Servicing DC, MD & VA

Prevention : Know Your Numbers

July 1st, 2015 | Comments Off on Prevention : Know Your Numbers | Posted in Personal Tips, Trips & Traps

shutterstock_152502707Knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI) are vital in determining whether you are at risk for developing major illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. If you know your numbers are out of the healthy range, you can take measures to get yourself back into good health.

Total Cholesterol = 200 or Less

There are two kinds of cholesterol: LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”). Your HDL level should be above 60 and your LDL should be below 130. Start having your cholesterol checked every five years beginning at age 20; if you have an elevated level at any point, you should get it checked more often thereafter. Children over age 2 should be checked regularly if there is a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol earlier than age 55.

Blood Pressure = Less than 120 over 80

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition in which resting blood pressure is consistently measured at 140 over 90 or greater. The higher number – systolic pressure – indicates when the heart beats, and the lower number – diastolic pressure – is when the heart is at rest. There are no symptoms of high blood pressure; it can only be detected by having your blood pressure checked regularly. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause heart failure, aneurysms, kidney failure and/or stroke. Get your blood pressure checked at least once every year.

Blood Sugar = Below 100 (using FPG test)

Glucose is sugar that is stored in the blood as your main source of energy. If your glucose levels are consistently too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia), you can develop diabetes. Symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, extreme hunger and thirst, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue and blurry vision. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, blindness, kidney disease and possibly amputation of the arms or legs. Get your blood sugar tested every 3 years, unless you have pre-diabetes, in which case you should get it checked every year.

Heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and many other chronic conditions have the potential to be prevented by simply being familiar with your body and taking actions to stay healthy. You can do this by visiting your doctor annually, as well as getting cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels tested regularly. Learn about what actions you can take to ensure you live a healthy life.

Body Mass Index (BMI) = Between 18.5 and 24.9

To calculate your BMI, use the calculator at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm.

BMI is regarded as the most useful tool to determine and classify obesity. It measures body fat according to height and weight and correlates with a person’s risk of disease and death. A BMI of over 25 indicates that you are overweight; if it is over 30, you are classified as obese. If you have a BMI of 18.5 or below you are considered underweight, which is also a serious health problem. Underweight people are at a higher risk for osteoporosis, fertility problems and overall illness due to a weakened immune system. It may be a shock to you to learn what category you fall into, but knowledge is the first step in taking care of yourself.

Tips for Getting—and Staying—Healthy

Not pleased with your numbers? Here’s how to ease into a healthier lifestyle:

  • Be realistic about your goals—if you try to reduce calories, fats and sugar while increasing exercise all at the same time, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Set smaller goals and add new ones as you are successful.
  • Read the labels on the products you buy. You may be surprised to discover the actual amount of calories, fat and sugars contained in many foods you eat regularly.
  • Choose low-sodium alternatives of foods such as soup, nuts and crackers.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Use unsaturated vegetable oils, and opt for “baked” or “steamed” versions of your favorite foods instead of fried.
  • Include more fiber in your diet. High-fiber foods help you feel fuller for longer periods of time. Try whole grain cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
  • Only drink alcohol in moderation, or abstain completely.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Prepare meals and snacks at home. You will eat healthier and save money, too.
  • Physical activity is a must. You should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity at a minimum of 5 days a week. This doesn’t just have to be at the gym; consider more creative options, such as taking the dog for a walk, gardening, shoveling snow or going dancing!

Source: hminsuresyou.com

The Effects of E-Cigarettes

July 1st, 2015 | Comments Off on The Effects of E-Cigarettes | Posted in Live Well, Work Well

The Effect of E-cigarettes on Health

shutterstock_116150725E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular in recent years. While many adult smokers switch to e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit tobacco, teenagers are the largest and fastest growing population for e-cigarette use. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products reported that e-cigarette use among teens tripled in 2014.

While e-cigarettes are commonly believed to be a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, very little is known about their effect on the body. Research has found that e-cigarette vapors produce particles containing harmful chemicals. These chemicals can harm lung tissue and worsen acute respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis. Consider limiting your use of e-cigarettes until further research has been conducted.

View more Live Well, Work Well tips here.

July 2015 Festivals and Events

July 1st, 2015 | Comments Off on July 2015 Festivals and Events | Posted in Spotlight on the Community

shutterstock_74134390The Washington, DC area and its surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia host lots of annual festivals and special events. All dates, prices, and activities mentioned are subject to change, so please check the official website or call to confirm information. Please note that most of these events are held each year and the dates are updated as available.

Worlds Childrens Festival
June 30-July 4, 2015. National Mall, Washington DC. The celebration of children’s creativity and imagination brings together hundreds of young artists and performers from around the world.

Grand Opening New Exhibit Space at the American History Museum
July 1, 2015. National Museum of American History, Washington DC. The museum will open its newly renovated first floor exhibits that will focus on innovation and explore the history of American business and invention. The festivities will begin with a 10:30 a.m. ribbon cutting, followed by a “Build the Flag” activity with Lego master builders beginning at 11 a.m. Jazz and Hip Hop D.J. spun music and demonstrations will take place throughout the day.

Free Summer Concerts
Find concert schedules for family entertainment throughout the month in various destinations around Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Outdoor Movies in the Washington, DC Area
Watching movies on a large screen outdoors has become a popular summer activity.

Summer Theater in Washington DC
With dozens of performances around the region, here is the schedule of the top shows for the season.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival
June 24-28 and July 1-5, 2015. Celebrate cultural traditions from around the world. The Festival includes daily and evening music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling and discussions of cultural issues. This is one of Washington, DC’s most popular summer events.

World Police & Fire Games (Fairfax, Virginia)
Through July 5, 2015. The multi-sport, multi-venue comes to the Washington DC area, bringing together more than 12,000 athletes from police, fire and other public safety agencies from all 50 states and more than 60 countries.  Events will be held at 52 venues including George Mason University, Reston Town Center, the National Mall and more.

UniverSoul Circus
Through July 19, 2015. National Harbor, MD. Enjoy a big top showcase bursting with action-packed performances, colorful lights, pulsating music and international soul.

Castleton Music Festival
July 2-August 2, 2015. Castleton, VA. The event features classical music, theater and opera in a gorgeous setting in the rolling hills of Rappahannock County, VA, approximately 60 miles southwest of Washington DC.

Fourth of July Fireworks in the Washington DC Area
Find 4th of July fireworks and Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall and around the capital region in Maryland and Virginia.

Independence Day at Mount Vernon
July 4, 2015. The Red, White and Blue event features musical performances, a wreathlaying ceremony, free birthday cake for all (while supplies last) and a visit by ‘General Washington’ himself.

4th of July Parades in DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia
Many communities in the area celebrate the holiday with a parade. Show your patriot spirit and enjoy a few hours of family fun.

4th of July Parties and Bar Crawls
Various Dates. Gather your friends and don your red, white and blue for a patriotic party to celebrate Independence Day.

Washington Nationals Baseball
The Major League Baseball’s National League East plays 81 home games each season at Nationals Park. Enjoy a fun-filled day cheering on DC’s baseball team.

Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods
Tuesdays through Saturdays, Through August 2015. Family friendly performances in music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater. (recommended for children ages 5-12)

Capital Fringe Festival
July 9-August 2, 2015. This annual performing arts festival will feature more than 140 unique performances in multiple venues around Washington, DC.

Alexandria Live Music Week
July 10-19, 2015. Alexandria, VA. The new event features live entertainment at more than 30 restaurants and venues including jazz, bluegrass, folk, rock, country and more.

Alexandria Birthday and Independence Day Fireworks
July 11, 2015.  Oronoco Bay Park, Alexandria, VA. The annual event includes children’s activities, a concert performed by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, birthday cake and a fireworks extravaganza.

Bastille Day Events
July 11-14, 2015. Celebrate French culture and commemorate the storming of the Bastille Prison in 1789 and the launch of the French Revolution. See a guide to special events in Washington DC.

Baltimore/Washington One Caribbean Carnival
July 11-12, 2015. Baltimore, Maryland. The event features groups representing the Caribbean, Latin America and the Diaspora in colorful costumes portraying different themes, dancing to the sound of Calypso, Soca, Reggae, African, Haitian, Latin and Steelband music.

Cambodian Community Day Festival
July 12, 2015, noon to 6 p.m. Silver Spring, MD. Explore the Cambodian culture through displays of traditional Cambodian arts, crafts, paintings, souvenirs, and food.

Washington Kastles Tennis Tournaments
July 12-29, 2015. The Washington Kastles begin their season of Advanta World TeamTennis (WTT), bringing live tennis tournaments to Washington, DC.

Comcast Outdoor Film Festival in Alexandria
July 17-18, 2015. See family-friendly outdoor movies in the heart of Alexandria.

Screen on the Green
Mondays, July 20-August 10, 2015. Watch classic movies on a large screen on the National Mall. Bring the whole family out for an evening of fun under the stars.

Howard County Restaurant Weeks
July 20-August 3, 2015. Howard County, Maryland. The Farm-2-Table summer dining specials offer a great opportunity to enjoy locally grown products while trying new restaurants and supporting local farmers and food and beverage purveyors.

Brew at the Zoo
July 23, 2015. National Zoo, Washington DC. Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) host the annual  event each summer that brings together more than 60 of the nation’s finest microbreweries for beer sampling.

Montgomery County Farm Tour
July 25-26, 2015. Explore local farms and purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, plants and other local products. Several farms have hayrides, pony rides, music, demonstrations and other fun and educational activities for all ages.

Quicken Loans National Golf Tournament (previously AT@T National)
July 27-August 2, 2015. Gainesville, VA. Top PGA Tour professionals compete at one of the highest-ranked courses in the country.

Loudoun County Fair
July 27-August 1, 2015. Family fun includes a carnival, rodeo-bull riding, dairy show, goat show, horseback demonstrations, magic acts, pet shows, floral exhibits, obstacle courses, tug-of-war, live musical entertainment and more.

Bethesda Outdoor Movies
July 21-25, 2015, 9 p.m. See free outdoor movies in the heart of Bethesda, Maryland.

Redskins Training Camp
July 30-August 16, 2015. Redskins Park, Richmond, Virginia. Fans are invited to watch the Washington Redskins gear up for the season.

Source: dc.about.com

Before Buying Fireworks

July 1st, 2015 | Comments Off on Before Buying Fireworks | Posted in Family Health & Safety

What Consumers Need to Know Before Buying Fireworks

static1.squarespace.comWashington, D.C. —-Everyone enjoys fireworks, especially in the festive Fourth of July season. But consumers need to be careful about where they buy their fireworks. The National Council on Fireworks Safety (NCFS) recommends that you only buy consumer fireworks from a licensed store, tent or stand. Never buy fireworks from an individual’s house or from someone on the street. Such devices are likely illegal explosives or professional 1.3G fireworks that can seriously injure you.

Consumer fireworks, regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, are packaged in bright colors and have safety warnings on the package. The packaging sets forth the country of origin, which is normally China. Typical consumer fireworks include fountains, cones, sparklers, firecrackers, rockets and multi-tube aerial devices.

Illegal explosives are often unpackaged and wrapped in brown paper. They are unlikely to have any safety warnings or place of manufacture. Many of them are handmade in basements or illicit factories without any quality control. They go by names such as M-80, Quarter Stick or Cherry Bombs. If someone approaches you to sell one of these illegal explosives, politely decline and call your local police department.

Professional 1.3G fireworks are legal but only in the hands of a licensed, trained pyro-technician. These devices are very different than consumer fireworks, are extremely powerful and are not meant for consumer use.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety encourages consumers to know their fireworks. Nancy Blogin, President of the National Council on Fireworks Safety says, “Consumers should be aware of where their fireworks come from; only buy from licensed stores, stands and tents.” Nancy also says, “A designated shooter should prepare a shooting area, carefully read the label of each firework and understand exactly what the firework will do and refrain from consuming alcohol. Planning makes for a safe and fun backyard fireworks display.”

Consumer fireworks, when used in accordance with the instructions and safety warnings, are very safe. For a full list of consumer fireworks safety tips and a safety video, please visit www.FireworksSafety.org.

Source: fireworkssafety.org

10 Healthy Ice Creams

July 1st, 2015 | Comments Off on 10 Healthy Ice Creams | Posted in Family Health & Safety

10 Healthy Ice Creams You Can Make In Your Blender

Forget buying those pints of ice cream packed with sugar and other unnecessary ingredients. You can make your own in 60 seconds in your blender, which doubles as an awesome soft-serve machine. (Find out how you can beat your sugar addiction in 21 days with the Sugar Smart Express!) These 10 delish DIY recipes have more healthy fat, protein, and antioxidants than most ice creams you can churn out (pun intended), but are tasty enough that you won’t ever dream of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s again.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl

chocolate-pb-ice-creamThis chocolate ready-to-serve treat is made out of a banana base (not cream), so there’s no guilt. Top with mini chocolate chips for a sundae spin.

SERVINGS: 3 to 4 / MAKES: 3 cups / 1½ pints

½ c plain Greek yogurt
4 frozen bananas
¼ c maple syrup
? c cocoa powder
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter

1. COMBINE first 4 ingredients in a blender and blend until thick and creamy.
2. DRIZZLE in the peanut butter and pulse 2 to 3 times to incorporate.
3. SERVE immediately.

NUTRITION (per serving) 242 cal, 7 g pro, 47 g carb, 6 g fiber, 30 g sugars, 6 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 44 mg sodium

Coconut Bliss

coconut-ice-creamThis coconut party in your mouth is deceptively creamy—yet dairy free (it uses coconut milk, not cream)! Scoop and roll in flaked coconut for extra texture and fiber.

SERVINGS: 3 to 4 / MAKES: 3 cups /1½ pints

½ c canned coconut milk
¼ c unsweetened flaked coconut
¼ c maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla
2 frozen bananas

1. COMBINE all the ingredients in a blender and blend until thick and creamy.
2. TRANSFER to a loaf pan and freeze at least 4 hours.

NUTRITION (per serving) 195 cal, 2 g pro, 29 g carb, 3 g fiber, 21 g sugars, 9.5 g fat, 8 g sat fat, 9 mg sodium

Green Tea Pistachio Ice Cream

pistachio-ice-creamThis creamy vegan confection has healthy written all over it, thanks to the double dose of antioxidants from matcha powder and pistachios.

SERVINGS: 3 to 4 / MAKES: 3 cups 1½ pints

1 c cashews
¼ c maple syrup
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ c canned coconut or almond milk
1 Tbsp matcha green tea powder
2 frozen bananas
? c pistachio pieces

1. COVER cashews in water and soak overnight. Rinse and drain.
2. BLEND together cashews and remaining ingredients until thick and creamy.
3. TRANSFER to a loaf pan and freeze 4 hours before serving.

NUTRITION (per serving) 357 cal, 9 g pro, 41 g carb, 4 g fiber, 25 g sugars, 20 g fat, 5.5 g sat fat, 15 mg sodium

Cherry Swirl

cherry-swirl-ice-creamThis tart, tangy treat is a swirlicious blend of antioxidant-rich sweet cherries and protein-packed Greek yogurt.

SERVINGS: 2 to 3 / MAKES: 2 cups / 1 pint

2 c frozen cherries
½ c plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ c plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp honey

1. BLEND together cherries, ½ c Greek yogurt and vanilla until smooth.
2. TRANSFER to a loaf pan.
3. MIX together remaining ½ c Greek yogurt and honey and drizzle over loaf pan. Use a butter knife to gently swirl the mixture.
4. FREEZE for at least 4 hours.

NUTRITION (per serving) 135 cal, 7 g pro, 24 g carb, 2 g fiber, 21 g sugars, 1.5 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 25 mg sodium

Mint Chip

mint-chip-ice-creamMint chip lovers rejoice! This healthy version combines avocado, banana, and Greek yogurt for a creamy finish that leaves you totally satisfied, thanks to a hefty dose of protein and monounsaturated fats.

MORE: The Healthy Fat You’ve Probably Never Tried

SERVINGS: 3 to 4 / MAKES: 3 cups /1½ pints

½ c plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 avocado
3 frozen bananas
1 tsp peppermint extract
? c mini chocolate chips

1. COMBINE the first 5 ingredients in a blender and blend until thick and creamy.
2. STIR in the chocolate chips.
3. TRANSFER to a loaf pan and freeze at least 4 hours.

NUTRITION (per serving) 247 cal, 5 g pro, 35 g carb, 7 g fiber, 20 g sugars, 12.5 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 15 mg sodium

Mango Madness

mango-newThis 3-ingredient tropical treat is like the perfect summer day in your mouth. Top with berries for extra zing and dose of antioxidants and fiber.

SERVINGS: 3 to 4 / MAKES: 3 cups /1½ pints

¾ c plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2½ c frozen mango

1. COMBINE all the ingredients in a blender and blend until thick and creamy.
2. SERVE immediately.

NUTRITION (per serving) 93 cal, 4 g pro, 17 g carb, 2 g fiber, 16 g sugars, 1 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 15 mg sodium

Peachy Orange

peach-orange-ice-creamThink: sophisticated creamsicle. This simple concoction is a peachy-orange scoop of perfection.

SERVINGS: 2 to 3 / MAKES: 2 cups /1 pints

? c canned coconut cream
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 c frozen peaches

1. COMBINE all the ingredients in a blender and blend until thick and creamy.
2. TRANSFER to a loaf pan and freeze at least 4 hours.

NUTRITION (per serving) 199 cal, 1 g pro, 39 g carb, 1 g fiber, 37 g sugars, 5.5 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 13 mg sodium

Strawberries ’N Cream

strawberry-ice-creamThis vegan and dairy free treat tastes just like the calorie-packed childhood favorite. Plus, how can you go wrong with strawberries?

SERVINGS: 2 to 3 / MAKES: 2 cups / 1 pints

1 can full fat coconut milk
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 c frozen strawberries

1. REFRIGERATE canned coconut milk overnight. The next day, open can upside down, pour out the liquid (reserve for smoothies) and scoop the thickened coconut cream into a blender.
2. ADD maple syrup and strawberries and blend until thick and cream.
3. SERVE immediately or freeze for a thicker consistency.

NUTRITION (per serving) 154 cal, 2g pro, 8 g carb, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugars, 14 g fat, 12.5 g sat fat, 9 mg sodium

Salted Caramel

salted-date-ice-creamYes, this one tastes as good as it sounds—and makes an awesome banana split. Top with chopped nuts, chopped dates, cocoa nibs, and a sprinkle of sea salt for a total crowd pleaser.

SERVINGS: 3 to 4 / MAKES: 3 cups /1½ pints

¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp maple syrup
10 whole milk ice cubes
1 frozen banana
6 pitted dates
¼ tsp sea salt

1. BLEND first 4 ingredients together until creamy. Add in the dates and sea salt and pulse until just combined.
2. SERVE immediately or freeze for a firmer consistency.

NUTRITION (per serving) 203 cal, 4 g pro, 44 g carb, 3 g fiber, 38 g sugars, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 134 mg sodium

Vegan Cookie Dough

vegan-cookie-dough-ice-creamRich and decadent, this dense, dairy-free delight loaded with cookie dough chunks will make you rethink healthy ice cream—in a good way. (Take a look at more dairy-free clean foods from our Cleanest Packaged Food Awards.)

SERVINGS: 3 to 4 / MAKES: 3 cups /1½ pints

Vegan cookie dough:
2 Tbsp coconut oil or Earth Balance Spread
2 Tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
? c flour (white flour, spelt flour or almond flour)
2 Tbsp vegan chocolate chips
Pinch sea salt

Vegan Ice cream:
2 c raw cashews soaked overnight
¼ c maple syrup
¼ c fresh lemon juice
½ c water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
2 Tbsp vegan chocolate chips

1. COVER cashews in water and soak overnight. Rinse and drain.
2. STIR together cookie dough ingredients, roll into marble-sized balls and freeze on a parchment-lined cookie sheet 1 hour or overnight.
3. COMBINE ice cream ingredients (pre-soaked cashews through sea salt) in a blender and blend until creamy.
4. TRANSFER to a loaf pan and stir in 2 Tbsp vegan chocolate chips and frozen cookie dough balls. Tap pan to remove air bubbles and freeze 4 hours before serving.

NUTRITION (per serving) 347 cal, 8 g pro, 34 g carb, 1 g fiber, 17 g sugars, 22 g fat, 7.5 g sat fat, 41 mg sodium

Source: prevention.com

Sunscreen Rating App

July 1st, 2015 | Comments Off on Sunscreen Rating App | Posted in Family Health & Safety


Cyberattack on CareFirst

July 1st, 2015 | Comments Off on Cyberattack on CareFirst | Posted in Misc


CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield has been the target of a cyberattack

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield has confirmed that cyberattackers gained limited, unauthorized access to a CareFirst database. We understand that the security of your information is important and we are taking steps to protect members in light of this attack and moving forward.

To learn more, visit the CareFirst website: http://www.carefirstanswers.com/