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Slip, Trip, Stumble: 5 Tips for Safer Falling

January 22, 2018 12:42 am

Most of us will take a tumble at some point in our lives. But be it a slip on an icy walkway or a trip over an exposed cable, there are ways you can minimize damage when you fall - if you know how.

"We often associate falls with children or the elderly, but in fact 50- to 60-year olds experience more falls than older individuals," says Allison Averill, M.D., director of neurorehabilitation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. "And while falling at some point in time is inevitable, there are ways to protect yourself from serious injury by creating a safer environment in and around your home and also by learning how to fall."

Understanding the science of falling is critical. Studies have shown that it's not whether you slip on a wet or icy surface, trip over a rug or a crack in the sidewalk, or fall down a flight of stairs, but rather what you do in those brief seconds before you reach the ground:

Protect your head. Falls are the No. 1 cause of traumatic brain injury in the United States, accounting for nearly half of these injuries. To help minimize the risk, try to tuck your head toward your chest if falling backward and turn your head to the side if falling forward.

Reach and relax. Although it's natural to tense up, try to stay loose and reach with your arms bent to help cushion your fall.

Butt first … Falls are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries. To help distribute the impact of a fall, try to land on the fleshier parts of your body and roll with the fall.  

Reducing the risk of falling is equally important – and that includes paying attention to both physical and environmental factors:  

Eliminate clutter. Keep pathways clear by moving furniture or removing throw rugs, toys and other obstacles in the home, as well as tools, hoses and other items outdoors.     

Focus on safety. Make sure rooms are well lit and use handrails on stairways and grab bars in the bath or shower. Outdoors, pay attention to the pavement or other surfaces and weather conditions. Even at the market or the mall, watch the flooring, displays and other potential hazards.

Build your balance.  Developing core strength and flexibility through exercise and/or physical therapy, along with training like tai chi, may help improve balance.

Check your eyes – and your meds. Poor eyesight, certain medications and even your diet, as well as the effects of arthritis, MS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, stroke and other medical conditions, can affect balance and coordination and lead to falls. See a physician if you experience any difficulties.

"Falls will happen," cautions Dr. Averill. "The best defense to help avoid injury is to minimize risk factors in and around your home, workplace and community. And in that split second as you begin to fall, remember how to prepare to land."

Source:  www.kessler-rehab.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Overpay Your Taxes

January 22, 2018 12:42 am

(Family Features)--With tax season in full swing, take time to consider how to get the most out of your tax return, which includes finding all the credits and deductions available to you. While many taxpayers claim common deductions, such as home mortgage interest and self-employment expenses, there are additional tax deductions that can lessen your final tax bill or increase your refund. These often-overlooked tax breaks could potentially save you hundreds - maybe even thousands - of dollars if you itemize deductions.

To start, get to know the difference between tax credits and tax deductions. Tax credits reduce the amount you owe in taxes. In some circumstances, tax credits allow a refundable credit, meaning you may not only reduce the amount you owe to $0, but you can also get money back. Deductions, on the other hand, simply reduce your taxable income. Both can have a potentially significant impact on your taxes and are often worth the extra effort to include on your return.

Some commonly overlooked credits include:

1. Child and Dependent Care Credit

You can claim a credit of up to $2,100 for day care for your dependents so you and your spouse can work. Qualifying dependents include children under 13 and parents who are no longer able to care for themselves.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit based on your income and the number of qualifying children living with you. Nearly 1 in 5 people who qualify fail to claim the credit, worth up to $6,318. Just because you didn't qualify last year doesn't mean you won't this year; one-third of the EITC-eligible population changes each year based on marital, parental and financial status.

3. Saver's Credit or the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit

Make sure you "pay yourself first." Even if it is only $20 each pay cycle, make sure you are putting some money into a retirement fund. If your company offers a retirement savings plan, like a 401(k), it is usually in your best interest to participate. If your income is lower than $60,000, you can receive a credit of up to $1,000 for a contribution of up to $2,000 into an IRA or an employer-provided retirement account, such as a 401(k). The credit is in addition to any deduction or exclusion from income for the contribution.

Some tax deductions that allow you to reduce your taxable income include:

1. Moving Expenses

If you moved for a job that is at least 50 miles away from your home and held this job for at least 39 weeks, you can claim your moving expenses even if you don't itemize deductions.

2. Tax-Preparation Fees

Plan for tax time. Tax laws change and so do life circumstances. Using a professional to help you file your return may be a wise investment. For example, the tax pros at Jackson Hewitt can help you get every deduction and credit you deserve and the biggest refund possible. Plus, the cost of preparing your taxes can be claimed if you itemize your deductions. In fact, one missed credit or deduction could more than cover the cost of having your taxes prepared by a tax professional.

3. New Moms

Breast pumps and lactation supplies are considered medical equipment, which means they qualify for a possible deduction.

4. Career Corner

Job hunting often means investing both time and money. However, you may be able to deduct some of the job-search expenses you incur. Costs such as preparing resumes, creating and maintaining websites, business cards, agency fees and travel expenses may be eligible.

5. Wedding Bells

If you were married in a church or at a historical site during the past year, you may be able to deduct fees paid to the venue as a charitable donation.

6. Medical Fitness

While general toning and fitness workouts to improve general health are considered personal expenses, you may be able to deduct your gym membership as a medical expense. If a doctor diagnoses you with a specific medical condition, such as obesity or hypertension, or a specific physical or mental illness, and prescribes workouts or participation in a weight-loss program to treat your illness, the membership dues may be tax-deductible.

7. Road Warriors

If you travel for business and aren't reimbursed by your employer, those costs can qualify as a deduction.

Refund Advance
If you're getting a refund, you typically want it as soon as possible, but that isn't always an option, especially if you are one of the millions of Americans who claim either the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit.  

Did You Know?
1. The IRS, as well as many states, allows taxpayers to catch up on missed credits or deductions, offering a three-year window for filing an amended tax return. You can secure unclaimed credits and deductions by filing amended tax returns to avoid losing any unclaimed funds from as far back as 2014.

2. With locations across the United States, including kiosks in 3,000 Walmart stores, the tax professionals at Jackson Hewitt make it easy to stop in when it's most convenient for you.

3. If you are a single parent, you can file as Head of Household instead of Single. This filing status can provide better deduction options and a lower tax rate schedule.

Source: Jackson Hewitt

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Humane Tips to Keep Deer Off Your Garden

January 19, 2018 12:57 am

Are you discouraged by deer coming into your garden to chow down? With urbanization and building pushing more and more deer from their natural habitats, it's no shocker they end up in your yard. Check out these humane tips for keeping them at bay.

A fence. Obviously a full fence is the easiest way to keep deer out. Something high like picket or chain link should do the trick.

Pick the right plants. Did you know certain plants will deter deer? Planting beds of strong smelling plants like marigolds or lavender around the perimeter of your yard and garden can ward off deer, as they don't like to walk through strong smelling flora for fear of becoming more noticable to predators.

Sprinkle soap. Similar to the strong-smelling plant method, grating or cubing up fragrant soap can ward off deer. Once a month, grate some scented organic soap around your garden's perimeter, and even atop new budding plants. If you get a heavy downpour, sprinkle again.

Make a stinky spray. Continuing the trend of foul smelling deterrents, consider cracking an egg into a gallon-sized spray bottle, adding one egg, one cup of milk, a few pumps of dish soap, and filling the rest with water. Once a week, spray the concoction around the base of your plants to deter deer, but pay mind the mixture will be stinky for you, too.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Make the Most of a Night In

January 19, 2018 12:57 am

Whether it’s inhospitable weather, little ones to look after or a tight budget, a big night out on the town just might not be in the cards this weekend. And that’s nothing to be bummed out about. Here are some great ways to enjoy a memorable evening without ever leaving the driveway.

Double feature. Remember when movie theaters used to offer double features? What’s now a thing of the past at the multiplex, can become your own special cinematic experience right at home. Do a back-to-back filming of your favorite sequel, a twofer from your favorite actor or director, or shake things up with two completely different genres, like horror followed by comedy. Keep the popcorn and beverage of choice flowing, and settle in for some cinephile fun.

5-star dining. You don’t need a trendy restaurant to enjoy fine dining - you can recreate the experience right in your own home. If you like to cook, pull out those special recipes you’ve been waiting to try and shop in advance. If your chef skills aren’t up to par, order in - even the best restaurants will prepare meals to-go these days and you can often have them delivered via Grubhub or UberEats. Set the mood by dressing the dining room with nice linens and your best china, add candles, your favorite music and dress up a little, too. Then linger between courses as you would when dining out, making sure to enjoy dessert and an after-dinner drink or espresso.

Happy hour. If blowing off steam at the local watering hole is your idea of fun, capture the experience at home. Stock up on your favorite craft beer, wings, pizza or bar food of choice, and crank up the tunes. If you have a pool table, dart board or karaoke machine, tonight’s the night to put them to use. If not, try Pictionary, charades, or any number of lively trivia games. Invite the neighbors over to step up the pub-like camaraderie.

Craft night. Recreate the popularity of that local painting or pottery joint right in your own home. Go online and pick a painting or craft project that looks fun but not too difficult, stock up on the supplies you’ll need, lay some drop clothes, open the wine, and have at it! This is a great activity for a couple, a few friends, or the family (minus the wine, of course!).

With a little creativity and planning, a fun night can happen right within the comfort and coziness of your own home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-To Avoid Winter Pipe Damage

January 19, 2018 12:57 am

With frosty weather still whipping through many areas of the country, homeowners all over are dealing with frozen pipes. If your pipes freeze, not only are you in a bind with your water, but the damage to your home could be expensive to repair. Nicholson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning offers the following tips to prevent pipes from freezing:

Check insulation – Homeowners should check the insulation in and around the house and identify any potential trouble areas. Filling in or adding insulation to attics, crawl spaces, basements and any other areas containing pipes may be necessary. Make sure to also seal any gaps that may be found in the home's foundation or siding.

Leave cabinets open – Kitchen and bathroom sink cabinets are best left open during the coldest parts of winter. This allows the warm air circulating in the home to enter and help warm the plumbing.

Use pipe insulation products – Installing specific pipe insulation products is a great precautionary measure. Pipe sleeves, heat tape and heat cable are all available for home use and can add an extra layer of protection.

Maintain 55 degrees or higher – Even when leaving the residence for extended periods of time, maintaining a temperature throughout the home of 55 degrees or higher will help add an extra level of security to the plumbing. Any increase to the utility bill will still be less than the cost of typical repairs for burst water pipes or the damage it can cause to the rest of the home.

Leave faucets at a trickle – Consider leaving faucets open at a trickle during the coldest temperatures. The small amount of water flow will help prevent water from freezing in place.

Source: Nicholson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Adopting a Savings Mindset Even When You’re Saddled With Debt

January 17, 2018 12:50 am

From student loans to low-paying jobs, saving for future goals, like owning a home, can seem like a pipe dream for today’s younger generation. Financial expert and author Eric Tyson says there are powerful steps younger people can take right now to make the most of their money and save for a brighter future. He says it’s all about adopting a “savings mindset.”

According to Tyson, author of Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s For Dummies®, a savings mindset involves getting the most from your spending while also spending less money in general. It also means living within your means, sticking to a budget and saving as much as you can. Two essential things to remember? Every little bit you save matters, and it’s never too late to start.

Here are few of Tyson’s tips and tricks for saving money that will help build your nest egg for buying a home before you know it.

Consider living with roommates or family. While you’re young and still free of dependents, take advantage of the opportunity to share a rental or live with relatives as opposed to living solo. If living with family, be sure to set expectations, raise concerns and establish costs and rental agreements up front.

Choose a low-cost rental. If you’re living beyond your means, now is the time to dial it back and find a place that fits within your budget. The less you're spending each month, the more you can save toward buying your own place.

Negotiate your rental increases. Some landlords increase their tenants' rent no matter how good the tenant and regardless of the state of the economy. If your local economy is weak and the rental market is soft or your living quarters are deteriorating, negotiate with your landlord. You have more leverage and power than you probably realize. Landlords don't want to lose good tenants who pay rent on time, and filling vacancies takes time and money. Craft a polite note or pay a personal visit to make your case.

Cut your utility bills. Even as a renter, try to keep utility costs low as landlords factor your energy consumption into future rental hike decisions. Adjust your thermostat and wear layers in the winter, and keep your place warmer during summer months. And if you pay for garbage service, recycle as much as possible.

Contribute to a retirement plan. Tucking away money in employer-based retirement plans, such as 401(k) or 403(b) accounts, or self-employed retirement plans is a great way to exclude money from your taxable income.

Use a health savings account. You can reduce your taxable income and sock away money for future healthcare expenses by taking advantage of a health savings account (HSA). HSAs can offer better tax savings versus retirement accounts because, in addition to providing upfront tax breaks on contributions and tax-free accumulation of investment earnings, you can also withdraw money from HSAs tax-free so long as the money is used for healthcare costs. No other retirement accounts offer this triple tax-free benefit.

Learn to cook. Cooking at home as opposed to eating out can save you hundreds of dollars each month, not to mention, keep you healthier as well. Be sure to cook enough so that you can brown bag your lunch with leftovers, too.

Eric Tyson, MBA, is the author of five national best-selling financial books, including Investing For Dummies, Personal Finance For Dummies and Home Buying Kit For Dummies. He has appeared on NBC's Today show, ABC, CNBC, FOX News, PBS and CNN, and has been interviewed on hundreds of radio shows and print publications. “Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s For Dummies” ® (Wiley, 2017, ISBN: 978-1-119-43141-1, $19.99) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Protect Yourself from Digital Eye Strain

January 17, 2018 12:50 am

If you're like most Americans, you spend much of your time in front of some sort of screen. Technology has seeped into almost every aspect of our daily lives, and Americans can't seem to keep their eyes off an ever-growing array of devices with activities becoming increasingly digitized. Among key findings from the 2017 VisionWatch survey, Americans are especially tied to the following:

Computers: An average 75.6 percent of respondents regularly use a computer to research, 54.2 percent to shop online, 48.7 percent to find a recipe, 36.2 percent to check social media and 26.7 percent to play games.

Smartphones: An average 58.2 percent of respondents regularly use a smartphone to get directions, 56.6 percent to serve as an alarm clock, 53.7 percent to check the weather, 38.1 percent to check social media and 25.8 percent to play games.

Television: An average 32.2 percent of respondents use television to get the news, 16 percent to keep track of professional sports and 14 percent to check the weather.

In addition to eyewear and contact lens solutions, some other "eye-gonomic" tips to relieve digital eye strain include:

Taking frequent breaks from looking at screens, giving the eyes an opportunity to blink more, since they typically blink less while staring at screens.

- Reducing overhead lighting to eliminate screen glare.
- Positioning yourself at an arm's distance away from a screen.
- Increasing text size on devices to better define content on screens.

Source: The Vision Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Navigating the Cooking Oil Aisle: Fast Facts for Cooking With Corn Oil

January 17, 2018 12:50 am

(Family Features)—When cooking for your family, selecting the best ingredients for a heart-healthy meal can be challenging, and there is one ingredient that is often the core of any recipe: cooking oil. However, navigating the cooking oil aisle can be confusing; this guide breaks down everything the home chef needs to know about cooking with oil.

Heart-Health Focused. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is important to your heart health, and when it comes to impact on cholesterol, not all cooking oils are created equal. Next time you find yourself reaching for extra virgin olive oil at the grocery store, consider swapping it out for corn oil, which a study shows can help lower cholesterol two times more than extra virgin olive oil. Corn oil also has nearly five times the amount of polyunsaturated fats compared to olive oil. These heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood.  

A Gut Decision. When it comes to lowering your cholesterol and staying heart healthy, go with your gut. Corn oil contains cholesterol-blocking plant sterols—plant-based micronutrients that help block the absorption of cholesterol in your gut and work to prevent bad cholesterol (LDL) from entering the bloodstream. Corn oil contains nearly four times more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than olive oil, three times as many as vegetable oil and nearly 1.5 times more than canola oil.

Sourcing the Best Ingredients. Today, more and more families are paying close attention to where their food comes from and prefer locally sourced ingredients. Opting for local food can give you more confidence in the ingredients you use in your family's meals.  

Multipurpose Functionality. Whether you fancy yourself a top-notch baker, grill master or are just starting out, each ingredient selected plays an important role in obtaining the meal's desired taste. Extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor that can change the taste of the foods you cook. Corn oil is an all-purpose cooking oil with a neutral taste that lets the true flavors of your dish come through, making it the perfect ingredient for heart-healthy dishes like pan-fried salmon. Or you can use it as a dressing over a bed of spinach.  

Corn oil can also handle the heat in the kitchen because of its high smoke point (450 Fahrenheit), making it a great, all-purpose cooking oil for everything from grilling and sauteing to stir frying and baking. This is key for crafting quality meals at home because once a smoke point is exceeded, the food flavor and nutritional value are negatively affected.

Source: Mazola Corn Oil

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Following Safe Cyber Rules?

January 16, 2018 12:38 am

While most consumers are well aware of the hazards of cyber security—with the Equifax breach alone exposing the sensitive data of as many as 143 million Americans—the majority still fail to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. According to a survey conducted online by Harris Poll, on behalf of Tenable™,Inc., while 94 percent of Americans were aware of news stories about security breaches, few took critical steps to protect their data or change their online habits.

The study found that in the past 12 months, 44 percent of Americans did not use a password to protect their personal information on their computer, and 55 percent failed to use a PIN to protect their personal information on their mobile devices. When it comes to the industry recommended practice of two-factor authentication, 75 percent of respondents admitted not implementing this important practice, while only 32 percent reported reducing their use of public Wi-Fi or unknown hotspots.

On the plus side, 53 percent reported creating more complicated passwords and 15 percent have used a password management tool to protect their personal information in the past 12 months.

According to Tenable, a popular inroad for hackers to compromise devices and steal data is when apps have security vulnerabilities; however, few people pay much attention to patch requests. Fourteen percent of smartphone users waited more than a week to update apps on their smartphone after receiving a prompt—with 5 percent never getting around to it at all. Meanwhile, 13 percent of computer users wait more than a week to update the apps on their computer, and 5 percent never do.

To maintain a level of basic cyber safety, Tenable advises:

- Where applicable, enable two-factor authentication for all online services
- Update your apps and computers within 24 hours of receiving a notification
-  Assign strong passwords to your computer, mobile phone and tablet, and don't share them with others

Source: Tenable, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


DIY Car Care Everyone Can Do

January 16, 2018 12:38 am

(Family Features)—While taking your car to an auto service professional is a great way to ensure its performance, the Car Care Council reminds vehicle owners there are a few simple vehicle checks that they can easily learn and do themselves to save a little money and help keep their vehicles running efficiently all summer long.

With basic knowledge of common maintenance practices and a little time, motorists can inspect the following components in their own driveway:

— Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.

— Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer fluid and antifreeze/coolant.

— Check the hoses and belts as they can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.

— Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and inspect and replace worn wiper blades. Keep the reservoir filled with windshield washer fluid.

— To keep the cooling system working effectively, the coolant and distilled water mixture for a vehicle's radiator should be 50:50. Never open a hot radiator cap when checking the coolant level in the reservoir. As a rule of thumb, the coolant should be changed annually on most vehicles.

— Check the gas cap to ensure it is not damaged, loose or missing to prevent gas from spilling or evaporating.

— Don't neglect the exterior. When washing the outside, make sure to include the tires and wheels and the underside and fenders to eliminate any road salt or grime. The body of the vehicle should be washed using a product sold specifically for cars. Wax your vehicle every six months.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.