Make the Most of
Open Enrollment

Every fall, workers across the
country face the daunting task
of making healthcare choices...

read more

Boost Your Good Cholesterol

We all know that fatty, greasy foods
are bad for us and can increase our
"bad" cholesterol (medically known...

read more

How to Sip Like a Pro

Drinking wine with friends can be
a fun, relaxing way to enjoy time
together. And while most of us...

read more

Make the Most of Open Enrollment

Every fall, workers across the country face the daunting task of making healthcare choices for themselves (and often their families) during their employer's open enrollment period. The choices you make during this time can have lasting effects, for better or for worse. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process.

  • Plan Ahead: Taking the time to really think about what your family's healthcare needs will be in the coming year can be critical to getting the most out of your coverage options. A few things to consider are if you or someone in the family may be needing elective surgery or dental work; if your child is starting school you may have more sick child visits to the pediatrician; if you know you will need a surgery or procedure, consider whether your current plan allows you to use the physician or the facility that you would prefer... All of these considerations can affect which plan you choose (including whether you need a PPO or HMO) and also how much money you need to set aside in a flexible spending account, if that is an option for you.

  • Understand What You Are Signing Up For: It can be overwhelming trying to decipher insurance paperwork. Figuring out co-pays, deductibles, premiums — it can feel like a different language. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the terminology so that you can compare your choices appropriately. Again, time spent now can save you money down the road and ensure that the coverage you need is available to you.

  • Do Your Research: Many consumers don't realize that not all physicians are available through all insurance plans. If a certain physician is important to you, confirm that he or she accepts the health insurance you want before you sign up. Likewise, if you really want to deliver your baby at a certain hospital or have your heart procedure done at a specific facility, double check with your insurance. If your current plan does not include that facility, now is the time to change to one that does.

  • Consider Life Changes: A lot can happen in 12 months, so consider what will be happening in your life in the coming year before you make your healthcare choices. Are you getting married? Having a baby? Changing careers? Is your child moving out of your house and onto his or her own insurance coverage? All of these life changes can have a big impact on what type of health insurance you need. Plan ahead!

  • CalPERS Members: Blue Shield of California works hard to keep rates low for its members. For 2014, Dignity Health continues to be part of Blue Shield's NetValue HMO plan for CalPERS members. Rates for the Access+ HMO® and NetValueSM HMO plans are lower. This means that the NetValue HMO plan will be the most affordable HMO plan for most state and public employees in 2014.

If you would like to find a Dignity Health physician to serve you and your family, visit our physician finder or call 1.888.253.1704 for assistance.

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Boost Your Good Cholesterol

We all know that fatty, greasy foods are bad for us and can increase our "bad" cholesterol (medically known as LDL cholesterol) and cause heart disease. But how do we increase our "good" cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) like our doctor recommends? Well, a few simple — and usually tasty! — changes to your diet can help bump that "good" number up a bit. Here are a few things to add to your diet to improve your cholesterol:

  • Alcohol: One glass of wine with dinner can help raise your HDL and lower your risk for heart disease. Be careful though because too much alcohol has the reverse effect and can actually increase your risk for heart disease, so drink sparingly.

  • Almonds: Almonds help prevent LDL (or bad cholesterol) from being oxidized and damaging blood vessels. Again, use sparingly — almonds, like all nuts, do contain fat. Also try to use the natural, unsalted variety rather than the roasted kind which be high in salt.

  • Avocados: These green delicacies — grown right here in California! — contain monounsaturated fats that decrease LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. Add avocado to salads or sandwiches as a tasty condiment.

  • Barley: This whole grain is high in fiber and has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. Use this grain in place of rice or pasta and add it to soups or salads.

  • Beans & Lentils: These legumes can be a powerful addition to any diet and can help improve your cholesterol numbers. Look for recipes using beans and lentils as a main dish or get creative and offer them as a filling side.

  • Blueberries: Blueberries are indeed a super food and can work wonders on your cholesterol. Add them to cereals and salads or simply eat by the handful.

  • Oats: Oat bran or oatmeal (old-fashioned or steel cut) have been shown to boost HDL levels. Make oats a mainstay in your breakfast or get creative and add them to your baking.

To learn more about your risk for heart disease, consider one of the many heart health screenings offered by the Dignity Health Heart & Vascular Institute. Visit our website for more information or call 916.733.6245.

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How to Sip Like a Pro

Drinking wine with friends can be a fun, relaxing way to enjoy time together. And while most of us won't ever have enough wine knowledge to be on the level of a sommelier, knowing a few tips on how best to sip can make the experience even more enjoyable. Here are a few things to think about the next time you pour a glass:

  • Don't Overfill: Filling a wine glass about one-third full is considered the optimum amount. This leaves you with plenty of room to swirl and tilt without spilling and also leaves room in the glass for the wine's aroma to build.

  • Look First: Before you take your first sip, take a moment to study the wine. Examine the wine's color and depth. Sometimes it can be helpful to hold a piece of white paper next to the glass to set off the color.

  • Compare: If you are sampling more than one wine, it can be fun to contrast the wines side by side. The colors of a shiraz, for instance, can be inky and dark next to a Pinot Noir. Also, younger wines can be a very different color when compared to an older wine from the same grape varietal.

  • Use Your Nose: Giving the glass a good swirl will help release the wine's aroma. To better capture the aromas of a wine, use tulip-shaped glasses and tilt it toward your nose. Take a deep breath and inhale the wine's aroma. The first whiff is usually the most accurate and revealing.

  • Sip Patiently: Now comes the good part... Take a sip! But — before you swallow, let the wine linger for a moment in your mouth. When you are ready, let the wine wash over your palate and trying to extract as many flavors as possible.

  • Know the Lingo: If you want to walk the wine walk, you have to be able to talk the wine talk. Knowing the language of wine lovers can be tough but using good descriptive words is always a good start. Consider whether a wine smells or tastes fruity or floral-like; is it oak-y like it's barrel or spicy like it's grapes; is it bitter or smooth or dry or sweet. Being able to describe what you are drinking will help you identify what you like and don't like and help you to find more wines that are pleasing to your palate.

Sampling good local wines is a fun aspect of Care Begins With Me. Remember, if you haven't registered yet for Sacramento's premier lifestyle event for women, register today! It will be a great opportunity to put your new tasting skills to the test.

This month all Care Begins With Me members are automatically entered to win a gift certificate from David Gerard Vineyards in Placerville for a reserve wine tasting and Riedel logo glasses for four, plus 25% off a wine purchase. If you're not a member yet, become one today!

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