Do UV Light Sanitizers Kill COVID-19?

by Kelly R. Smith

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Disinfecting a countertop with a UV light sanitizer
Disinfecting a countertop with a UV light sanitizer

The short answer is that yes, UV light sanitizers do kill COVID-19. In fact, for years now HVAC technicians have been installing them in heating and cooling ducts to kill viruses, mold spores, and bacteria as air gets recirculated. This might have prevented Legionnaire’s Disease.

The long answer is, it depends. ConsumerLab.com puts it this way, “Yes, ultraviolet light in the “C” range, also known as UVC, has been shown to kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The big challenge with using UV-C light is being sure your UV lamp provides a large enough dose of UVC light to all the surfaces you need to disinfect, such as a mask, phone, or an entire room, and that you are not exposed to the UVC light, as it is dangerous.”

Should You Buy and Use a UV Light Sanitizer?

It certainly couldn’t hurt as long as you take ConsumerLab’s advice. Just as it is with other products that have skyrocketed in demand (remember toilet paper when the COVID-19 pandemic struck) overnight, these UV lights are flying off the shelves.

Consequently, there are likely to be a lot of “cheap imitations” out there, mostly from China. These things do have a way of coming full-circle, don’t they? Just be sure to do due diligence before parting with your cash.

Other Ways to Protect from the Coronavirus

  • Wear a mask. Yes, I know people are polarized about this issue, about whether the mandate infringes on their constitutional rights or not. People on both sides tend to get very bellicose about it. I don’t like it but on the chance that it works, I’ll do it.
  • Use disposable gloves. I saw more people using these when we embarked on this journey than now. They’re practical for some things, not for others.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Also, clean them with an alcohol-based hand rub. Hygiene is important.
  • Avoid touching your face. This touching is automatic so this strategy might be difficult. The mask makes my nose itch.
  • Practice physical distancing. Avoid unnecessary travel. Stay away from large groups of people.

It seems that the verdict is in — UV light sanitizers are effective at killing COVID-19 virus if you use one that is powerful enough and you do it with zeal and overkill. There’s no visible meter that tells you when you’re done. Don’t shilly-shally.

References:



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Intermittent Fasting – a Beginner’s Guide to Weight Loss

by Kelly R. Smith

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Empty plate symbolizes intermittent fasting for weight loss
Empty plate symbolizes intermittent fasting for weight loss

Fasting, or abstaining from eating for a period of time, has always had a place in human history. Sometimes it’s for religious reasons. Matthew 6:16-18 does not tell us that we have to fast. However, He expects that we will. He said, “when you fast…” So, just an expectation. But in a broader scope, most people today explore intermittent fasting for weight loss. As a bonus, there are other health benefits that we will go into. There’s inspiration on many levels.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

  • The 16/8 method. This is the most popular method primarily because it is the easiest to do. With most of us spending an inordinate amount of time at home and away from fast food distractions because of the COVID-19 pandemic anyway, it’s easy. This method entails eating your first meal of the day at noon (lunch), and the last one around 8 PM (dinner). Do this every day. Water, coffee, and unsweetened tea are fine during your fast.
  • The 5:2 method. Your week looks like this — you eat normally except on Tuesday and Friday where women eat just 500 calories and men just 600 calories. You might have heard it called called the Fast Diet; it was popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley.
  • The eat, stop, eat method. This is just like the 5:2 except that you fast completely on Tuesday and Friday. For example begin fasting after dinner on Monday and go until dinner on Tuesday. You might find this one difficult to stick with this form of diet faithfully but if you resolve to make it a habit it will get easier.
  • The alternate day method. Eat normally one day, fast the next. Repeat. Over and over. In some interpretations, some few calories are allowed on fasting days.
  • The warrior diet. Every day you get to eat a large dinner but only small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day.
  • Spontaneous meal skipping. Here you get to eat normally but skip breakfast one day per week and dinner another day. When you do eat breakfast, try my homemade bread recipe. It’s loaded with good things.

Fasting Affects Your Hormones and Cells

Once you adopt one of these fasting methods and make it a habit, things start happening under the hood. If your main goal is to lose weight and shed pounds, there’s good news — your hormone levels change making stored body fat more available for fuel. Here are some other changes that improve your health.

  • Gene functionality. There are changes in the function of your genes that are related to longevity as well as protection against disease.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH) increase. This leads to both fat loss and muscle gain.
  • Cells undergo repairs. As you fast, cells begin cellular repairs including autophagy, which is when your cells digest and eliminate older and dysfunctional proteins that have built up inside cells.
  • Insulin levels change. Your insulin sensitivity gets better and your levels of insulin drop off dramatically. This in turn makes your stored body fat more accessible for weight loss.

The take-away from all this is that if you are looking for a way to lose weight while generally improving your health, intermittent fasting is worth looking into. As with anything else, it is always a good idea to run it past your doctor. And when you do eat try to stick to organic food that has undergone minimal food processing if any at all.

References:



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

10 Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

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Foods that fight nutrient deficiency
Foods that fight nutrient deficiency

Many of us eat fast food or whatever is at hand because of the fast-paced lives we live. You might say to yourself, “I take a multivitamin; I’m good.” That is not always true. Supplements, at least high-quality ones, are not bad in themselves despite what some say. Some manufacturers are indeed mountebanks but not all. Additionally, not getting enough fiber can mean a short-circuiting on nutrient absorption. Living in the Coronavirus lock-down surely doesn’t help. If you have any of these signs of nutrient deficiency, it’s prudent to turn things around. Here are some signs.

Signals From Your Body Regarding Nutrient Uptake

  • You are developing a pale, sallow complexion. The problem may be iron deficiency. This makes for smaller red blood cells. Not only does it mean you produce fewer of them but they are filled with less hemoglobin. Hence, your skin looks less red. The American Society of Hematology says, “Iron is very important in maintaining many body functions, including the production of hemoglobin, the molecule in your blood that carries oxygen. Iron is also necessary to maintain healthy cells, skin, hair, and nails.” The solution? Boost your intake of dark leafy greens, grass-fed beef, lentils, and fortified cereals and breads.
  • You have stubborn acne. In the past this has been blamed on certain foods like chocolate and one of our favorites, commercial or homemade pizza. We now understand it a bit better. The lack of enough omega-3 fatty acids may be the culprit; they have strong anti-inflammatory properties. So if you are lacking, it can present as acne. The solution? Pick up some fish oil capsules and eat more salmon.
  • You Have Brittle Nails. If your fingernails have been breaking easily and often, it might be due to a lack of biotin, also known as vitamin B7, which nourishes your nail’s growth plates. The solution? Supplements are a good way to go. I take what is called on the bottle Super B-Complex, which contains 1,000 mcg which is equal to 3,333% of daily value. This is not an issue because it’s a water-soluble vitamin. Also, eat more eat more eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, fish, organ meats, and vegetables such as cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
  • Your skin is parched and dry. You can blame this one on an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. In this case, they help nourish your skin’s lipid barrier. This is the layer of oils that act as a gatekeeper to keep harmful germs and toxins out and essential moisture in. This deficiency can also manifest in more wrinkles and visible aging due to skin dehydration, ladies.
  • Lips that are sore and cracked. This can be the result of an iron deficiency and/or a riboflavin (vitamin B2) deficiency. The National Institutes of Health says, “The signs and symptoms of riboflavin deficiency (also known as ariboflavinosis) include skin disorders, hyperemia (excess blood) and edema of the mouth and throat, angular stomatitis (lesions at the corners of the mouth), cheilosis (swollen, cracked lips), hair loss, reproductive problems, sore throat, itchy and red eyes, and degeneration of the liver and nervous system.” Suffice to say I don’t want this one. The solution? Once again, a B-Complex vitamin should do the trick.
  • You have a wound that resists healing. If you are reading this, you know as an individual how long it takes your body to deal with cuts and scrapes. If it seems to be taking too long, you might have an iron deficiency. As a rule, shoot for 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal and 10 to 15 grams of protein with each snack. Mind you, this is harder to do if you are a vegan but it’s not impossible. Peanut butter and other legumes are good. Carnivores are less likely to have this issue. Protein drinks are also readily available. I’m partial to favorites like this beef Stroganoff recipe that I make from time to time.
  • Are you experiencing bleeding gums? Usually this signifies that one is a bit derelict in flossing and brushing. But if this is not you, a vitamin K deficiency might be at the root (so to speak; pardon the pun) of your problem. It has a big role in role in helping blood clot, or coagulate. The solution? Look for vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) mainly in leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is actually bacteria produced your gut. It is also available in fermented foods, cheese, natto, meat, dairy, and eggs, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Your hair is thinning. Your hair can be a mirror of what you eat. Protein and vitamin C deficiencies have been known to cause thinning or brittle hair as well as hair that falls out easily. Vitamin C assists you in making collagen, one of the building blocks of healthy hair and healthy hair follicles. Protein supplies amino acids destined for collagen (and other protein) synthesis.
  • Your nails are misshapen or discolored. If your iron levels are low, this can result in whitened or ridged nails. A vitamin B12 deficiency can make your nails turn brownish. A lack of biotin increases your risk of fungal infections that, in turn, can manifest as ridging and discoloration.
  • Premature graying of the hair. Going gray early can be caused by many things — genetics, some say worry, and the jury is still out on getting a fright. But we are concerned here with nutrition. The mineral copper helps you create melanin which is one pigment, among others, that imparts color to your hair. If you have low copper levels, or an underlying medical issue which stops you from metabolizing copper you ingest properly, this can turn your hair gray. Which I must say, I find downright fetching on most women although they likely disagree.

The bottom line here is that each sign of nutrient deficiency is linked to primary vitamins and minerals, but in reality, they’re all a “soup” in which all have a role. The best course of action is a well-rounded diet accompanied by high-quality nutritional supplements. As a caveat, if you can’t clear something up in short order, consult with your primary care physician.

References:



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Why Pandemics Like COVID-19, or Coronavirus Persist

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Spanish flu pandemic of 1918
Spanish flu pandemic of 1918

Pandemics and epidemics are nothing new; the only constant seems to be that we are never adequately prepared for them. The “expert doctors” can’t seem to agree on symptoms, courses of action, which vitamins help, and what to do about social interactions. That’s just one reason why pandemics like COVID-19 persist. It’s like eggs; we better enjoy them today because next week another panel of “experts” will say they’re killing us.

Reasons why Pandemics Persist

  1. The virus is easily transmissible in the air we breath and the surfaces we touch. We are highly-mobile lifeforms.
  2. It may take several waves to create a herd immunity.
  3. Vaccines, like any prescription medicine, take time to develop and will likely not create 100% immunity from the virus. While it’s being worked on, the virus is mutating; it is a moving target.
  4. The various government entities (federal, state, county, city) don’t coordinate or play well together.
  5. Citizens are advised to self-quarantine, but groups like Antifa and BLM use the situation to get up in everyone’s faces and cause chaos and confusion and push radical agendas.
  6. Many individuals and even entire communities don’t take it seriously. They may continue to spread it as others curtail it. Don’t be a jobbernowl; put on the damn mask already!
  7. People get tired of lockdowns and closed businesses. They get cabin fever and let their guard down. The case-count goes back up.

Pandemics and Epidemics Throughout History

  1. Prehistoric epidemic: Circa 3000 B.C.: China.
  2. Plague of Athens: 430 B.C. (maybe typhoid or ebola).
  3. Antonine Plague: A.D. 165-180: Roman Empire (thought to be smallpox).
  4. Plague of Cyprian: A.D. 250-271 (cause unknown; Cyprian wrote, “The bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength [and] a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces (an area of the mouth).”
  5. Plague of Justinian: A.D. 541-542: (Byzantine Empire; bubonic plague).
  6. The Black Death: 1346-1353: (Asia to Europe; caused by a strain of the bacterium Yersinia pestis spread by fleas on infected rodents).
  7. Cocoliztli epidemic: 1545-1548: (Mexico and Central America; caused by subspecies of Salmonella known as S. paratyphi C, causes enteric fever, a category of fever that includes typhoid).
  8. American Plagues: 16th century: (caused by an assortment of of Eurasian diseases including smallpox. There goes those privileged white imperialists again)!
  9. Great Plague of London: 1665-1666: (the Black Death again; transmitted by plague-infected rodents).
  10. Great Plague of Marseille: 1720-1723: (a plague brought by a ship with fleas on plague-infected rodents).
  11. Russian plague: 1770-1772: (another plague).
  12. Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic: 1793: (transmitted by mosquitoes; the “experts” at the time wrongly believed that slaves were immune).
  13. Flu pandemic: 1889-1890: (worldwide; killed ~1 million people).
  14. American polio epidemic: 1916: (started in New York City; flared up intermittently until 1954 when the Salk vaccine was developed).
  15. Spanish Flu: 1918-1920: (worldwide; ~500 million people died).
  16. Asian Flu: 1957-1958: (worldwide, started in China, sound familiar? Killed over than 1.1 million).
  17. AIDS pandemic and epidemic: 1981-present day: (worldwide; 35 million deaths so far).
  18. H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic: 2009-2010: (worldwide; between 151,700 and 575,400 dead says the “experts” at the CDC; can you narrow that down a bit, fellas?).
  19. West African Ebola epidemic: 2014-2016: (primarily in West Africa with 28,600 reported cases and 11,325 deaths).
  20. Zika Virus epidemic: 2015-present day: (primarily in South America and Central America; spread through mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, but can also be sexually transmitted).
  21. COVID-19 pandemic: December 2019-present: (worldwide; originated in China).

To do your part to slow or stop COVID-19 from persisting, keep your guard up, self-quarantine, and wear a mask (we can discus the constitutionality of it later). In short, you don’t have to live off the grid, just use common sense.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Loneliness as an Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Loneliness and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loneliness and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Although the COVID-19 pandemic (or Coronavirus, if you prefer) has caused abundant death, the toll in terms of depression and loneliness is even more widespread. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy reffers to it as a “loneliness epidemic.” Spending so much time in isolation wreaks havoc on our emotions. When we do get out, it is increasingly harder to see the person behind the mask; it is essentially dehumanizing. It can cause what has become known as pandemic dreaming.

Our Brains Operate in Two Modes

Matthew Lieberman is a founder of the field of social cognitive neuroscience and he discovered that our brains operate in two distinct modes. He found that one is utilized for engaging with the physical world around us. Looking for shelter when a hurricane is blowing in, for example. The other for is utilized for considering mental states; it views other people in terms of being psychological entities with distinct thoughts and feelings of their own. He used MRI imaging to show that the second mode, what he called the social brain, is actually the default mode. That could explain our some of our current issues with isolation.

We are Wired to Mingle with Our Fellows

Some 2,348 years ago Aristotle told us that man is by nature a social animal. By in large that is true, although introverts are the chemical exception to the rule; they are more governed by a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which warms up as they turn their focus inward. Extroverts, on the other hand, are governed more by their dopamine reward network. This is triggered when external stimuli and sensory input happens. In other words, if you are a party animal or used to spend a lot of time at the office moving through the cubical farm gossiping or being a kvetcher, this lock-down is hurting you more that your more taciturn neighbors.

Social Media is a Poor Substitute for Real Interaction

We have all grown used to social media over the years, texts, emails, Facebook, etc. But are these really good substitutes? Not at all, although talking on the phone and Skyping may be marginally better. In fact, social media may make things worse. Just look at how bad and polarized things were even before the lock-down. Does Donald Trump bashing and BLM and Antifa ring a bell? Too many trolls, so little time.

One study conducted in 2018 of 18 – 30-year-olds concluded that the odds of depression were significantly decreased by face-to-face encounters, but significantly raised by interacting via social media. Yet another study discovered that lowering time spent on social media lowered feelings of loneliness in 18- to 22-year-olds.

According to Primack, using social media may be simply a way of projecting a version of ourselves out there or perhaps they’re fostering real social connections we otherwise wouldn’t be able to have. There is just no way to know at this point.

How Can You Cope with Pandemic Loneliness and Depression?

  • Maintain a Schedule. A consistent routine can make things feel more normal. Go to bed at a reasonable hour, use an alarm clock, lunch at noon, tea and scones in the afternoon if you are a subject of the Queen; you get the idea. If you are sick, try keeping a log to monitor your symptoms.
  • Keep Yourself Informed. Staying up to date on health information and advice on precautionary measures will make you feel more proactive and in control of your situation.
  • Learn lucid dreaming. If you are experiencing pandemic dreams, follow these techniques to learn lucid dreaming. I learned it long ago out of curiosity and I’ve been controlling and actively participating in my nocturnal adventures ever since. It is easier for some than others but well worth the effort.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle as much as possible. The authorities want you to stay indoors as much as possible. But, and then this is only my opinion, you can still get out to walk, bike, or run (if allowed where you live). If you must stay in, you can still do resistance exercises with household objects or get up and walk around. My Garmin 235 watch not only counts my steps but also alerts me when I have been sitting too long.
  • Indulge in some self-improvement. Take an online course. Pick up that instrument, dust it off, and start practicing. New Years resolutions are valid anytime. Myself, I’m learning Irish Gaelic. Ta go maith!
  • Stay connected. Use Skype. Watch a Netflix movie at the same time as one or more friends and critique it as it plays. If you have ever watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 you know what I mean! Write letters. Remember when that was a human function?
  • Cook some new comfort food. Here are some of my recipes. I like to experiment much to the chagrin of my wife.

In short, none of us is immune to loneliness as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is just good to understand it, accept it, and mitigate it as much as possible.

References:

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

CDC Urges Doctors to Mislead about COVID-19 Deaths

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COVID-19 as cause of death.
COVID-19 as cause of death

COVID-19 deaths are up here, and down there. Here a hotspot, there a hotspot. Such are the earmarks of a pandemic. The mainstream media is frantically relaying the most recent numbers to us and the deaths are going up, as are the confirmed cases. The number of confirmed cases might correlate with a greater number of people being tested. However, the number of fatalities is suspect because the CDC is urging doctors to mislead about COVID-19 deaths on death certificates.

Popular TV shows lead us to believe that the coroner, and doctors in general, are all Sherlock Holmes when it comes to diagnosing the cause of death. But as you will see in the following video that is not the case. Even when some other immune system issue caused a death, it is supposed to add another check on the Coronavirus side of the card.

Dr. Annie Bukacek Explains CDC “Suggestions”

Dr. Annie Bukacek explains CDC “suggestions”

Granted, if the good doctor hadn’t backed all this up with the CDC’s actual verbiage, the story would have all the makings of a good old conspiracy theory. But the only conspiracy theory that might be bandied about is this — why is the CDC urging doctors to mislead about COVID-19 deaths via death certificates? What is to be gained by doing so? Logic tells me that there is no more vested interest in generating hysteria than in minimizing it. The media certainly understands it as they minimize Antifa riots, going so far as to call them “peaceful protests.” Bottom line? Believe nothing. Sadly.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Understanding the Basics of Medicare

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Medicare plan menu
Medicare plan menu

I’m quickly approaching that age where I have to sign up for Medicare. I’m not the only one that is aware of this fact. Our names, addresses, and dates of birth are out there in the public domain and insurance companies have their eyes glued to the clock, waiting until we reach the ripe old age of 64.5. Medicare is big business. For about 4 months now I’ve been getting junk mail from various insurance companies soliciting my business. Worse than that are the phone calls; I get at least 10 per week. I usually tell them, “Don’t you know I’m on both the national and the Texas no-call lists?” They generally say, “Oh…” CLICK. No-call is one of those programs with no cojones or substance and they know it. No-call is analogous to that button at the crosswalk; it’s not hooked up to anything but it makes us feel better.

And then there are the ubiquitous TV commercials. The one that always gets a chuckle from me is when Joe Namath tells me, “They even provide this-n’-that for no extra charge!” Sure, nice marketing ploy, but after all, this is Capitalism at its best; The charge has already been built into the base rate. In any event, I decided to do my own homework before I hold my nose and cast my lot with one of these enthusiastic insurance companies. And here’s what I found about the basics of Medicare in a nutshell.

What is Medicare?

Basic Medicare is is a national health insurance program in the U.S., unveiled in 1966 under the auspices of the Social Security Administration (SSA). Today It’s administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The prime objective is to provide health insurance for Americans 65 and older, but also is available for some younger people with disability status as determined by the Social Security Administration. People with end stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may also sign up.

Like most government programs, misconceptions abound. When one can obfuscate, do so, ye civil service power-trippers. First, let’s be clear — Medicare isn’t free (for the most part), and the costs involved are often surprising to those who aren’t familiar with the program. Medicare enrollees cough up a variety of charges, including co-payments, coinsurance percentages, and monthly premiums. Although many thought Bernie Sanders‘ Medicare-for-all would be “free,” Berniecare was really just Obamacare with lipstick. Beyond the basic Medicare program there are 4 add-on parts, A, B, C, and D.

Medicare Optional Parts

  • Medicare Part A. Medicare Part A is hospital health insurance offered by the federal government to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who have permanently lived in the U.S. without a break for at least five years. You usually don’t have pay a monthly premium to get Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) coverage if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for a certain amount of time while working. In this case it’s called called “premium-free Part A.” People who don’t qualify for premium-free Part A can purchase Part A. If you do, you’ll pay up to $458 each month according to Medicare.gov. If you paid Medicare taxes for fewer than 30 quarters, the standard Part A premium will set you back $458. But if you paid into Medicare taxes for 30-39 quarters, then the standard Part A premium is $252. Keep in mind that if purchase Part A, you must also have Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) and pay monthly premiums for both Part A and Part B.
  • Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B is medical insurance and is part of Original Medicare and covers medical services and supplies that are medically necessary to treat your health condition. This can include outpatient care, preventive services, ambulance services, and durable medical equipment. Specifically, doctor’s office visits, lab work, x-rays, and outpatient surgeries, and preventive services to keep you healthy, like cancer screenings and flu shots. In 2020 the standard premium amount is $144.60 per month for individuals who filed individual taxes up to $87,000 or less, and those that filed jointly for $174,000 or less.
  • Medicare Part C. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “A Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another Medicare health plan choice you may have as part of Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, the plan will provide all of your Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) coverage. Medicare Advantage Plans may offer extra coverage, such as vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs. Most include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). Medicare pays a fixed amount for your care every month to the companies offering Medicare Advantage Plans. These companies must follow rules set by Medicare. However, each Medicare Advantage Plan can charge different out-of-pocket costs and have different rules for how you get services (like whether you need a referral to see a specialist or if you have to go to only doctors, facilities, or suppliers that belong to the plan for non‑emergency or non-urgent care). These rules can change each year.” I suspect this is the type of plan Joe Namath hypes in his commercial. Obviously the price will vary depending on services.
  • Medicare Part D. Part D offers prescription drug coverage. Generally, you should only opt for this if you do not have employer or union drug coverage. Medicare.gov says, “If you join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you, your spouse, or your dependents may lose your employer or union health coverage.” How much does it cost? The short answer is — it depends. Most Medicare Prescription Drug Plans charge a monthly fee that varies by plan. You pay this in addition to the Medicare Part B Premium. If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) or Medicare Cost Plan that includes Medicare prescription drug coverage, the plan’s monthly premium may include an amount for drug coverage.

References

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Did this article clear up some confusion on the basics of Medicare? I hope so. They don’t make it easy, do they?

Types of Blood Pressure Medications

And How They Work to Lower Hypertension

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Blood pressure medication and monitor
Blood pressure medication and monitor

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it exhibits no symptoms. Typically people first learn they have it when their doctor tells them during a routine visit. That’s how I found out. I was amazed. I’m an avid runner and walker, my weight is acceptable, and I eat well. But as the doc told me, “You’re doing the right things, but if it’s in your genes, it’s in your genes.” Oh crap.

So. Meds. Nobody likes them. Get over it. Blood pressure meds might be the worst; the one good thing is that even if you don’t have conventional insurance or Medicare Part D, generics are quite affordable. Here are the ones you need to be acquainted with if you are diagnosed with hypertension.

  • Diuretics. Also known as “water pills,” these meds cause your body to produce more urine which in turn causes you to eliminate more salt from your body (and most importantly, your bloodstream). Even if you don’t add salt to your food, most of your sodium intake comes from eating out and packaged foods. Salt’s effect is to act on your kidneys to make your body hold on to more water. Extra stored water raises your blood pressure and puts a strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart, and brain. If you are prescribed a diuretic, stay close to a bathroom.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). These meds block the effects of a hormone, you guessed it, called ­angiotensin II. This hormone is a peptide hormone that causes vasoconstriction, and consequently, a rise in your blood pressure. It’s part of the renin-angiotensin system. This system regulates blood pressure. Angiotensin also stimulates the release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex to promote sodium retention by the kidneys. There’s that salt raising it’s ugly head again.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. ACE inhibitors are a type of meds used primarily for the treatment of high blood pressure and heart failure. The way they work is by causing relaxation of your blood vessels as well as a decrease in blood volume, which leads to lower blood pressure and decreased oxygen demand from the heart. The brand I take is Lisinopril, which luckily, is a generic so it is inexpensive, especially with medical insurance. The main side effects are a persistent dry cough and a feeling of lethargy.
  • Beta-blockers. This type helps in reducing the heart rate thereby decreasing your blood pressure. Your doctor might call them beta-adrenergic blocking agents. Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. There are some beta-blockers that mainly affect your heart, while others affect both your heart and your blood vessels.
  • Calcium channel blockers. This type reduces the amount of calcium that enters your heart muscles thereby reducing the heart rate and controlling blood pressure.
  • Alpha-blockers: The muscles of your arteries and veins are relaxed with this type thus reducing the blood pressure.

General Considerations for Hypertension Medications

There are some things to know when you are prescribed hypertension meds. The first is that they all have side effects so you may have to work with your doctor to find the one that works best for your lifestyle. When I tried a calcium channel blocker it caused too much ankle swelling. When I switched to lisinopril I found that it affected my running, particularly any long run over 10 miles made me feel wonky and my vision to get weird… after I stopped. My solution? I now take it in the evening rather than in the morning. Despite the side effects, medication drastically lowers the chance of a stroke.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Basil: a Savory Addition to Your Herb Garden and Kitchen

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Fresh-cut basil
Fresh-cut basil from my garden

The basil pictured above is fresh-harvested from my garden in preparation for making pesto (yum). Believe it or not, it is a member of the mint family. It is also known as great basil, sweet basil, or for the scientifically-minded, Ocimum basilicum. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious and an essential part of any foodie’s herb garden.

All other things aside, consider the economics of the situation — you can buy a plant from the nursery, or even Walmart for crying out loud, for the same price or cheaper than a plastic-wrapped one-time-use bundle from the grocery store. Who knows where that came from? Mine is organic and two minutes from plant to recipe. Why is there even a comparison? I understand that even apartment-dwellers can grow it in the kitchen window or better yet, a balcony if you have one.

Health Benefits of Basil

Most of the studies that indicate that tulsi (holy basil) was used to determine benefits. Tulsi is traditionally used for religious and traditional medicine purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely used as an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda.

  • Supports liver health.
  • Fights cancer. This is due to the phytochemicals present by increasing antioxidant activity, changing gene expression, triggering cell death, and slowing cell division.
  • Supports liver health.
  • Protects against skin aging. This effect is from using basil extracts in topical skin creams to improve skin hydration and reduce roughness and wrinkling. Eating it will not provide the benefit.
  • Supports cardiovascular function. The theory is that it lowers blood pressure due to the plant’s eugenol content. This can block calcium channels in the body, lowering high blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers are a popular class of blood pressure medications.
  • Boosts mental health.
  • Reduces swelling and inflammation.
  • Fights infection. A study in 2013 as reported by the US National Library of Medicine showed that sweet basil oil was effective against E. coli bacteria. The researchers determined that certain preparations of basil oil could help treat or even prevent some varieties of infection.

Recipes for Basil

It goes without saying that basil can be added to almost any recipe but here are a few of my favorites. Try them all. These are recipes that I have either invented or morphed together from several traditional recipes and modified to my taste. When I get into the kitchen to experiment, my wife invariably says, “Oh no!” But never fear, she has approved all the ones below.

Obviously, basil can be added to a variety of dishes whether you are going for taste or the nutritional value. But to ensure freshness, availability, and organic quality, plant it in your herb garden.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Health Benefits of Tart Cherries

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Tart cherries harvested
Tart cherries harvested

Tart cherries which are also labeled as sour, dwarf or Montmorency cherries, have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, and for good reason–their health benefits. It is most often consumed as a juice. Tart cherry juice is extracted from the ripe fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree. The tree is native to both southwest Asia and Europe.

Whether you purchase concentrate bottled juice, frozen, or concentrated liquid, it is important to note that the product can contain a substantial amount of added sugar because, well, they’re tart! Be a label-reading consumer. And as always, look for organic products. That being said, here are some health benefits.

How Your Health can Benefit from Tart Cherries

  • Reduce muscle soreness and optimize strength. If you’re a runner, walker, or indulge in another sport, this benefit is obvious. In one study, runners were given 16 ounces (480 ml) of cherry juice in the days before and immediately following a marathon. They were found to have less muscle damage, soreness, and inflammation than they had experienced in previous races. In addition, they also recovered faster. As for weight trainers, tart cherry juice and supplements may increase muscle strength. If your goal is weight loss, reducing muscle soreness means more productive workouts.
  • High in nutritional value. Even though an 8-ounce (240-ml) serving contains 119 calories, it’s packed with valuable nutrients. For example, offsetting the 28 grams of carbs are 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 7% of the RDI of vitamin K, 14% of the RDI of manganese, 62% of the RDI of vitamin A, 12% of the RDI of potassium, 12% of the RDI of copper, and 40% of the RDI of vitamin C.
  • Sleep better and longer. Not many people get the recommended amount of nightly sleep, do they? But tart cherries are naturally high in melatonin which is a hormone responsible for sleepiness. Many people are afflicted with insomnia as I have been for years. I have found that melatonin is a natural, safe, non-habit forming solution. Further, tart cherries contain a healthy helping of tryptophan and anthocyanins. These two compounds are thought to help the body create melatonin.
  • Strengthen your immune system. It is widely believed that that tart cherries’ high antioxidant content may help prevent infections. During flu season and the Coronavirus pandemic, who doesn’t need that to hedge their bets?
  • Control symptoms of gout and arthritis. Some studies have looked at the effect of tart cherry juice on gout. Gout is a specific type of arthritis accompanied by repeated attacks of swelling and intense pain. The thought is that tart cherry juice seems to reduce blood levels of uric acid which is a chemical that triggers gout when present in elevated concentrations. The juice is often claimed to reduce arthritis symptoms, such as joint pain and inflammation.
  • Improve your brain health. Degenerative brain disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are caused, at least to some extent, by oxidative stress. Tart cherries and their juice offer a large amount of antioxidants as well as other beneficial plant compounds that may have protective effects on brain cells.

Standard disclaimer: if you are considering going on a tart cherry regimen and you are on any type of medication, consult your doctor. For example, it contains quercetin which is a plant compound that may interact with certain meds, blood thinners in particular. But for most of us, the health benefits of tart cherries are well worth a look.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.