Category Archive

2023 April

Broadening Benefits for Your Health: Lifestyle Spending Accounts

While your medical insurance covers much of your bodily health, and many companies have Employee Assistance Programs to help you out with mental health, there’s more to your overall wellbeing.

Employers realize this, which is why more and more companies are adding a new acronym to the fold – the LSA, or the Lifestyle Spending Account.

Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts help cover specific IRS-approved expenses such as copays, glasses, or dental care, Lifestyle Spending Accounts have fewer restrictions. They can be used to pay for a broad variety of services and products that promote your own physical, mental, or financial wellness. Below are just a few examples:

  • Exercise equipment and nutritional supplements
  • Personal trainer
  • Entry fees for races or sports leagues; sports lessons
  • Spiritual retreats
  • State or national park passes
  • Camping equipment
  • Spa treatments
  • Estate planning costs
  • Financial planning services

The crucial difference between LSAs and other health-related spending accounts is that expenses submitted for reimbursement through a Lifestyle Spending Account are taxable to you. The reimbursed amount is considered income and is subject to the same taxes as your normal wages. If you’re looking to further your health and wellness, see whether your employer offers an LSA. It can be a helpful tool in taking care of yourself.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Dangers of Doomscrolling

Many of us experienced quarantines during 2020, which abruptly left us home for much longer periods than normal. During this time of social isolation, there was a collective uptick in time spent online.

Boredom, readily accessible social media, and bad news joined forces to create a new term: doomscrolling. Loosely defined as habitually reading bad news or disturbing content for extended periods of time, doomscrolling is a hot topic right now due to its societal prevalence and impact.

Going down depressing internet rabbit holes on your mobile device or computer didn’t start with COVID-19, but the social isolation of the pandemic made it a new or worse habit for many people. It can have multiple negative effects on your mental and emotional health, including the following:

  • Emotional burnout from unrelenting bad news
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Loneliness
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Feelings of helplessness

Constant consumption of negative news is proven to be bad for you, but doomscrolling can be a hard habit to break. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help limit your intake of heavy content. You can localize the behavior by only getting on social media or scrolling the news at certain times and places in your day (not in bed at night, for example). Practice mindfulness when you pick up your phone – think about why you’re picking it up instead of doing it compulsively. Think about what you’re feeling when you’re online and why you feel that way. Most importantly, make a habit of disconnecting. Set your phone down and take a walk outside. If you’re feeling the itch to read something, pick up a hard-copy book or magazine.

There’s no reason to trap yourself down a well of negative feelings. These simple steps, practiced daily, can help you feel better about the world and yourself.

Turning Up the Volume

Hearing loss is more common than you might think, and it has many different degrees and causes of hearing loss. Roughly one in every eight Americans have hearing loss in both ears.

In the hearing process, sound waves enter our ears and create vibrations that are carried to the brain by the middle and inner ear and translated into sounds. Hearing loss can occur when any of these parts suffer damage.

Aging is probably the best-known cause of hearing loss. Generally age-related hearing loss occurs when tiny hairs that help process sound in the inner ear suffer damage over the years and cannot regrow.

Damage is another common cause of hearing loss. This damage can be from hearing one too-loud sound or cumulative damage over time from frequent exposure to sounds over 70 decibels (see HERE for a helpful decibel chart). It can also be caused by chronic ear infections, meningitis, or trauma to the ear or head (such as experiencing a blow to the head or a punctured ear drum).

Additionally, some people are born with varying degrees of hearing loss due to genetic factors or problems during gestation. Others suffer temporary hearing difficulties due to a buildup of earwax. Some of these factors are unavoidable, but others can be reduced by wearing proper ear protection around noises over 70 decibels.

Hearing loss can have a profound effect on one’s life. If you are experiencing difficulty hearing, talk to your doctor. Hearing aids are not generally covered by medical insurance, so it’s important to check whether your vision or dental plan includes coverage for hearing aid fitting and purchase – if not, hearing aids are eligible purchases for Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, and Health Reimbursement Accounts.

Can’t Catch a Breath

There are plenty things in life that take our breath away – a proposal, a beautiful sunset, a child’s first steps – but it’s not fun when the cause is asthma.

It’s estimated that about 25 million people in the US have asthma, a lung condition that occurs when the airways between the nose and mouth and the lungs get inflamed. This swelling makes the passage of air to the lungs more difficult, which results in breathing trouble ranging from mild to deadly serious. There are many potential asthma triggers — pollen, dust mites, tobacco smoke, pets, exercise, mold, and even stress can set off an attack.

While asthma is not a curable condition, there are multiple ways to reduce one’s exposure and reactions to triggers. A combination of medication and prevention is often most effective. These are a few everyday things you can do to reduce your contact with asthma triggers:

  • Avoid tobacco smoke
  • Routinely dust and vacuum your home, especially if you have carpet
  • Wash your sheets regularly to avoid dust mites
  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter
  • Wear a mask when using disinfectants to clean
  • Use an indoor dehumidifier to reduce chances of mold

On the pharmaceutical side, there are many different kinds of asthma medications. The inhaler is probably the most iconic asthma medication. Inhalers come in two types: a quick-acting inhaler for emergency use or a long-term control medication. Additionally, there are other medications that help reduce the body’s inflammatory responses, and if allergies play a significant part in your asthma, allergy medications or allergy shots may help control your symptoms.

If you routinely have trouble breathing, it’s important that you talk to your doctor to figure out what’s going on. If asthma is the problem, rest assured that there are plenty of ways to help you breathe easy again.