s not when you’re planning your purchases. And for that, you’re in luck. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association offers tips and advice to help you strike the perfect balance. Check out their site for smart ways to protect your baby from avoidable injuries.

Get out of town

The holiday travel season is here. Include these healthy tips in your planning so you’ll know how to prepare for a trip overseas, how to beat jet lag, even how to survive a family road trip.

Here’s another great reason to quit smoking

Quitting smoking is one of the ways you can reduce your risk of diabetes. Learn about other ways you can lower your risk and find out why the American Diabetes Association thinks this issue is important enough to name November American Diabetes month.

Quit smoking, even if it’s only for a day

November 17 is this year’s Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society’s annual campaign to help smokers get a start on quitting. It’s the kind of group effort that can lead to reducing cancer and helping people lead healthier lives. 

For any benefits question or concern, one call does it all.
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