Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Most Strokes can be Prevented

Strokes are one of the health issues that people fear the most as they age.  Recently, researchers discovered that 90 percent of strokes are preventable!  They learned this by analyzing 27,000 people from every continent on earth.  While there were some regional variations which determined what factors were most important in causing strokes, the list of health issues that contribute to them was surprisingly consistent ... and preventable.

How the Research was Conducted

The study was headed up by Dr. Martin O'Donnell and Professor Salim Yusef of McMaster University.  They were supported by collaborators from 32 countries.  Their study built on the INTERSTROKE study which originally discovered the ten most important risk factors for strokes, based on 6,000 participants who were in 22 different countries.  As mentioned above, O'Donnell and Yusef expanded the research to include 27,000 people from around the world.

What are the Risk Factors for Strokes?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, was the most important factor in determining stroke risk.  That was true in every region.

However, the researchers came up with a PAR percentage (Population Attributable Risk) for each risk factor that contributed to strokes.  Many of the risk factors are associated with each other, such as obesity and diabetes.  When the PAR numbers were combined, it showed that controlling these risk factors could eliminate 90.7 percent of all strokes.  This was true in all regions of world, in all age groups, and for both men and women.

The Overall PAR Percentages

Hypertension - 47.9
Physical Inactivity - 35.8
Lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.) - 26.8
Poor diet - 23.2
Obesity - 18.6
Smoking - 12.4
Cardiac problems (including atrial fibrillation) - 9.1
Alcohol intake - 5.8
Stress - 5.8
Diabetes - 3.9

Conclusions from this Study

Professor Valery L. Feigin and Dr. Rita Kishnamurthi, who are with the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences, added their own comment to the study.  In it they said, in part, "stroke is a highly preventable disease globally, irrespective of age and sex."

How to Apply this Information to Your Life

Now that scientists have confirmed that over 90 percent of strokes are preventable, individuals can work with their doctors to take action and prevent it.  You can use the list above to determine which areas of your life are most in need of change ... high blood pressure, lack of exercise, high cholesterol and triglycerides, a poor diet, being over-weight, smoking, cardiac problems, excessive alcohol use, stress and diabetes.

The sooner you address any of these issues in your personal life, the less likely you are to ever experience a stroke.

As always, be sure you discuss your health issues with your doctor.  Only they can prescribe medications which could help you control your blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes.  Working closely with your physician and following their advice are the best ways to prevent strokes.

If you are interested in learning more about common health issues as you age, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional, helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Are We Grateful and Kind or Angry and Bitter?

Among the common problems that many people experience as they age are symptoms of anger, aggression, hostility, and depression.  There are many reasons why people may feel these emotions.  They may be experiencing poor health, pain or loneliness.  They could be developing dementia. They could be upset by politics, the loss of friends as they age, or other sad events in their lives. Even if they have a good reason to be grouchy and irritable, however, giving into these negative emotions can be very damaging both to them and others.

Whenever someone lashes out at people within their family or circle of friends, it is not unusual for the other people to become less willing to help them or spend time with them.  They may lash back.  The angry person could end up destroying their relationships with the very people they care the most about.  That only serves to increase their feelings of isolation and anger.

Health Dangers of Anger

How do you handle anger, disappointment, resentment and sadness?  Do you frequently find yourself feeling irritable and angry?  Uncontrolled anger puts your health at risk and can cause the following health issues:
  • headaches;
  • digestion problems, such as abdominal pain;
  • insomnia;
  • increased anxiety;
  • depression;
  • high blood pressure;
  • skin problems, such as eczema;
  • heart attacks.
Anger can also lower your immune system and make other health conditions worse, including cancer.  It can be very destructive.

In addition, if you have strong feelings of hostility, irritability and anger, you become more likely to get into arguments with the people around you.  You might even find yourself raging out-of-control and getting into physical fights.  You could physically harm yourself or others.

The stress hormones associated with anger can damage a variety of systems in your body, as reflected in the list of health issues mentioned above.

Healthy Ways to Deal with Anger

Under normal circumstances, there are a number of ways you can deal with your anger.  You can try walking away until you get your emotions under control.  You can analyze why you feel so strongly about an issue and try to deal with it less emotionally.  You could try getting physical exercise to release the stress hormones.

However, what if your anger is because of health issues, the loss of a family member, uncontrolled pain, or because you are in the early stages of dementia?  What if the normal ways of dealing with feelings of anger are not enough?

If you find yourself getting angry often or feeling out-of-control, you may want to talk to your doctor about counseling and/or anti-depressants.  You may want to discuss pain management.  You may need to become willing to accept assistance by applying for Meals on Wheels, hiring a caregiver or, if necessary, moving into as assisted living community.  In other words, use every tool at your disposal to treat your anger until you can get it under control.

How to Improve Our Outlook on Life

In addition to the steps mentioned above, there are other actions you can take to reduce your feelings of hostility.

Volunteer - People who feel needed and who take the time to help others tend to have a better outlook on life.

Get a pet - Whether you decide to get a dog, cat or fish in an aquarium, having as pet has been shown to decrease feelings of anxiety and loneliness.

Socialize with others - Many senior citizens spend most of their time alone.  They stay indoors, watch television and eat their meals by themselves.  Anything you can do that breaks up your day and gives you more contact with other people can make a significant difference in your outlook on life.  Local senior centers provide low-cost lunches for anyone who wants to come and eat with others.  Often, these lunches are accompanied by games and other activities.  You may also want to join clubs or take classes in your community.

Attend religious services - Studies have shown that people who regularly attend the religious services of their choice tend to live longer and be happier.

Get rest - People who do not sleep enough are more likely to be grouchy.  Extreme sleep deprivation can even mimic the symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses.  If you are having trouble getting enough sleep, discuss the problem with your doctor and see if behavioral modification or medication can help.

Eat healthy foods - There is some truth to the idea that we are what we eat.  Too much sugar, alcohol or caffeine, for example, can increase feelings of irritability and make it more difficult for us to sleep.

Be grateful - Gratitude is a positive emotion that helps people cope better with stress in their life.  It helps people to focus on the good in their lives and takes their attention off their difficulties, even temporarily.  Start a gratitude list and add to it regularly.

Journal - One place where you may want to keep your gratitude list is in a journal.  Many people also find it helpful to keep a journal of their feelings and experiences.  It can be a healthy outlet and a relaxing way to help you find solutions to the things that worry you. 

Learn to Relax - You may want to take meditation or yoga classes.  Learning proper breathing techniques can lower your blood pressure and decrease stress.  Many people also find it soothing to spend time in nature.

Get regular exercise -  Exercise can improve some health conditions, get us outside, take our minds off our difficulties and change our attitude.  Regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels.

Smile - The act of smiling changes the way we look at the world.  When we smile at someone else, they usually will smile back, which makes us feel even better.

The bottom line is that we are far better off at any age when we reach out to other people, show gratitude for the things they do for us, and treat them with kindness.  We cannot expect others to be kind to us if we react with bitterness and sarcasm.  Practice being considerate of others and we are likely to see that behavior returned.

If you are interested in learning more about the issues that affect retirees, including common health problems, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Shop Online Safely and Conveniently

In 2006, the online shopping sales volume for Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) amounted to about $608 million in sales.  By 2015, the amount of shopping done online on Cyber Monday totaled over $3 billion.  While there is no question that it is convenient to shop online, especially for retirees who may find it difficult to get to a mall and buy gifts for their loved ones, some people still do not feel safe shopping online ... and many of them have good reason to be cautious.

What can you do to make your online shopping experience as convenient as possible, while minimizing their risk?

Tricks to Make Online Shopping More Convenient

Take Advantage of Online Sales - Just because you cannot make it to a mall, does not mean you will miss out on the sales.  While not every online purchase is a great deal, it is still possible to take advantage of sales while shopping online.  The first thing you should do is sign up for emails from your favorite retailers and follow them on social media like Facebook or Twitter.  Between the emails and your Facebook account, you will know quickly if they are having an online sale.  You can also use a service like to be notified of discounts on your favorite items.  PriceGrabber, Bizrate and also help you find the lowest prices on items you want by sending you the current cost of that item at a wide variety of stores, which allows you to make price comparisons.

Try Leaving an Empty Online Shopping Cart - Many consumers have found that, when shopping on sites like Amazon, if they search for an item and put it in their "shopping cart," but then close the page without purchasing the item, they are often notified a few days or weeks later when the item has been reduced in price.  Whether you are shopping for Levi's, Nike's, an iPhone, the latest video game, or a new DVR player, this is a great way to get discounts on items that you do not need to buy in a hurry.

Shop for Discounted Gift Cards - There are websites such as Gift Card Granny and CardCash that sell gift cards for department stores and other businesses at a discount.  It could save you a little shopping money.  At the very least, it is worth checking out.

Consider Amazon Prime if You Mail a Lot of Gifts - At a cost of $99 a year, Amazon Prime is not right for everyone.  However, if you find yourself spending over $100 a year on shipping costs for items you buy for yourself or send to family members in other parts of the United States, Amazon Prime offers free two-day shipping on most items, as well as other benefits such as free e-books, video streaming, and unlimited photo storage on Amazon Drive.

Look for Free Shipping on Other Sites - Some websites offer free shipping on purchases over a certain dollar value.  You can also check out, which eliminates the delivery charges from over one thousand online retailers, including Target, Kohl's and JC Penny.

When in Doubt, Call the Online Representative - Many websites have real people you can call for help with their website.  For example, at the bottom of the page on the Macy's website, there are the words "contact us."  If you click those words, the page that opens up gives you a phone number you can call 24 hours a day to get additional help.  Other sites have their phone number displayed prominently near the top of the page.

How to Stay Safe While Shopping Online

Avoid Shopping on Unfamiliar Sites -  Amazon, Walmart, Kohl's, Target, Macy's, Gap, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Sephora, Ann Taylor and JC Penny are all examples of well-known companies with websites which are reliable and legitimate. (Some of these companies have legitimate links to their sites from this article, for example). There are many other honest companies with good, user-friendly websites, as well.  However, make sure you are familiar with the company before doing any shopping online.  At the very least, ask a friend if they have shopped on the site or check them out through the Better Business Bureau.  Whenever you visit a brick-and-mortar store you like, ask them if they have a website where you can shop.

Do Not Shop Online Using Public Wi-Fi - While it might seem fun to sit at Starbucks with a cup of coffee and do all your holiday shopping, you could be putting your credit card numbers and personal information at risk.  Stick to your home internet connection and make sure your computer security is kept up-to-date.

Make Sure the Site URL Starts with https - Most ordinary websites have a URL that begins with just http; shopping websites should have the letter "s" at the end, which means that it is secured and your financial information is more likely to be protected.  While you are examining the URL, be certain it looks right to you.  If you are shopping at, for example, the full URL is  If the word Amazon is misspelled or there appears to be some other problem, you could be on the wrong site.  Be especially concerned if the URL for the website does not contain the business name at all, but just has a series of letters and numbers instead.

While there are no guarantees that you will completely avoid any problems while shopping online, the above steps will greatly reduce them, making you much more secure while shopping from home.

If you are interested in more tips for retirees, including retirement planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Risks of Social Media Phishing

Whether you have ever heard of phishing or not, anyone who spends much time online is vulnerable to having their private information stolen and misused.  Nearly half of Americans over the age of 65, and two-thirds of those between the ages of 50 and 64 are on Facebook.  Many are also on other social media sites, such as Twitter.  As long as most of us stick to sharing photos of our grandkids and staying in touch with friends, we have very few problems ... especially if we keep track of our privacy settings and make sure that the majority of what we share is for "friends only."

However, a large number of people play games, enter contests, or answer questionnaires and surveys on social media.  While most of those programs are innocent, some of them are "phishing" for your personal information so they can steal your identity.  If they ask you for your credit card information, you may be putting your accounts at risk.

According to an article in the July-August 2016 AARP Bulletin, "Staying Safe and Secure on Social Media" by Sid Kirchheimer, below are some of the more common ways you can run into trouble on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Social Media Scams to Avoid

Using Twitter to contact a company's customer service department - Phony companies, with names which are similar to legitimate companies such as banks and credit card companies, have computer programs that lurk our accounts online and watch for complaints and messages that show up on Twitter.  When they spot one, they quickly respond and direct you to send your complaints to a phony website.  Once you enter your log-in information and account number on their website, they can steal your account information and use it or sell it.  You may never even know that you sent your "complaint" to a phony company that stole your information.

Clicking on websites promoted on social media because they offer access to live-streaming games, concerts and other events - These sites often offer a "free trial" of their service and ask for a credit card number.  While these phony companies typically say you can cancel their service anytime after the free trial ends, they sometimes begin to charge your credit card monthly ... and it can be difficult to get them to stop.

Signing up on social media for free gifts or discounts which will be mailed or emailed to you - They may try to appeal to you by offering free cosmetics and samples, or they could offer you access to photos or "secrets" about celebrities.  These are often attempts to get you to give them your name, address, phone numbers, email address and, in some cases, your credit card information to pay for "shipping and handling." Once you have given this information to them, they may sell it on the black market.  Meanwhile, you will quickly discover that the "deals" either don't exist or come with strings attached.  Recently, I experimented with an offer of four Disneyland passes.  Not only did they want all my personal information, but they also wanted me to send them the email addresses of 15 of my friends.  Wisely, I did not do it.

Contest and survey scams - These are similar to the free gift or discount scams.  However, in addition to your name, address and account information, they may also try to trick you into giving them even more personal information by asking questions in their surveys about your job, income, spending habits and purchases you plan to make in the future.  I have noticed that some of these types of scams can be very tricky.  For example, they might have names such as "what kind of flower are you?" and then ask a lot of personal information ... such as your favorite color, what you would buy with $1000, etc.  They frequently ask for permission to access your Facebook account so they can "analyze" the information.  When these scammers combine your Facebook account information to the answers you gave on the survey, they can obtain more information than you realize.

How to Stay Safe on Social Media

The best way to avoid these potential problems is to stick to your main reason for being on social media ... socializing with people you actually know.

Limit the number of "friends" you have on Facebook to people you trust.

Check your privacy settings on Facebook to make sure your posts are visible to "Friends only."  You can change the setting of individual posts, if you have a reason to.   

Don't use Facebook or Twitter to contact corporations ... go directly to their websites, instead.  This is especially true when you are contacting your bank or credit card company.

If an advertised product interests you, make sure you are purchasing it through a legitimate site, such as, or the website of a major store, such as, or  Avoid shopping at unfamiliar companies or clicking on ads which contain misspellings or other indications that they may not be legitimate.  (That is why most of the ads on this blog are from either or Google.  I want my readers to be comfortable knowing that the companies which advertise here are legitimate.  Too bad some of the social media sites are not as careful about who is allowed to buy ads on their sites.)

Don't make purchases from companies you know nothing about unless you check them out first through the Better Business Bureau or similar services. 

Don't give out personal information on social media by answering surveys ... even if they seem harmless.  Keep your personal information private.

Be careful about releasing your credit card information.  Before you make a purchase, you should be convinced that the company is legitimate.

If you are interested in more information about retirement, financial planning, where to retire, common medical problems, health, safety and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of cat with computer is property of author, Deborah Dian; all rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How Much Retirement Income Will You Have?

If you are getting close to retirement, have you taken the time to estimate how much retirement income you will have?  Will it be enough to maintain your lifestyle?  Will you be able to live where you want?  Travel?  Take care of medical expenses?

The truth is that the vast majority of retirees will barely have enough money to take care of their basic needs.  Of course, there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your retirement, but first you need to know how much retirement income you will have.  Once you have figured that out, then you can decide how to fix any shortfalls.

Estimating Your Social Security Income

According to the Social Security Administration, at the beginning of 2016, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was $1,346.  The average Social Security for the spouse of a retired worker was $697. This would mean that the average couple living off their Social Security benefits alone would receive $2,043 a month or $24,516 a year. Many people receive less than this average amount. In 2017, the cost-of-living raise is expected to be about 0.3 percent ... or about $4 for a retired worked and $2 for their dependent spouse. 

The amount of benefits increases slightly each year and varies depending on the individual.  However, most people find it is significantly less than they have earned during their working years.

If you have had a high income, earning over $118,000 a year or nearly that amount for the decade before you retire, then the maximum amount you could receive in Social Security benefits if you retire at your full retirement age of 66 or 67 in 2016 would be $2,639.   If your dependent spouse also waited until their full retirement age to collect based on your benefits, they could receive half that, or $1,320.  This means that a high earning couple with one spouse paying the maximum into Social Security could have $3,959 a month or $47,508 a year in retirement income.  While this is far better than the couple receiving only the average amount of Social Security benefits, it would still be substantially less than the $118,000 a year this couple was accustomed to have for their living expenses.

For each year between ages 67 and 70 that the breadwinner postponed their retirement, the amount of their benefits would increase by 8 percent ... for a maximum of a 24 percent increase.  This would bring the total benefits for a couple up to $59,385.  This is a nice increase, but the breadwinner would have to work several more years to receive this amount, and it would still only be about one-half of their pre-retirement income.  The reality is that only about 1 percent of retirees wait until the breadwinner is 70 years old before they begin to collect their Social Security benefits.

Unfortunately, most people do not come anywhere near receiving the maximum amount of retirement income from Social Security.  Approximately 48 percent of women and 42 percent of men begin to collect their benefits at age 62, which means they receive about 25 to 30 percent less than they would if they had waited until age 66 or 67 ... or approximately $1,500 a month for the average couple ($18,000 a year) and only $3,000 a month ($36,000 a year) or less for a high earning couple.

If this is not enough money for you and your spouse to live on, then you will have to supplement your Social Security benefits with your savings or by continuing to work well into your senior years.

Calculating Your Possible Income from Money You Have Saved

According to the Vanguard Funds report "How America Saves 2016,"  the average retirement account balance for people between the ages of 55 and 64 is $177,805.  For younger adults, the average retirement account is much smaller.

Investment advisors recommend that people who want to make sure that their retirement funds last the remainder of their lives start out by withdrawing no more than 3 to 4 percent a year from their account, with modest adjustments as the years go by, depending on how much their balance increases in value in the future.  This means that a couple with the average balance in their retirement account of $177,805 who decides on a modest 3.5 percent withdrawal rate would have an income of $6,223 a year or an extra $518 a month that they could use to supplement their Social Security benefits.

The actual income from retirement savings will vary depending on how successful you have been at saving money in the years prior to retirement.

How Much Total Retirement Income Will You Have?

Based on the numbers above, an average American couple who has managed to save the average amount of money will have a retirement income of approximately $30,739 a year from the combination of Social Security and withdrawals from their savings.

A high earning couple who has saved the same amount of money will have a total retirement income of approximately $53,731 a year if they wait until the breadwinner's full retirement age of 66 or 67 to begin collecting Social Security.  If they wait until the breadwinner is 70 years old, they can add another $11,000 to that amount.

Of course, single individuals will only have their own Social Security benefits or those of their former spouse, if they are a widow or widower.  Consequently, the retirement income of single people will be significantly less than that of a couple, although their expenses will also be less.

What if This is Not Enough Retirement Income?

If you have done the calculations and are starting to realize that your retirement income will not be adequate to live on when you retire, you should start making adjustments early.  Some of the things you can do are:

Cut your expenses by reducing your lifestyle now, including downsizing to a smaller home.

Pay off your home, car and other debts prior to retirement.

Save as much money as possible to increase your retirement income.

Postpone retirement until the breadwinner is 70 and the spouse is at their full retirement age of 66 or 67.

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, where to retire, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit: