CalOptima

CalOptima

CalOptima is a county organized health system, and provides publicly funded health care coverage for low-income children, adults, seniors and people with disabilities in Orange County. In total, CalOptima serves more than 717,000 members with a network of more than 7,000 primary care doctors and specialists, as well as 30 hospitals.

With temperatures soaring over the summer months, seniors are at increased risk of dehydration, sunburns and serious heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors have more difficulty in dealing with high summer temperatures, mostly due to chronic medical conditions or medications that interfere with their body’s ability to cool down or sweat.

CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County – offers a few helpful tips to ensure that seniors enjoy a safe summer:

Drink plenty of liquids, even when not thirsty: Drink eight or more 8-ounce glasses of water and/or low sugar fruit juices each day to stay hydrated. In addition, the CDC cautioned against consuming coffee or alcohol in high temperatures, as these beverages can dehydrate people very quickly.

Dress appropriately: Wear loose-fitting clothes in natural fabrics like cotton that feel more breathable and comfortable. Light-colored clothing will attract less sunlight, versus dark colors that absorb sunlight.

Use sunblock: Avoiding sunburns is essential to beating the heat in the summer. The CDC points out that as adults age, their skin often becomes thinner and more susceptible to burns. When outdoors, seniors should protect their skin from damage by wearing hats, sunglasses, and a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher no matter your skin tone or color.

Stay indoors during extreme heat: In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work harder to maintain a normal temperature. If seniors need to leave their homes, they might want to avoid driving. Instead, they should call a taxi, a friend, or a transportation service (e.g., Uber or Lyft). Under no circumstances should seniors wait outside for the bus in extreme heat.

Find air conditioning: For seniors whose home does not have air conditioning, they should go somewhere that does, such as a movie theater, the mall, a friend or relative’s home, or a community senior center.

Recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses: Seniors should know the symptoms for heat stress, which include muscle cramps, exhaustion, dizziness, vomiting and paleness. If experiencing heat stroke, older adults may notice their skin is red and hot, a rapid pulse rate, and a high body temperature of more than 103 degrees.

Extreme heat can be dangerous for seniors. Seniors who experience any heat related symptoms (from dizziness and headaches to flushed skin) should seek help from their healthcare provider immediately.

As Generation Xers start to age and join the baby boomers, exercise becomes important to fight excess weight that builds around the belly and chest.

This excess weight can cause an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers and type 2 diabetes. Exercise is one way to lose weight and become healthier. Make sure to talk to your primary care doctor before starting any new exercise program.

Being obese or overweight significantly impacts one’s longevity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 24 million adults over the age of 65 are categorized as obese. CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County, recommends the following exercises to help get your body in shape and combat the loss of lean muscle as you get older:

  • Cardio: Experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise each day such as brisk walks, running, biking, swimming, or workout routines. Cardio exercise improves lung capacity and heart strength, which diminish with age. If you’re crunched for time and don’t have 30 minutes, do three or four 10-minute exercise sessions a week instead.
  • Core exercises: Conditioning abdominal and lower-back muscles is critical to improving your posture and supporting your upper torso. Crunches (not sit-ups) are a common core-strength-building exercise. To do crunches, lie on the floor with your knees bent, and hands behind your head. Then contract your abdominal muscles, raising your chest a few inches off the ground.
    Planks are another good core exercise. It strengthens your arms, legs, hips, core, back and butt. Lie on your stomach, and then lift your body with your weight resting on your forearms and toes. Like performing a pushup, keep your back straight and your butt down. Breathe normally and contract your stomach muscles. Hold this position for a 20-second count, relax, and then repeat three to six times. Over time, build up your endurance to hold the position for one-to-two minutes.
  • Strength or resistance training: As you get older, you lose muscle mass and gain more fat which can lead to diabetes. To help regulate glucose metabolism, strength training at least twice a week for 30 to 45 minutes is essential. Also, increased muscle mass helps increase your metabolism and improve your body's ability to burn calories. Common strength training exercises include pushups, bicep curls, tricep extensions and modified squats and lunges that activate many muscles at once.

To avoid overuse and injuries, give yourself 24 to 48 hours in between strength training to ensure your muscles are properly rested.

As you get older, supporting your back and the rest of your body is critical. But be aware of your limits and don’t push them too hard. Always warm up before you begin exercising to make sure your body is ready. Remember that pain is an early warning sign to ease off what you’re doing.

It seems hard to avoid the shelves of junk and snack foods near the checkout lines anywhere you shop. Gas stations, local hardware shops, clothing stores and others make one last push to make that extra sale of gum, candy, chips and sugary drinks by making them available in the checkout line. Sadly, often these sales end up as added empty calories to your diet.

Dr. Miles Masatsugu, Medical Director with CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults (and children) throughout Orange County, has advice for making a healthier store exit:

  1. Use Self-Checkout Lanes: Most retail and grocery outlets now offer self-checkout for added convenience. Fortunately, these aisles don’t often accommodate the same set-up as the junk-riddled lanes. Although self-checking may take a little more time, the distraction of scanning groceries and lack of sugary temptations can encourage an exit without the extras.
  2. Eat Before You Shop: We all know better, but it happens to the best of us. According to 2015 research from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, hunger increases our intention to acquire not only food, but also non-food objects. Having a meal or an emergency snack handy before you shop can protect your wallet as well as your appetite.
  3. Commit To A List: Come prepared with a list in hand — and stick to it! According to the Integer Group, ninety percent of shoppers buy unplanned items, even when they have a list. Chances are, if you combine this strategy with using a self-checkout lane and a full stomach, you have a better chance of resisting the sales, promotions and other temptations.

With flowers in bloom, pollen released by plants and increased pollution; there are more irritants than ever in the air. This makes it hard for most people with asthma hard to breathe.

One way to help simply manage your asthma is to follow an action plan to help you to track your symptoms, ultimately keeping you or your child out of the doctor’s office or hospital.

According to a recent study from the University of Southern California, children with asthma who were exposed to higher concentrations of particles were more likely to develop bronchitis.

One of the best ways to keep your asthma under control is to avoid triggers, such as tobacco smoke, dust, molds, pests and seasonal allergens. If you know what triggered you or your child’s attack, write it in your action plan. Also, try to stay away from the trigger and tell your doctor.

Getting help right away when asthma gets worse can save a life. Doctors at CalOptima — California’s top-ranked health plan — recommend that you get follow-up care after an emergency room (ER) or hospital visit. Following are tips to help you to breathe easier:

  • Take your medicine as prescribed by the doctor. Make sure to tell your regular doctor about any prescription or changes made by a hospital or ER doctors during your follow-up visit.
  • Keep and use an asthma diary: This can help you and your doctor track how your asthma changes over time. This can include asthma symptoms, medicine dosage and more.
  • Warm up before exercise: Try not to exercise outside when it’s cold or when the pollen count is high. Also, keep your or your child’s inhaler handy just in case any symptoms flare up.

Don’t forget, no one knows your asthma better than you. Follow your action plan, and talk to your doctor about your symptoms. This will help prevent future unplanned doctor visits. The more you know, the better you will be at managing your family’s health.

As high temperatures continue, many adults and their families will hit the beach, water park or pool to cool down this summer. With swimming comes the risk for ear infections.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an ear infection is most often a bacterial or viral infection that affects the middle ear — the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear. Because the ear canal is dark, warm, and can hold water, it makes it a perfect environment for water-loving bacteria and fungus to grow. This can be exceptionally true in the summer because prolonged water exposure and sweat from excessive heat can cause an infection to develop in damp ears.

Because long-term problems related to ear infection can cause hearing problems, Dr. Miles Masatsugu, Medical Director at CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County, recommends that you know the signs of an infection:

Know the symptoms: Consult your doctor if you have ear pain, drainage of fluid from the ear or diminished hearing.

When to see a doctor: To avoid complications from an ear infection, it is important to see a doctor and receive prompt treatment. If symptoms last for more than a day, ear pain is severe or you observe discharge from the ear — especially after a cold or upper respiratory infection — call the doctor to make an appointment right away.

The following are tips to help you protect your ears this summer:

Keep the ears as dry as possible: use a swimming cap, earplugs, or custom-fitted swim ear molds when you are in the pool or ocean. These help prevent too much water from entering the ear canal.

Dry the ears thoroughly after swimming or showering: use a towel to dry your outer ears after swimming. Gently pull earlobe in different directions while tipping each ear to the side to help drain any remaining water.

Don’t remove excess earwax: don’t remove earwax from your ears as it helps protect the ear canal from infection. Consult your doctor if you have additional questions.

With flowers in bloom, pollen released by plants and increased pollution; there are more irritants than ever in the air. This makes it hard for most people with asthma hard to breathe.

One way to help simply manage your asthma is to follow an action plan to help you to track your symptoms, ultimately keeping you or your child out of the doctor’s office or hospital.

According to a recent study from the University of Southern California, children with asthma who were exposed to higher concentrations of particles were more likely to develop bronchitis.

One of the best ways to keep your asthma under control is to avoid triggers, such as tobacco smoke, dust, molds, pests and seasonal allergens. If you know what triggered you or your child’s attack, write it in your action plan. Also, try to stay away from the trigger and tell your doctor.

Getting help right away when asthma gets worse can save a life. Doctors at CalOptima — California’s top-ranked health plan — recommend that you get follow-up care after an emergency room (ER) or hospital visit. Following are tips to help you to breathe easier:

  • Take your medicine as prescribed by the doctor. Make sure to tell your regular doctor about any prescription or changes made by a hospital or ER doctors during your follow-up visit.
  • Keep and use an asthma diary: This can help you and your doctor track how your asthma changes over time. This can include asthma symptoms, medicine dosage and more.
  • Warm up before exercise: Try not to exercise outside when it’s cold or when the pollen count is high. Also, keep your or your child’s inhaler handy just in case any symptoms flare up.

Don’t forget, no one knows your asthma better than you. Follow your action plan, and talk to your doctor about your symptoms. This will help prevent future unplanned doctor visits. The more you know, the better you will be at managing your family’s health.

A large number of Orange County’s young and old are sniffling, sneezing or wheezing their way through spring’s allergy triggers. Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with a cost of $18 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With increasing amounts of money being spent on treatment against outdoor allergens, we often forget about the small changes indoors that can collectively make a difference in your health.

According to CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County, it’s important to explore a few common indoor triggers that can bring on stuffy noses and watery eyes. The agency’s tips include:

  • Enforce Dust and Dander Borders: Dust is one of the most common triggers of allergy and asthma attacks. So when it comes to creating a safe zone at home, our bedrooms are at the top of the list. We often forget about the sneaky ways dust travels inside through toys, stuffed animals and other clutter. Make sure to keep your bedroom clean and free of dust by regularly washing their bedding, stuffed animals, clothes and more.
  • Eye Your Pets: The biggest allergy culprit is pets. There is no such thing as a hypo-allergenic pet. Not only can Fido’s dander cause a reaction, he is also bringing in his day outdoors which can include dust, dirt or pollens. If pets are allowed inside, make it a rule that your bedroom is off limits.
  • Check Plants: On occasion we invite allergens inside through bouquets of flowers or potted plants. Aside from house plants like weeping figs and flowering maples that are common irritants, some plants like succulents can grow mold in the potting material which may not be visible. Look for ways to minimize these triggers indoors and consider decorating with dried or silk flowers and plants instead.
  • Monitor Moisture: Dust mites and mold thrive in moist environments. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends keeping indoor humidity between 30 and 60 percent. Local hardware stores sell a moisture meter to easily measure humidity. Or you can keep an eye out for potential problem areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, under sinks or near windows. If your allergies seem to get worse when the humidity in your house increases, you’ll know why.
  • Critter Control: Many common pests, such as cockroaches and some stinging insects, are known to trigger asthma and allergies. Critter droppings, saliva, and other remnants contain strong proteins that cause reactions. So, keep an eye out for any unwelcome critters especially during the summer months when water is scarce.

It is important to remember that allergies in general cannot be cured but allergic reactions can be minimized or prevented. Research shows it is just as important to control environmental factors as it is to manage symptoms with treatment or other natural remedies. After all, it would be nicer to spend time focusing on spending time with family, rather than passing around the tissue box.

 

Chances are you have heard the advice to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Although this rule may be helpful to remember, experts state that your water intake depends on many factors, including your health, how active you are and what climate you live in.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that your body needs more water when you are in hot climates, more physically active, running a fever, or experiencing diarrhea or vomiting. It is important to drink plenty of water daily to stay hydrated and experience the health benefits of water.

Dr. Miles Masatsugu, Medical Director with CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County, highlights the health benefits of water:

Regulates your body temperature: Did you know that you and your child’s bodies are programmed to remain at a specific internal temperature at all times? If you get cold, your body reacts by releasing heat. When you’re hot, your body works to cool itself by sweating. Drinking plenty of water helps to control your overall temperature.

Lubricates your joints: Water quenches your son or daughter’s thirst while also lubricating their joints. It helps provide cushion to balance your body when lifting something heavy or running. A lack of water can put you at risk for various health problems such as joint damage, which can painfully impact day-to-day life. Protect your family’s joints from their arms to their toes by drinking plenty of water.

Keeps skin healthy: Our skin is an organ and is made up of cells that need to be hydrated. Lack of water can make your skin look (and feel) dry, flaky or tight, almost like a dried-out sponge. The skin expands when it is hydrated – plenty of water makes it looks more vibrant and healthy!

Gets rid of waste: Another benefit of water? It helps get rid of waste from the foods we eat. Good digestive health requires plenty of water and fiber (such as vegetables, beans and brown rice) to remove waste from our bodies. A balanced diet helps shed harmful toxins.

Water plays an important role in your body’s overall health. So, make sure you and your family are meeting your daily water needs.

Controls calories: Drinking a glass of water before each meal helps fill your stomach. It can help you feel less hungry and reduce the chance of overeating. Eating food with high water content (such as fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, and beans) can also help you feel full faster. Water allows the liver to do its job of turning fat into energy.

Water plays an important role in your body’s overall health. So, make sure you and your family are meeting your daily water needs. Remember, it can be dangerous to drink too much water. Contact your doctor if you have any questions about proper hydration or to learn more about the benefits of drinking water.

It can be scary to find out that a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer. This can become even more complicated when your family members live far away and have questions about a love one’s care.

Breast cancer is talked about a lot when it comes to women’s health – the male variation gets little attention and deserves more. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer in men is typically detected between 60 and 70 years age and can occur at any age.

Dr. Donald Sharps, medical director for Behavioral Heath Integration with CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County, offers these tips of how to talk to your family about breast cancer.

Be honest: we all tend to overhear whispered conversations and often repeat these chats to our peers. Sitting down with your family and having an honest conversation about the disease can help decrease their anxiety and alleviate any confusion about their loved one’s health.

Encourage questions: your family will most likely have a number of questions related to the medical treatment of their loved one. Let them know that they can ask anything, and focus on the steps that are being taken to treat cancer. Lastly, if you are asked a question and you are unable to provide an answer, it’s okay to say “I don’t know.”

Prepare for physical changes: As treatment progresses, your loved one might begin to physically look different from side effects such as hair and weight loss. Make sure to prepare your family (especially young nieces, nephews and grandchildren) for these changes before they happen.

Stress the importance of help: Provide simple opportunities for your family to help out on a regular basis. This can be as simple as giving a hug and a kiss or calling to chat about their day. This can help increase your family member’s morale and is also a welcome distraction.

Consult a physician or counselor: If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start when talking to your family, consider meeting with your loved one’s physician or a counseling professional. They can provide you with tips and ways to talk about cancer in a way that is simple to understand.

Breast cancer is not any easy diagnosis to receive, but being honest and talking with your family helps everyone to cope.

You might think that staying up-to-date with vaccinations ends when you are a child. The truth is older adults also need to follow a regular vaccination schedule to reduce the risk of spreading diseases, developing serious illnesses, and even death. Immunizations play a role in lowering your risk of contracting diseases, and are an integral part of staying healthy.

Vaccines have played a huge part in reducing and even eliminating severe illnesses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, thousands of adults in the United States are hospitalized, treated, and even die from diseases that have vaccines available. Our immune system weakens after the age of 60, increasing our risk of being unable to recover from deadly ailments. 
 
CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County, recommends visiting your health care professional to review your immunizations record. They offer the following vaccination recommendations for older adults: 
 
SHINGLES: known as the Zoster vaccine, it is typically administered to protect against shingles in people 60 years and older. Typically, it is characterized by a rash that tends to develop into blisters. Although shingles aren’t life threatening, a vaccination can help reduce your risk of catching this painful illness.
 
PNEUMONIA: pneumonia is a bacterial or viral infection in your lungs or bloodstream. The two-part pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for those over the age of 65. It is especially important to become vaccinated if you have long term health problems such as asthma.
 
INFLUENZA: influenza, or the flu, is caused by a virus that can spread very quickly. It is also one of the leading causes of hospitalizations and death in older adults. It is important to get your flu vaccine at your doctor’s office or at a local pharmacy every year. 
 
Being informed is the first step to staying healthy. CalOptima recommends you to consult your primary care physician about your past, present, and future vaccination record.   
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