News / Press

United Way Offers Financial Support for Prospective Students

Savings, Opportunities, Assets, Results (SOAR)

The SOAR Collaborative promotes self-sufficiency among low—to moderate—income populations in Central Texas through an incentivized savings and financial literacy program. The SOAR Collaborative offers program participants Individual Development Accounts — called Boost Accounts — that are special savings accounts to assist low income people on their path toward asset ownership through a matched savings and financial education program. Boost Accounts reward the monthly savings of people who are trying to buy their first home or pay for college. For each dollar participants save towards the purchase of their asset, they will receive a match of eight (8) dollars, up to a $500 savings goal over 24 months. Participants are also required to attend financial literacy classes to learn the importance of long term assets, savings, how to budget, how to manage debt, and gain credit worthiness.

Download Informational Flyer

7 Things to Know if You’ve Received a Diabetes Diagnosis

By January W. Payne

May 14, 2010, at 10:01 a.m.

Diabetes raises the risk of heart disease, blindness, and stroke.

Diabetes can be a frightening diagnosis, since it is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, new cases of adult blindness, and leg and foot amputations. Each day, more than 4,000 adults are diagnosed with the disease, and about 200 people die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because diabetes affects roughly 24 million Americans—and can be life altering—it’s important to educate yourself about the condition and what it means for your lifestyle. The next 7 slides contain suggestions to get you started, pulled from prior U.S. News reporting.

Know fact from fiction.

There are many mistaken beliefs about diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recently surveyed more than 2,000 Americans about the most common diabetes misconceptions, such as the belief that eating too much sugar causes diabetes, or that a diabetes diagnosis means you automatically need insulin. It’s also not true that only older people get diabetes, that diabetes means your diet has to be totally different from everyone else’s, or that being overweight means you’ll end up with diabetes. It’s important to know fact from fiction, experts say, so that you can properly care for your condition and lead a healthier, longer life.

Incorporate flexibility into your diabetes diet.

Among the first things a newly diagnosed diabetic is told: eat a low-fat diet to help control cholesterol levels, and watch carbohydrate intake to keep glucose levels in check. But how do diabetics accomplish this without giving up foods they truly love? It turns out, they may not have to, experts say.

Asking people with diabetes to commit to strict diets over a long period usually doesn’t work, experts say. Those newly diagnosed with diabetes should be taught theprinciples behind their new eating style. A good starting point is to understand what carbohydrates, fat, and proteins are, and how they affect blood glucose levels. For example, a diet low in saturated and trans fats is key because it can help reduce a diabetic’s elevated odds of developing heart disease.

Be aware of the risks of diabetes medications, like Lantus and Avandia.

Recent years have brought some disturbing findings about risks that may be associated with certain diabetes medications. Some research indicates that Avandia (rosiglitazone) might cause cardiovascular problems, which has prompted some experts to demand that it be pulled from the market, although the drug is still available today. Also, in June 2009, studies published by the journalDiabetologia raised concern about a possible link between Lantus (insulin glargine) and a heightened risk of cancer.

Qualms about these drugs come from different types of research. The research on Lantus and cancer is based on observational data, which is not always reliable. The Avandia studies come from meta-analyses and clinical trials, which are considered more reliable than observational data. But none of the concerns mean that diabetics should stop taking these medicines without first talking to their doctors. Stopping a drug without a doctor’s OK can cause harm that outweighs the potential risks of the medications themselves, experts say.

Ask family members to take a self assessment.

Because we know that diabetes tends to run in families, it’s not a bad idea to ask your loved ones to assess their diabetes risk. A questionnaire published in the December issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine makes it possible to gauge your risk of diabetes from the comfort of your own home. The results can help you determine your likelihood of developing diabetes and prediabetes, and determine whether you should see a doctor for a blood glucose test right away.

Want to know your family member’s risk? Ask them to take the self assessment.

Lower your A1C levels without medication.

Diet and exercise are the best ways to lose weight and lower A1C levels, experts say. Diet in particular has the strongest natural effect on A1C levels (a measure of blood sugar over time), Matt Petersen, director of information resources for the American Diabetes Association, has told U.S. News. That’s because most people ingest more calories than can be burned off by exercise, even if physical activity is increased, according to Petersen.

The type of diet you follow doesn’t matter so much as whether it restricts your calorie intake. Aim to get 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week to help maintain weight loss.

Protect your heart.

Recent research indicates that people with diabetes may not be helped by medicines that lower their blood sugar or blood pressure to normal or below-normal levels. A March study found that diabetics who had moderately high blood pressure didn’t benefit from taking extra medication to reduce blood pressure to slightly less than 120 mm Hg. In fact, they were more likely than those who kept their blood pressure in the 130s range to deal with the effects of low blood pressure, including fainting, heart arrhythmias, and abnormally high potassium levels. But previous research has shown that diabetics who have a systolic blood pressure above 140 or a diastolic (lower number) above 90 do get some benefit from taking blood pressure medication, including a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The takeaway: Some people may need blood pressure and blood sugar medications, but there’s no substitute for making lifestyle changes. Losing weight, exercising more, and improving your diet will lead to better control of diabetes and lower risk of heart disease.

Know: more treatment options may be coming.

The anti-inflammatory medication salsalate was first considered as a potential diabetes treatment during the 1800s, but it never caught on. Now, the drug may be making a comeback as a type 2 diabetes treatment.

A March study of people with type 2 diabetes published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that more people treated with salsalate saw their A1C levels decrease than did those in the placebo group. About 44 percent of those taking 3 grams per day of salsalate, 54 percent of those taking 3½ grams per day, and 60 percent of those taking 4 grams per day saw their A1C levels decrease by more than 0.5 percent, compared with 15 percent of those in the placebo group. The results of the small study, whose participants included 108 people ages 18 to 75, are considered preliminary. The medicine has a long way to go before being of potential use for diabetics. Even if it passes all the research and regulatory requirements, it could still be another five to 10 years before it gains approval as a new diabetes treatment.

Hip Fractures Among Older Adults

One of the most serious fall injuries is a broken hip. It is hard to recover from a hip fracture and afterward many people are not able to live on their own. As the U.S. population gets older, the number of hip fractures is likely to go up.

  • Each year at least 250,000 older people—those 65 and older—are hospitalized for hip fractures.1
  • More than 95% of hip fracture are caused by falling,2 usually by falling sideways.3
  • Women experience three-quarters of all hip fractures.1
    • Women fall more often than men.
    • Women more often have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.
  • The chances of breaking your hip go up as you get older.

What You Can Do to Prevent Hip Fractures

You can prevent hip fractures by taking steps to strengthen your bones and prevent falls:

Talk to Your Doctor

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.
  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking vitamin D supplements with calcium.

Get Screened for Osteoporosis

Get screened for osteoporosis and treated if needed.

Do Strength and Balance Exercises

Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.

Have Your Eyes Checked

Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.

It you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Make Your Home Safer

  • Get rid of things you could trip over.
  • Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
  • Put railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
References
  1. National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS), National Center for Health Statistics. Health Data Interactive, Health Care Use and Expenditures. www.cdc.gov/nchs/hdi.htm.  Accessed 21 December 2012.
  2. Parkkari J, Kannus P, Palvanen M, Natri A, Vainio J, Aho H, Vuori I, Järvinen M. Majority of hip fractures occur as a result of a fall and impact on the greater trochanter of the femur: a prospective controlled hip fracture study with 206 consecutive patients. Calcif Tissue Int, 1999;65:183–7.
  3. Hayes WC, Myers ER, Morris JN, Gerhart TN, Yett HS, Lipsitz LA. Impact near the hip dominates fracture risk in elderly nursing home residents who fall. Calcif Tissue Int 1993;52:192-198.

Costs of Falls Among Older Adults

Treating fall injuries is very costly.  In 2013, direct medical costs for falls—what patients and insurance companies pay—totaled $34 billion.1  Because the U.S. population is aging, both the number of falls and the costs to treat fall injuries are likely to rise.

  • Each year, millions of people 65 and older are treated in emergency departments because of falls.2
  • Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a broken hip or head injury.2
  • Fall injuries are among the 20 most expensive medical conditions.3
  • The average hospital cost for a fall injury is $35,000.1
  • The costs of treating fall injuries goes up with age.1
  • Medicare pays for about 78% of the costs of falls.1

How Are Costs Calculated?

Direct medical costs include fees for hospital and nursing home care, doctors and other professional services, rehabilitation, community-based services, use of medical equipment, prescription drugs, and insurance processing.

Direct costs do not account for the long-term effects of these injuries such as disability, dependence on others, lost time from work and household duties, and reduced quality of life.

References
  1. Stevens JA, Corso PS, Finkelstein EA, Miller TR. The costs of fatal and nonfatal falls among older adults. Injury Prevention 2006a;12:290–5.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web–based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. Accessed August 15, 2013.
  3. Carroll, N. V., Slattum, P. W., & Cox, F. M. (2005). The cost of falls among the community-dwelling elderly. J Manag Care Pharm, 11(4), 307-16.

Important Facts about Falls

Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, one out of three older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

Falls Are Serious and Costly

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.1,2
  • Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.3
  • Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.3
  • Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.5
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling,6 usually by falling sideways.7
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).8
  • Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually.8 Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.

What Can Happen After a Fall?

Many falls do not cause injuries. But one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury.1,2 These injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own.

  • Falls can cause broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
  • Falls can cause head injuries. These can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). An older person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.
  • Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.9

What Conditions Make You More Likely to Fall?

Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home hazards or dangers such as
    • broken or uneven steps,
    • throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and
    • no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

Healthcare providers can help cut down a person’s risk by reducing the fall risk factors listed above.

What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

Falls can be prevented. These are some simple things you can do to keep yourself from falling.

Talk to Your Doctor

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.
  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking vitamin D supplements with calcium.

Do Strength and Balance Exercises

Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.

Have Your Eyes Checked

Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.

It you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Make Your Home Safer

  • Get rid of things you could trip over.
  • Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
  • Put railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
References
  1. Alexander BH, Rivara FP, Wolf ME. The cost and frequency of hospitalization for fall–related injuries in older adults. American Journal of Public Health 1992;82(7):1020–3.
  2. Sterling DA, O’Connor JA, Bonadies J. Geriatric falls: injury severity is high and disproportionate to mechanism. Journal of Trauma–Injury, Infection and Critical Care 2001;50(1):116–9
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web–based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. Accessed August 15, 2013.
  4. National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS), National Center for Health Statistics. Health Data Interactive, Health Care Use and Expenditures. www.cdc.gov/nchs/hdi.htm. Accessed 21 December 2012.
  5. Parkkari J, Kannus P, Palvanen M, Natri A, Vainio J, Aho H, Vuori I, Järvinen M. Majority of hip fractures occur as a result of a fall and impact on the greater trochanter of the femur: a prospective controlled hip fracture study with 206 consecutive patients. Calcif Tissue Int, 1999;65:183–7.
  6. Hayes WC, Myers ER, Morris JN, Gerhart TN, Yett HS, Lipsitz LA. Impact near the hip dominates fracture risk in elderly nursing home residents who fall. Calcif Tissue Int 1993;52:192-198.
  7. Jager TE, Weiss HB, Coben JH, Pepe PE. Traumatic brain injuries evaluated in U.S. emergency departments, 1992–1994. Academic Emergency Medicine 2000&359;7(2):134–40.
  8. Stevens JA, Corso PS, Finkelstein EA, Miller TR. The costs of fatal and nonfatal falls among older adults. Injury Prevention 2006;12:290–5.
  9. Vellas BJ, Wayne SJ, Romero LJ, Baumgartner RN, Garry PJ. Fear of falling and restriction of mobility in elderly fallers. Age and Ageing 1997;26:189–193.

 

In Seniors, ‘Fear of Falling’ Risky in Itself

Regardless of actual risk, the anxiety made them more likely to tumble, study shows...

FRIDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) — Older people who have a fear of falling are at increased risk for future falls, regardless of their actual risk of tumbling, a new study finds.

The report, published online Aug. 20 in the BMJ, suggests that fall risk assessments should include measures of both actual and perceived fall risk for prevention purposes, according to the Australian and Belgian researchers.

The study included 500 people in Sydney, aged 70 to 90, who underwent extensive medical and neuropsychological assessments. The researchers estimated the participants’ actual and perceived fall risks and followed-up on them monthly for one year.

Both actual and perceived fall risk contribute independently to a person’s future risk of falling, the study authors concluded. People with a high level of anxiety about falling are most likely to suffer a fall.

 Although most people had an accurate perception of their fall risk, about one-third of the elders either underestimated or overestimated their risk of falling, according to senior principal research fellow Stephen Lord, of the Falls and Balance Research Group, Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute at the University of New South Wales, and colleagues.

The “anxious” group, for example, had a low actual fall risk but viewed it as high — something the researchers attributed to neurotic personality traits, symptoms of depression and poor physical functioning. The “stoic” group, on the other hand, had a high actual fall risk but viewed it as low, an attitude that the researchers associated with physical activity, a positive outlook on life and community participation. The perception of a low fall risk actually helped protect the stoic group against falls, the investigators found.

Working with elderly people to reduce their fear of falling isn’t likely to increase the risk of falls by making seniors overly confident, Lord and colleagues noted.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about seniors and falls.

Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.