Older Adults Need Better Online Security

A drill sergeant would shout it out loudly and clearly: “People, strengthen your passwords!” That’s a critical recommendation to emerge in an AARP-sponsored report that examined identity fraud and found more than 1 in 4 Americans were hit by identity fraud last year, when losses were almost $17 billion.

Identity fraud is worse than identity theft, which is when your personally identifiable information (PII) is stolen or compromised, as in a data breach. In identity fraud cases, a crook capitalizes on that sensitive data and rips you off or commits a related offense, says Javelin Strategy & Research, which wrote the report after surveying 5,000 adults in the U.S.

‘Great digital migration’

With loads of shopping and other transactions moving online, especially during the pandemic, what’s happening will eventually be described as the “great digital migration,” the report says. And 2019’s estimated $16.9 billion in losses could climb as consumers adapt to a “digitally infused lifestyle.”

Today, people want contactless, safe and faster personal and financial transactions and, according to the report, the good news is that desire will drive commercial innovation. The bad news: Forecasts call for “increased criminal acts that target consumers and monetize their personally identifiable data,” says the report, entitled “Identity Fraud in Three Acts: A Consumer Guide.” The report focuses on adults 55 and older.

Create an action plan

What to do? Create an action plan to keep safe — and stronger passwords are a good start. It’s risky for a consumer to use an identical sign-on name — coupled with the same, weak password — across multiple social-media accounts, bank accounts and e-commerce sites, says Javelin’s John Buzzard, who wrote the report.

“Once the criminal cracks the formula, so to speak, and they take over your account, they just start to take over everything because you’ve made it very, very easy for them,” says Buzzard, the lead analyst for fraud and security at Javelin, based in Pleasanton, California.

Here’s more for your action plan:

1. Use a password manager tool or app. Password managers such as LastPass or Bitwarden store and protect passwords using strong encryption. Both offer free and for-a-fee services and you can find them in the App Store or online.

2. Secure personal payments with digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. They’re standard features on most smartphones and retailers accept them widely. Wallets use encryption to prevent payment card information from being shared in the open with merchants.

3. Lock your payment cards. Many financial institutions offer card controls that manage how and where payments can be made. Consumers also can decide if they want to limit amounts spent, restrict spending to geographical areas or prevent card use at certain types of merchants, such as jewelry stores.

4. Enable two-step authentication to access digital accounts. Onetime access codes make it difficult for criminals to take over sensitive email, financial and mobile phone accounts.

5. Hang up on strangers, and independently verify everything. Do not speak to people you do not know who contact you about sensitive, urgent or threatening personal business matters.

6. Write down important telephone numbers and keep them in a safe place. Criminals are now posting fake customer-service numbers online. It’s safer to make a list of trusted companies so you may reach them quickly.

7. Safeguard every computer device with stronger security methods. Mobile phones, laptops and tablets typically contain sensitive PII, so access to every digital device should be secured with complex passwords and screen locks that use a fingerprint or facial recognition.

8. Install anti-malware protection on all digital devices: laptops, mobile phones, personal computers and tablets.

Key findings of survey

The action plan arises because of key survey findings:

  • Twenty-seven percent of respondents ages 55 to 64 said they had been victims of identity fraud, and 26 percent of those 65 and older. However, when identity fraud strikes these older adults, the financial damage is far less than the national average.
  • Most adults 55 and older reported having a hard time remembering passwords. Among those ages 55 to 64, it 56 percent said they have difficulty, and among those 65 and older, 60 percent.
  • Men and women 55-plus lead “digitally infused” lives. Two-thirds use online banking weekly, which is higher than adults ages 18 to 44. With respect to smartphones, 81 percent of people ages 55 to 64 have them, and so do 77 percent of those 65 and older.
  • Identity fraud victims do not necessarily change their behavior afterward. Among those 65 and older, 70 percent reported reluctance to avoid certain merchants, switch forms of payment, spend less money online, spend less in physical stores and switch their credit-card companies or banks.
  • Consumers 55 and older want banks to start using stronger security protocols. Roughly 90 percent want more fingerprint scanning and roughly 80 percent view facial recognition as trustworthy for financial transactions and private business matters.
  • Consumers 55 and older are adopting safer practices: More than 50 percent have enrolled in identity-protection or credit-monitoring services, and 29 percent have enabled credit freezes at credit bureaus.

The online survey of a representative sample of 5,000 adults occurred from Oct. 22 to Nov. 4, 2019. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 1.41 percent when all 5,000 respondents answered questions; it is plus or minus 3.22 percent for questions answered by identity fraud victims.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network

Scams Spike on Instagram, Other Social Media Sites Amid Covid-19

Online shopping frauds a top complaint to FTC as pandemic emerged

Are you a foodie? A football fanatic? A fan of Pope Francis? There’s something for everyone on Instagram, the video- and photo-sharing platform that debuted 10 years ago. Be careful, though, because amid the coronavirus outbreak, consumer advocates are sounding an alarm about fraudsters lurking on social media sites including Instagram, which boasts more than 1 billion users worldwide.

Lately there’s been a record-shattering number of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about scams that arise on social media platforms and rip people off for millions. The FTC says online shopping frauds were the most common type of social media scam in the first half of the year; in many cases, people ordered goods that never arrived. Such cases were followed, in descending order, by romance scams and impostor scams involving businesses, people supposedly in need or government agencies.

Among the FTC’s findings:

  • There were nearly 16 million complaints about scams that started on social media sites from April through June, and losses of $56 million. The figures reflect a 13-fold increase in complaints — and eightfold jump in losses — compared to the same period in 2016.
  • During the first half of 2020, there were nearly 25 million complaints in total with $117 million in losses, compared to $134 million in overall losses last year.

“Scammers go where the people are — or they’re already there waiting for the people to come,” says Emma Fletcher, an FTC program analyst. “Like so many ways that [bad actors] reach people — whether it’s phone, email or text — it’s just another way to reach people without a lot of costs, while being able to remain anonymous.”

Instagram scams range from phony romances to fake jobs

Instagram, based in San Francisco and owned by Facebook, urges users to avoid a variety of scams, starting with romance scams, on its site. Next it lists lottery scams (you’ve won big but must pay a fee); loan scams (an instant note for a small fee paid advance); false investment scams (convert $100 into $1,000); and job scams (misleading or fake posts to steal money or personal data), among others.

Instagram spokeswoman Raki Wane says it takes down accounts that are deemed malicious or break its rules but did not divulge the percentage of accounts held by suspected fraudsters. “We regularly monitor for trends and are always improving our systems to provide a better experience for our community,” she tells AARP. “We’ve removed large numbers of impersonating accounts on a consistent basis through a combination of technology, reporting tools and human review.”

Impersonation predates the internet and runs the gamut: Scammers pretend to be celebrities, influencers, politicians and business executives, she adds.

Some Instagram fraudsters use fake names, and others operate in broad daylight, as recent cases reflect:

  • A California actor who played parts in the movies Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3 and Thor is awaiting trial for allegedly peddling a fake cure for COVID-19 and deceiving potential investors. Keith L. Middlebrook, calling himself a “Genius Entrepreneur Icon,” posted videos on Instagram claiming he had an injection to cure coronavirus infections and a pill to prevent them. His posts received more than a million views after only a few days.
  • In October, several people were charged in New Jersey for a scheme involving counterfeit economic-stimulus checks purportedly issued by the federal government. The defendants touted the chance for “quick cash” on Instagram and Snapchat.
  • In July, a California woman who faked a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma was charged for collecting tens of thousands of dollars in donations for cancer treatment she never needed or received. Amanda C. Riley had chronicled her supposed illness in a blog and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Finally, there’s “Victim One” in upstate New York, the target of a romance fraudster she met on Instagram. She lost more than $250,000 to the man and his associates. The man lied to her, saying he needed money for equipment while he was repairing an oil rig off China. Most of it was money sent by wire transfer; she also gave away iTunes gift cards and electronics.

That case triggered a prosecutor’s ominous forecast. “In our increasingly screen-addicted world, I see these sorts of scams proliferating in the future,” U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. of the Western District of New York said last year in announcing that a Georgia woman had been charged in the scheme.

Calls to AARP Helpline

Complaints about Instagram scams during the pandemic also have risen at AARP’s toll-free helpline, 877-908-3360. Among recent calls:

  • A New Jersey woman got an Instagram message claiming she’d won an iPhone. Fraudsters took her money, supposedly to activate the smartphone, and hijacked her Gmail account.
  • A California man met someone on Instagram claiming to have won $80 million and purporting to want to share some of the money. The victim paid a cash fee but didn’t get a dime in return.
  • A Pennsylvania woman sent Western Union transfers to buy a car she spotted on Instagram. The new wheels never arrived. To add insult to injury, the fraudster said she could get some of her money back — as long as she helped scam somebody else.

AARP’s Amy Nofziger, who oversees the helpline, compares scrolling on Instagram to flipping through a magazine. “You can see beautiful artwork, pretty nature. If you like sewing, you can follow people who like to sew as well,” she says. “It’s just an inspiring app.” And, by the way, you can find AARP on Instagram.

The danger, Nofziger says, is when an Instagrammer turns to the site, forms a digital connection with a fraudster and, amid a false sense of community, lets his or her guard down. A shared interest in, say, travel could spark an “instant connection,” she says. But don’t act fast. Don’t let another Instragrammer become an instant scammer.

How to avoid social media scams

Be wary of:

  • People you’ve never met in person asking for money.
  • People or accounts asking you to claim a prize, or asking for money or gift cards to receive a prize, other winnings or loan.
  • A request for a fee to apply for a job.
  • Accounts representing large companies, organizations or public figures that are not verified.
  • People claiming to be from Instagram security asking for account information (such as your username or password), or offering you account verification services.
  • People asking you to move a conversation off Instagram to a less public or secure setting, such as a separate email.
  • People claiming to have a friend or relative with an emergency need for cash.
  • People who misrepresent where they are located.
  • Messages that appear to come from a friend or a company you know asking you to click on a suspicious link.
  • Messages or posts with spelling or grammar mistakes.

Be proactive:

  • Before you buy something seen on an ad or post, check out the company by typing its name in a search engine with words like “scam,” “complaint” or “reviews.”
  • Instagram urges people who buy items off the site to search “About This Account” to learn more about a specific business and see all the ads that it is currently running. “We have layers of review in place to protect our community from fraud and low-quality commerce,” a spokeswoman says.
  • If a friend messages you about a way to get financial relief, call the friend first. Did he or she forward the message? If not, tell the friend that his or her account may have been hacked. If the friend did send it, check the offer out before you act.
  • Tighten privacy settings to limit what you share publicly.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network

Covid Scams Return

   
First came the health scams
Initial scams around COVID-19 involved peddling treatments, tests and cures, or promises that you could reserve your vaccine by clicking a link (which would install malicious software on your device). When face masks were in high demand, scammers were posting fake ads, coercing people to pay for masks that were never sent. And, while more of an unfair business practice than a scam, vendors were charging outrageous prices for in-demand items (remember the run on toilet paper, anyone?).
 
Next came the economic scams
Economic impact payments began in April, and as soon as they started hitting mailboxes and bank accounts, scammers began working the phones. Often they called claiming to be the IRS and asking for personal or financial information in order to process your stimulus payment. They would even ask for a fee to process the payment faster. Identity thieves were busy redirecting the payments from the intended recipient to their own pockets. And we are still hearing about identity thieves claiming unemployment benefits in the names of other people.
 
And now, contact tracing scams
The latest scam involves contact tracing. As states launch robust contact tracing programs, scammers are taking advantage. Scammers are sending texts with links or making robocalls claiming the recipient has been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Their goal? To pry sensitive personal information from people to steal their money or their identity. As the pandemic marches on, it’s giving unique opportunities for scammers to get between you and your money. Please keep yourself — and your money — safe.
Reprinted from AARP

LATEST Updates on Coronavirus

Latest Updates on Coronavirus: Older Americans Urged to Continue ‘Distancing’

High-risk individuals should practice precautions as COVID-19 circulates

  • The share of U.S. adults who plan to get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is dropping, according to a new national survey from the Pew Research Center. In May, 72 percent of adults said they would definitely or probably get a vaccine if it was available today; now, about 51 percent say they definitely or probably would. What’s more, 49 percent of Americans say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated at this time. Clinical trials testing the safety and effectiveness of vaccine candidates continue to progress, and experts say it’s likely researchers will know if one works by the end of 2020 or early 2021. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has once again updated its coronavirus testing recommendations after a late-August revision drew criticism from many public health experts. The agency now says individuals who have been in close contact with someone who has a coronavirus infection should be tested for the virus, even in the absence of COVID-19 symptoms. “Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the CDC wrote in its Sept. 18 update.
  • new analysis of electronic health data for roughly 50 million patients published by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) continues to build on previous reports that reveal minority populations disproportionately bear the burden of COVID-19 in the U.S. The research shows that people of color are more likely to test positive for a coronavirus infection than their white peers. Black, Hispanic and Asian patients also had higher rates of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, even after controlling for certain sociodemographic factors and underlying health conditions. This suggests that “other barriers, including racism and discrimination, are affecting outcomes through avenues not captured by these measures,” KFF said in a news release. 
  • CDC Director Robert Redfield told lawmakers in a Wednesday Senate hearing that even if a vaccine candidate proves to be safe and effective in clinical trials and receives government approval soon, it will still be several months before we see the benefits. “In order to have enough of us immunized so we have immunity, I think it’s going to take us six to nine months,” Redfield said. In the meantime, public health efforts to prevent the spread of the virus — mask wearing and social distancing — will continue to be important. 
  • New research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) finds that people with substance use disorders are more susceptible to COVID-19 and its complications. “The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with [substance use disorders], which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19,” Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and study co-author said in a statement. “Another contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services. It is incumbent upon clinicians to meet the unique challenges of caring for this vulnerable population, just as they would any other high-risk group.”
  • Dining out? A study of 314 U.S. adults found that those who tested positive for a coronavirus infection during July were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant compared to those with negative test results. “Exposures and activities where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to locations that offer on-site eating and drinking, might be important risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the report’s authors write.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) on Sept. 2 issued new guidelines recommending inexpensive and common corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone and dexamethasone for the treatment of patients “with severe and critical COVID-19.” The advice comes after an analysis of several different clinical trials found that corticosteroids cut the risk of death in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The data was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The new guidelines emphasize that steroids should not be used to treat patients with mild symptoms of the disease. “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought fear and a sea of change to the world. These studies provide evidence and some hope that an effective, inexpensive, and safe treatment has been identified,” a corresponding JAMA editorial noted.  
  • The FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma — a component of blood that contains antibodies from people previously infected with the coronavirus — for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. The EUA is not intended to replace randomized clinical trials that are testing the safety and efficacy of the therapy.

Reprinted from AARP

8 Things You Didn’t Know Social Security Could Do For You

The array of surprising and useful services goes beyond monthly checks

close up photo of a social security card over U.S. currency

For many people, Social Security’s function begins and ends with a monthly payment. And to be sure, ensuring benefits get delivered on time and in full to tens of millions of older adults, people with disabilities and members of their families 12 times a year is the agency’s job one.

But over its history, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has added numerous special services to help customers (that’s you and me) deal with pressing medical, familial and financial issues. Here are some of the lesser-known things Social Security can do for you.

1. Expedited disability claims

It takes SSA about four months on average to process claims for disability benefits. And that’s just the initial application; it can take many more months, even years, to appeal a claim that’s first denied.

Waits like that can be especially hard for people with severe or worsening illnesses. That’s why SSA established the Compassionate Allowances program, a list of 242 serious medical conditions that by definition meet Social Security’s standard for disability. Applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) involving those conditions are automatically flagged for fast-tracking and can be approved in a matter of days.

Learn more about Compassionate Allowances and other ways Social Security can fast-track disability decisions.

2. Representative payees

Not all Social Security recipients are able to manage their own benefit payments. Some have cognitive disorders or developmental disabilities; some are small children. In such cases, Social Security can appoint someone to serve as the beneficiary’s representative payee.

A representative payee has authority to receive another person’s benefits and use them to meet that person’s essential needs, such as food, shelter and health care. It’s typically a family member or friend, but organizations such as nursing homes can also fill the role. It’s a serious job that requires diligence: Social Security holds payees accountable for how they spend benefit funds, and they are strictly prohibited from putting the money to their own use.

Learn more about how to become and serve as a Social Security representative payee.

3. Help with Medicare drug costs

Extra Help, a program run by Social Security and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), can reduce prescription drug expenses for low-income Medicare beneficiaries by up to $5,000 a year. The aid can be put toward premiums, deductibles and copays related to a Medicare drug plan.

The program is open to residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia who are enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B and have income of no more than $19,140 for an individual or $25,860 for a married couple living together. There are also strict limits on financial assets such as savings, investments and property.

You can apply for Extra Help online or by phone at 800-772-1213. You’ll find detailed information in the Social Security pamphlet “Understanding the Extra Help With Your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.”

4. Translation and interpretation

Like everyone else, people who speak little or no English may need to talk to the staff at Social Security about benefits or other concerns. To address this, Social Security provides free interpreter services to anyone who requests or shows a need for language assistance.

Languages that the agency can translate on a phone call or office visit include Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. To request an interpreter, call Social Security at 800-772-1213. SSA also provides written materials in several languages on its website.

Learn more about Social Security services for people with limited English proficiency.


5. International Social Security agreements

Many Americans work in foreign countries, and many foreign nationals work in the United States. People in either situation may be subject to dual payroll taxation: having to pay into two countries’ retirement systems from the same wages.

To minimize that risk, Social Security has negotiated agreements with 30 countries that have comparable programs for retirees. These pacts generally provide for workers to pay payroll taxes to only one country’s retirement system at a time. They also allow workers covered by the agreements to pool credits they’ve earned from employment in more than one country, to ensure they qualify for retirement benefits in the country where they claim them.

Learn more about how Social Security’s international agreements work.

6. Proof of income

Applying for a loan, or for a government benefit like food stamps or housing assistance, requires proving your income is high enough to make you a good credit risk or low enough to make you eligible for aid. If that income includes Social Security benefits, you can get the evidence you need in minutes via SSA’s online My Social Security service.

With a My Social Security account, you can quickly customize, download and print a copy of your benefit verification letter, which serves as proof of your Social Security income. You can also use your account to review your earnings history, check current or future benefits, order a replacement Social Security or Medicare card, and access other Social Security services.

Learn more about getting a benefit verification letter.

7. Benefits for grandchildren

Nearly 2.8 million children in the United States are being raised by a grandparent or grandparents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Many of them may be eligible for Social Security benefits on the basis of that relationship.

Generally, if you are providing at least half of a minor grandchild’s financial support, and the natural parents are deceased, disabled or otherwise unable to regularly contribute to that support, the child can collect dependent or survivor benefits when you retire, become disabled or die. If you are already on Social Security when a grandchild comes into your care, you must legally adopt the child for him or her to receive benefits on your record.

Learn more about Social Security benefits for grandchildren.

8. Baby names galore

SSA is there for new parents, who can apply for baby’s Social Security number before they even leave the hospital. (And it’s a good idea to do so: You’ll need the number to claim the child as a dependent on your next tax return and get him or her medical coverage, among other things.)

A delightful byproduct of this early involvement is that Social Security is the go-to resource for all things baby name. SSA famously releases an annual list of the most popular choices (2019 was the year of Olivia and Liam), but its baby names index also lets you search for top names by year, decade and state and see how your own handle (or any other) has held up over time. It’s a treasure trove of ideas for naming your newborn, and of cultural data for nomenclature nerds.

Learn more about how to get a Social Security number for a new baby.

Reprinted from AARP

What Your Diet Should Be Like After 50

As our bodies change, so do our nutritional needs

photo of chicken and black bean tacos surrounded by cartoon people holding a fork and pouring milk

It was 1941. The National Academy of Sciences, tasked with helping out World War II food-relief efforts, issued a report that addressed this question: What nutrients, and in what amounts, do people need to be healthy?

The government’s food experts weren’t thinking about long-term health issues such as diabetes or heart disease. They were more concerned about an adequately fed population that was free from scurvy, rickets and other wartime diseases of malnutrition. And the numbers they landed on for protein, calories, six vitamins and two minerals were dubbed the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs). It may surprise you to learn that the RDAs are still driving dietary advice today. They underpin every nutritional label on every package in your pantry, and they’re used to establish eating plans for everyone from schoolchildren to nursing home residents. And while, yes, the guidelines for preventing nutritional deficiencies and promoting health have been adjusted over the decades, they’re still building toward long-term health goals like preventing chronic disease.

“We know that certain nutrients are better in higher amounts,” says Katherine Tucker, director of the Center for Population Health at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “It’s not just about preventing deficiency diseases. It’s about keeping our systems optimal as we age.”

Although the past six months have sure had echoes of wartime deprivation — with depleted grocery shelves for certain items — Americans haven’t been at any real risk of developing scurvy. With fall harvest season ahead, it’s a good time to reassess what your body needs now, for maximum health in this decade and the decades to come.

To head off diabetes: Optimize your hormone balance

Insulin is critical to healthy aging. It’s the hormone that moves sugar from your bloodstream into your muscle, fat and liver cells. But when your blood sugar is consistently high — which is often the result of a sweet and refined-carbohydrate diet — your muscle, fat and liver cells stop responding well to insulin. Doctors call this insulin resistance, and it explains why about 1 in 10 American adults have type 2 diabetes.fresh pear sliced with walnuts and blue veined cheese

CAITLIN BENSEL

One medium pear packs about 5 grams of fiber.

While losing weight is crucial to keeping your insulin responsive, so too is minimizing blood-sugar spikes. In addition to avoiding sweet and refined-carbohydrate foods, the way to stabilize blood sugar is by adding more fiber to your diet. One type of fiber to be aware of is insoluble fiber. It’s the nondigestible kind; you might have referred to it as roughage. It passes through the upper gut undigested, to feed the good bacteria in the lower intestines. “These bacteria are little factories that produce chemicals that affect our hormone balance,” Tucker explains. The combo of roughage and good bacteria offers a double hit of diabetes protection: The roughage slows digestion (and blood sugar), while the bacteria help to improve your insulin sensitivity.

How much fiber is enough? The RDAs advise that women over 50 eat 21 grams a day; for men, the goal is 30 grams. And this is a case where the specific targets matter: National consumption surveys indicate that only about 5 percent of people consume their daily fiber quota, yet doing so can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 20 to 30 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. “Almost no adult eats enough fiber,” says Kathleen Niedert, a health care administrator, registered dietitian and author of Nutrition Care of the Older Adult. “And it’s difficult to get what you need unless you start your day with bran cereal.”

To her point, 1/4 cup of bran delivers 6 grams of insoluble fiber — that’s about 25 percent of your entire day’s needs. Try sprinkling it over oatmeal or blending it into smoothies or casseroles. Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber, too. But to max your intake of the insoluble stuff, replace your refined grains and white bread with whole-grain everything. A cup of cooked white rice has about 0.6 grams of fiber; brown rice, however, has 3.5 grams, while barley delivers about 6 grams of mostly insoluble fiber.

To stop muscle loss: Have one or more protein sources every meal

Age-related muscle deterioration kicks into high gear around age 50, notes Rosilene Ribeiro, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Sydney. Even if you’re not an aspiring bodybuilder, that’s a problem. “Muscle mass is linked with everyday functionality,” Ribeiro says. “It affects normal things like gardening and walking long distances.”

Worse, muscle loss can be hard to notice. In a study of nearly 1,900 older adults, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh determined that you’re losing strength about three times faster than muscle mass. So, though your biceps might stay the same size, the quality of the muscle is withering. If you don’t eat for strength now, you might one day struggle to mow your own lawn or lift a bag of potting soil. “When you can no longer do things you once could, it creates a snowball effect,” Ribeiro observes.closeup of a few slices of a sushi tuna roll with brown rice and avocado

Tuna is full of protein and healthy fats.

But you don’t have to let your muscles go to mush. Resistance training — weightlifting, yoga or Pilates — is the main way to stay strong. It also helps to double down on dietary protein. The government recommends 0.8 grams of daily protein per kilogram of body weight, which is about 65 grams for a 180-pound person. But that recommendation doesn’t account for age. It’s the same for a 50-year-old as it is for a 20-year-old, who can basically build muscle by operating a TV remote.

“We know that older adults need proportionately more protein in their diets than they do when they’re younger,” says Christine Ritchie, director of research for the division of palliative care and geriatric medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “So, I generally encourage older people to increase their protein to a range of 1 gram to no more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.” After conversion, that means a 180-pound man in his 50s should aim for 82 to 164 grams per day. Better yet, just plan on eating about 25 to 30 grams at each meal (that’s about a medium chicken breast or burger, a 5-ounce can of tuna mixed with mayo, 2 cups of cooked rice and beans, or a cup of low-fat cottage cheese). “Ingesting protein multiple times throughout the day is going to be a lot more effective than having one big steak at the end of the day,” Ritchie adds.

Animal proteins provide the richest array of amino acids, which are the building blocks you need to boost muscle, but multiple plant sources combined in one meal can be just as good, Ribeiro says. In addition to eating eggs, meat, dairy and fish, consider increasing your protein intake with chickpeas, lentils, tofu and quinoa.

To avoid weight gain: Remember the 200-calorie rule

The number of calories you need each day drops slightly as you age, yet most people keep eating the same amount of food. The government’s dietary guidelines advise that you burn approximately 200 fewer daily calories after age 50. So, if you’re a 50-year-old who eats like a 40-year-old, you could gain more than a pound of body fat each month. “It’s simple, really,” says Nancy Rodriguez, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. “If your calorie burn goes down and you don’t change the way you eat, then you’re going to put on weight.”small bowl of hummus and pretzels shot from above

CAITLIN BENSEL

Low-calorie snacks options include pretzel chips and hummus at 222 calories.

Of course, unless you suddenly take up marathon running, exercise alone won’t restore the calorie burn of youth. That’s because roughly 50 to 70 percent of the energy you burn each day goes toward sustaining the body: organ function, respiration and the other processes that keep you alive. Nutritionists call this your basal metabolic rate, and it’s the slowdown of this rate — not your lapsed gym membership — that’s the main reason you need fewer calories with age.

Although creeping weight gain may be normal, that doesn’t make it healthy. So what number should you look for on the scale? Think more about your waistline: A waist circumference of greater than 40 inches for men, or 35 inches for women, puts you at greater risk for disease. To get, and remain, below those numbers, you have to cut a few calories — start with 200 — from your daily diet. Yet rather than concentrating on eating less, think about eating better, especially when snacking. If you can answer your cravings with hunger-satisfying protein and belly-filling fiber, you can cut calories without thinking about it.

“An Oreo has roughly the same number of calories as a small apple,” says Niedert. “But while it’s easy to eat six Oreos, how many people could eat six apples?”

Fruit is, of course, a healthy snack. So are nuts, raw vegetables and unsweetened yogurt. All these filling foods provide you with fiber and/or protein while injecting an army of disease-fighting, brain-protecting nutrients into your bloodstream. “The big challenge for older adults is that they need less energy overall but more micronutrients,” Tucker says, “which means you need a greater focus on nutrient-dense foods.”

So try to pack as many fruits and vegetables into your day as possible, and limit (or even better, eliminate!) nutritionally bankrupt doughnuts, cookies and candy. By using each snack craving as an opportunity to add nutrients into your diet, you’ll slim down without having to obsess about calories.

To build bone strength: Hit the dairy bar daily

For most people, bone mass reaches its zenith in the late 20s and then begins a decades-long process of bone loss. For some 10 million Americans, that eventually results in osteoporosis, a condition marked by weak bones and an increased risk of injury. “Fractures are a huge problem in the elderly,” Ribeiro notes. “With age, both hospital recovery time and the health issues related to recovery go way up.”grilled cheese and tomato on wheat bread

Grilled cheese and tomato is a great source of calcium.

If you’re not already eating to protect your bones, now is the time to begin. You can do that by making sure you’re getting adequate amounts of calcium and its best pal, vitamin D. (Your body stores vitamin D in fat tissue, to help with calcium absorption as needed.) In one study of adults 50 and older, all of whom had recently fractured bones, 43 percent were deficient in both calcium and vitamin D.

For calcium, aim to hit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ recommendation of 1,200 milligrams a day if you’re a woman and 1,000 mg if you’re a man. Those numbers are only slightly less than the ones provided to growing teenagers, and you’ll get most of the way there with a couple of slices of cheese in your sandwich (300 mg), an afternoon yogurt snack (200 mg in a 6-ounce cup) and a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese with dinner (125 mg). “If people do the three-a-day thing for dairy, they’ll hit their calcium quota,” Rodriguez says. She recommends sticking to food sources over supplements, if possible, since the excessive calcium levels in pills can turn into arterial plaque. (In a review published last year of more than 1,200 studies, researchers determined that calcium supplements were associated with a 14 percent jump in the risk for a heart attack.) In addition to eating dairy foods, choosing leafy greens, broccoli, beans and almonds will help you achieve your calcium goals. And for vitamin D, the best food sources include egg yolks, milk fortified with vitamin D, and fatty fish (think salmon, tuna and mackerel). And be sure to take in a daily dose of sunlight, since your body creates this vitamin naturally when the sun’s energy reacts with a form of cholesterol in your skin.

To reduce chronic inflammation: Check out labels 

When your immune system was young, it zapped health threats with surgical precision. But with time, immune systems can start overreacting to small threats, or attacking things that don’t pose any threat at all. That out-of-control immune response is known as chronic inflammation, and it can cause damage throughout your body. Initially you might feel this as stiffness or achy joints, but in time, it can result in much bigger problems. “The inflammation that’s causing discomfort is the same inflammation that happens in your brain cells and leads to dementia,” says Hal Blatman, M.D., a pain specialist in Cincinnati. “It’s all part of the same fire that needs to be put out.”low sugar salad dressing bottle showing nutrition label

Try low-sugar salad dressings for a healthier diet.

Chronic inflammation can cause arthritis, heart disease and depression. And it’s so common among older people that researchers have begun calling it inflammaging. The best way to tackle the problem, Blatman advises, is to eliminate sugar from your diet. In studies, mice fed high-carbohydrate, high-fat diets don’t generally show significant inflammatory responses until sugar is added into the mix. And according to a study of 6,856 subjects published this year in the International Journal of Public Health, people who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages had higher levels of C-reactive protein, a substance the liver produces in response to inflammation.

“Any time you raise the insulin level in your body” — a natural response to sugar and starchy foods — “you’re going to see an increase in body-wide inflammation,” Blatman says.

Thankfully, new governmental regulations are making it easier to identify hidden sources of caloric sweeteners. Starting this year, every big food company must list “Added Sugars” on its Nutrition Facts labeling. So, when a seemingly safe jar of marinara sauce or bottle of salad dressing contains unnecessary grams of added sugar (check — many of them do!), you’ll know it at a glance.

To further stifle inflammation, Blatman also recommends cutting out refined flour and hydrogenated fats: “If you eliminate all inflammatory foods, half your pain will go away in two to 12 weeks.”

To keep your arteries supple: Look beyond the beige

As it turns out, natural hues such as blue, yellow and red in your food generally indicate higher levels of heart-protecting antioxidants. “Your diet needs to be colorful,” Niedert says. “The more colors you have, the better off you are.”

Take berries. In a randomized, double-blind study of 115 adults 50 and older, published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who committed to eating 1 cup of blueberries every day for six months showed improved vascular function and higher levels of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol. The study’s authors credit a deeply colored antioxidant called anthocyanin, which is also found in cherries, raspberries and blackberries.

Betalain is another powerful pigment. It’s responsible for making beets red, and a study that appeared last year in the journal Food & Function discovered that it could help those with coronary artery disease improve their heart health by lowering bad LDL cholesterol and skimming out homocysteine, an amino acid that can damage the lining of arteries and increase the risk of blood clots.colorful variety of fresh vegetables

CAITLIN BENSEL

Bright produce helps your heart.

The truth is, you’d be hard-pressed to find a colorful fruit or vegetable that doesn’t offer some kind of heart-protecting benefit. Lycopene (the red pigment in tomatoes) and beta-carotene (which turns carrots orange) have both proved to be cardiovascular heroes. Plus, in a 2016 study, 200 mg doses of curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its sun-colored glow, was shown to increase the vascular functioning of blood vessels by 3 percent. (A more recent study found the effect to be even more dramatic immediately following a workout.)

The point here is that if your plate is a sea of beige — the lifeless color of fried chicken, fries and dinner rolls — you’re doing your heart a disservice. Research continues to support what dietitians such as Niedert have long preached: By eating brightly colored bell peppers, purple cabbage and yellow squash, you can keep your ticker strong.

And, no, artificial coloring doesn’t count. Sorry, Froot Loops.

A perfect day of eating in your 50s

Who says a healthy diet has to be complicated? This menu combines simple whole foods to make meals you already know how to prepare, yet it delivers all the protein, fiber and plant-based nutrients that can help you ward off disease and keep your metabolism revved.

Breakfast: 3-egg vegetable omelet topped with a big dollop of Greek yogurt; glass of 2 percent milk

OR

Cup of low-fat cottage cheese with mixed fruit and toast with avocado

OR

Protein shake (at least 25 grams of protein per serving) and melon slice

Midmorning snack: Apple or similar-sized piece of fruit

Lunch: Chicken-and-vegetable stir-fry with chickpeas, served over barley

OR

Burrito bowl with chicken, black beans, brown rice, guacamole, cheese, lettuce and salsa

Afternoon snack: Cheese slices, whole-grain crackers and blueberries

Dinner: 6-ounce salmon fillet with quinoa and vegetables

OR

Salad with lettuce, mixed vegetables (carrots, cucumber, tomato, sweet potato), 4 ounces of grilled fish, chicken or seitan, topped with extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar dressing

Nutritional impact: 1,540–1,920 calories; 99–145 grams protein; 26-34 grams fiber

A perfect day of eating in your 60s and 70s

Breakfast: 3-egg vegetable omelet topped with a large dollop of Greek yogurt; glass of 2 percent milk

Midmorning snack: Apple or similar-sized piece of fruit

Lunch: Chicken-and-vegetable stir-fry with chickpeas, served over barley

Afternoon snack: Cottage cheese topped with blue­berries and mixed nuts

Dinner: 6-ounce salmon fillet served with black beans and vegetables

Nutritional values: 1,840 calories, 140 grams protein, 39 grams fiber

Reprinted from AARP

2020 Community Fund

The 2020 Community Fund continues to have bountiful resources to assist those whose income has been affected by the CoVid Crisis in our local area. If you live or work in the Stratton/Eustis, Wyman, Coplin Plantation, Carrabassett Valley, Kingfield corridor and your income has been diminished or adversely affected by the continued CoVid Crisis please apply at www.sugarloafministry.com. (You do not need to be totally unemployed to qualify.)If you are not sure you are eligible or have any questions at all you may also contact Rev. Pam Morse at 207-237-2304.We are here to support our community through these challenging times. Kindness spoken here 
Pam

Diet and Weight Loss Scams May Lead to Fatter Wallets for Scammers

Nearly half of Americans say they are trying to lose weight, and with more and more people worried about weight gain while stuck at home during the pandemic, that number may very well rise. Unfortunately, scammers know this and are trying to take advantage for their own financial gain. In fact, diet scams are the most common types of health care fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
How It Works• Scammers feature products on websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate news sites and some products have fake celebrity endorsements.•Many products promise breakthrough or miracle results — often in only a few days or weeks.•They may even promise weight loss regardless of what you eat.
What You Should Know• These products often lure people in with free trials. You could find yourself with an expensive subscription after the free trial period ends.•It can be difficult to cancel these plans and even harder to seek refunds.•Some products advertised today contain banned substances. Sibutramine is one such ingredient. The FDA took it off the market a decade ago because it can raise the risk of heart attack or stroke.
What You Should Do• Before buying a weight-loss product, ask a trusted medical professional to help you figure out if it’s safe and effective.•Check out the company on the Better Business Bureau database (bbb.org).•When signing up for a free trial, read the terms and conditions closely. Make sure you are not signing up for an expensive subscription.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network

25 Ways to Stay Safe from Coronavirus

How to protect yourself and others during the pandemic

by Sarah Elizabeth Adler, AARP, July 20, 2020 | Comments: 9triptych of a hand covered in soap bubbles holding a bar of soap a six foot physical distancing sign on  floor and a face maska

When it comes to the novel coronavirus, experts agree that everyday actions such as wearing a mask and staying home if you’re sick are key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. But there’s more. Here are 25 steps that doctors, experts and public health organizations recommend to protect your health — and the health of those around you.

The Basics

1. Wear a mask. When you are around people who aren’t part of your household — in public or not — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a nonmedical-grade face covering. Fabric masks and coverings can be purchased or fashioned from a variety of household materials — like this no-sew, DIY version from a sock.

2. Stay 6 feet from others. Social distancing isn’t always easy, but it’s another CDC recommendation. Whether you’re at a local park or a grocery store, keep your distance from other people in public. Why? It helps slow the transmission of COVID-19, which is thought to spread mainly when respiratory droplets from an infected person’s mouth or nose land in the mouth or nose of someone nearby.

3. Keep your hands clean. Yes, it’s super basic. But make regular handwashing (like before cooking a meal and after using the restroom) a part of your routine. Pretend you are a surgeon, and lather with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. No soap and water? Use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Also important: Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

4. Turn to trusted sources. It’s easy to come across myths and misinformation about the coronavirus — especially online. For up-to-date, evidence-based information, visit trusted websites like those maintained by the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as AARP’s coronavirus page. WHO also maintains an active COVID-19 “myth-busters” list. For example: Bleach and other disinfectants can help sanitize surfaces, but they should never be ingested or injected.

Running Errands

5. Go with “grocery alternatives.” Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist and professor at North Carolina State University, says that older adults and those at higher risk of COVID-19 complications should opt for alternatives to in-person grocery shopping. That includes delivery services, curbside pickup, or asking a family member or friend to shop on your behalf. If you need to shop in person, look for chains offering special hours for older customers.

6. Give online banking a go. Instead of visiting a local brick-and-mortar branch, create an online account via your bank’s or credit union’s website or app. This will allow you to perform most day-to-day banking activities — like checking account balances, making transfers and paying bills — from home, or wherever you have access to your smartphone or computer.

7. Disinfect at the gas pump. When it’s time to fill up your tank, the CDC recommends using disinfecting wipes on gas pump handles and buttons before you touch them. Afterward, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol (and wash your hands again when you get home).

8. Go cash-free. Paying with cash requires handing off money to a cashier — plus there’s no easy way to clean bills. Whenever possible, pay with a card (which can be safely swabbed with a disinfecting wipe) or look into touchless payment options, which let you scan your card or smartphone to pay — no swiping or keypad contact required.

At Home

9. Sanitize surfaces. Get in the habit of routinely cleaning “high-touch” surfaces such as tables, toilets and doorknobs. (FYI: Proper cleaning requires a wipe-down with soap and water before using disinfectant.) Cleaning is particularly important after a caregiver, family member or another guest has been inside your home.

10. Keep pets socially distanced, too. Sorry, Fido. According to the CDC, pets are considered part of your household — meaning they shouldn’t interact with people outside of it, or with any family members who become sick. (While a small number of pets have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, the risk of transmission from pets to people is thought to be low).

11. Limit gatherings. Move the party outside! The CDC recommends hosting social gatherings outdoors whenever possible and adhering to social distancing guidelines. If you must be inside, make sure the space is well ventilated. Regardless of location, encourage guests to bring their own food and beverages. Any guest who feels ill, or who has been in contact with someone with COVID-19, should not attend.

Recreation and Social Activities

12. Embrace the great outdoors. A day at the beach or a park is likely a safer option than gathering inside someone’s home or at an indoor venue. Remember to keep your distance from others, even in outdoor spaces, and to wear a face covering when maintaining 6 feet of distance isn’t possible.

13. Try online activities. In-person hobbies — from choir practice to book clubs — are going digital, thanks to videoconferencing platforms like Zoom. If you were previously part of a club or group that is no longer meeting in person, consider finding a virtual alternative, or ask your group leader about the possibility of moving meetings online.

14. Dine smart. Restaurants in certain states have returned to serving patrons indoors or at outside tables. The CDC recommends opting for outdoor seating with 6 feet of space between tables whenever possible. Takeout and delivery are also options for those tired of home cooking — and experts say the risk of contracting COVID-19 from either food or food packaging is low.

15. Put a pause on sharing. Normally, sharing during a social outing — whether it’s sunscreen, towels or cooler storage space — is a sign of goodwill. Not so during a pandemic — not even at the swimming pool. “One can sort of say, ‘Well, it’s been in chlorinated water.’ But I would just make sure that we get into the habit of what’s mine is mine,” says Boris Lushniak, M.D., dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health and former acting and deputy U.S. surgeon general. “The whole issue of sharing things should become passé in the near future, at least.”

16. Avoid handshakes and hugs. Greetings and goodbyes can be tricky at a time when avoiding close contact is key to staying safe. Etiquette expert Myka Meier recommends alternatives to traditional gestures — including a simple nod to say “hello.”

Travel

17. Be aware of advisories. You may face restrictions (like a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon entering certain states) when traveling domestically. Other forms of travel are discouraged by the CDC, including international travel and all cruises, including river cruises. Taking a plane? Get familiar with new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening procedures before you arrive at the airport.

18. Plan for “plan B.” These days, it’s important to have a backup plan in case you can’t access restrooms, restaurants or trip activities as expected. For instance, AAA recommends that road trippers plan their routes — including gas, food and rest stops — and make arrangements for activities such as national park visits in advance, if possible.

19. Know before you book. Many hotels have announced ramped-up sanitization procedures and other practices (like contactless check-ins) to help maintain health and safety. Rental homes or condos are another option for travelers looking to avoid contact with staff or other guests and to cook their own meals. Don’t be shy about asking how your accommodations are adapting during the pandemic.

Health and Wellness

20. Consider rescheduling nonurgent medical appointments. While some appointments can be safely delayed, others — such as follow-up cancer screenings — shouldn’t be avoided because of pandemic fears. The bottom line? “It’s really complicated,” says A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., a professor of internal medicine and director of the Center for Value-Based Insurance Design at the University of Michigan. Get in touch with your doctor for help determining whether you should head in for an office visit.

21. Ask your provider about telemedicine visits, which can be used to diagnose and treat a variety of routine concerns and to monitor chronic conditions. Mental health providers and specialists such as dermatologists also offer telemedicine appointments.

22. Be prepared for new in-office protocol. Depending on your health care provider, you may be asked to wait in your car or outside the office until you’re called in for your appointment. Other changes, like a temperature check upon arrival, might also be in place.

23. Find in-person pharmacy alternatives. Drive-through pharmacy windows, curbside pickup, mail-order pharmacies and at-home delivery services are all alternatives to in-store visits. Another tip? If you have to go in person, ask your doctor about receiving a larger supply of medicine at one time, like increasing from a 30- to 90-day supply, to cut down on visits.

24. Stay home if you feel ill. If you develop symptoms such as a cough or fever, stay at home except to receive medical care (and call ahead before heading to the doctor’s office). People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should also isolate at home for 14 days after exposure, per CDC guidelines.

25. Know when to call 911. Don’t put off medical treatment in an emergency if you or a loved one is experiencing a medical crisis such as a heart attack or stroke. People with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 should also seek emergency treatment if they experience warning signs such as trouble breathing or persistent chest pain, according to the CDC.

Reprinted from AARP

Your Medical Conditions and Covid-19

People of Any Age with Underlying Medical Conditions

Revisions were made on June 25, 2020 to reflect available data as of May 29, 2020. We are learning more about COVID-19 every day, and as new information becomes available, CDC will update the information below.

People of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

People of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:

Children who are medically complex, who have neurologic, genetic, metabolic conditions, or who have congenital heart disease are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 than other children.

COVID-19 is a new disease. Currently there are limited data and information about the impact of underlying medical conditions and whether they increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, people with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

Want to see the evidence behind these lists?

The list of underlying conditions is meant to inform clinicians to help them provide the best care possible for patients, and to inform individuals as to what their level of risk may be so they can make individual decisions about illness prevention. We are learning more about COVID-19 every day. This list is a living document that may be updated at any time, subject to potentially rapid change as the science evolves.

Reduce your risk of getting COVID-19

It is especially important for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, to protect themselves from getting COVID-19.

The best way to protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 is to:

If you start feeling sick and think you may have COVID-19, get in touch with your healthcare provider within 24 hours.

Venturing out into a public setting? What to consider before you go.

As communities and businesses across the United States are opening, you may be thinking about resuming some activitiesrunning errands, and attending events and gatheringsThere is no way to ensure you have zero risk of infection, so it is important to understand the risks and know how to be as safe as possible.

People at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and those who live with them, should consider their level of risk before deciding to go out and ensure they are taking steps to protect themselves. Consider avoiding activities where taking protective measures may be difficult, such as activities where social distancing can’t be maintained. Everyone should take steps to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19 to protect themselves, their communities, and people who are at increased risk of severe illness.

In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.

  • If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions.
  • Keep these items on hand and use them when venturing out: a cloth face covering, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if possible.
  • If possible, avoid others who are not wearing cloth face coverings or ask others around you to wear cloth face coverings.

Are you considering in-person visits with family and friends? Here are some things to consider to help make your visit as safe as possible:

When to delay or cancel a visit

In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. So, think about:

  • How many people will you interact with?
  • Can you keep 6 feet of space between you and others?
  • Will you be outdoors or indoors?
  • What’s the length of time that you will be interacting with people?

Encourage social distancing during your visit

  • Visit with your friends and family outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated (for example, open windows or doors) and large enough to accommodate social distancing.
  • Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart from each other.
  • Consider activities where social distancing can be maintained, like sidewalk chalk art or yard games.
  • Try to avoid close contact with your visitors. For example, don’t shake hands, elbow bump, or hug. Instead wave and verbally greet them.
  • If possible, avoid others who are not wearing cloth face coverings or ask others around you to wear cloth face coverings.
  • Consider keeping a list of people you visited or who visited you and when the visit occurred. This will help with contract tracing if someone becomes sick.

Wear cloth face coverings

  • Cloth face coverings should be worn over the nose and mouth. Cloth face coverings are especially important when it is difficult to stay at least 6 feet apart from others or when people are indoors to help protect each other.
  • Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others
    • Wearing a cloth face covering helps protects others in case you’re infected, while others wear one to protect you should they be infected.
  • Who should NOT use cloth face coverings: Children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Wash hands often

  • Everyone should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds at the beginning and end of the visit and whenever you think your hands may have become contaminated.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, such as with outdoor visits or activities, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Remind guests to wash or sanitize their hands before serving or eating food.
  • Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so visitors do not share towels. Have a no-touch trash can available for guests to use.

Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items

  • Encourage your visitors to bring their own food and drinks.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use.
  • If you choose to use any shared items that are reusable (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins), wash, clean, and sanitize them after the event.

If you are thinking about participating in an event or gathering:

If you are at increased risk for severe illness, consider avoiding high-risk gatherings. The risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:

Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.

More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).

Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.

Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.

Stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Staying healthy during the pandemic is important. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether your vaccinations and other preventive services are up to date to help prevent you from becoming ill with other diseases.

  • It is particularly important for those at increased risk of severe illness, including older adults, to receive recommended vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal disease.
  • Remember the importance of staying physically active and practicing healthy habits to cope with stress.

 If you have an underlying medical condition, you should continue to follow your treatment plan:

  • Continue your medicines and do not change your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Have at least a 30-day supply of prescription and non-prescription medicines. Talk to a healthcare provider, insurer, and pharmacist about getting an extra supply (i.e., more than 30 days) of prescription medicines, if possible, to reduce your trips to the pharmacy.
  • Do not delay getting emergency care for your underlying medical condition because of COVID-19. Emergency departments have contingency infection prevention plans to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your underlying medical conditions or if you get sick and think that you may have COVID-19. If you need emergency help, call 911 right away.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Actions you can take based on your medical conditions and other risk factors

Asthma (moderate-to-severe)

Having moderate-to-severe asthma may increase your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan.
  • Keep your asthma under control.
  • Continue your current medicines, including any inhalers with steroids in them (“steroids” is another word for corticosteroids).
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Know how to use your inhaler.
  • Avoid your asthma triggers.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • If possible, have another member of your household who doesn’t have asthma clean and disinfect your house for you. When they use cleaning and disinfecting products, have them:
    • Make sure that people with asthma are not in the room.
    • Minimize use of disinfectants that can cause an asthma attack.
    • Open windows or doors and use a fan that blows air outdoors.
    • Always follow the instructions on the product label.
    • Spray or pour spray products onto a cleaning cloth or paper towel instead of spraying the product directly onto the cleaning surface (if the product label allows).

Learn more about asthma.Chronic kidney disease

Having chronic kidney disease of any stage increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Continue your medicines and your diet as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Stay in contact with your healthcare team as often as possible, especially if you have any new signs or symptoms of illness. Also reach out to them if you can’t get the medicines or foods you need.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • Have shelf-stable food choices to help you follow your kidney diet.
  • If you are on dialysis:
    • Contact your dialysis clinic and your healthcare provider if you feel sick or have concerns.
    • Do NOT miss your treatments.
    • Plan to have enough food on hand to follow the KCER 3-Day Emergency Diet Planexternal icon for dialysis patients in case you are unable to maintain your normal treatment schedule.

Learn more about kidney disease.

Learn how to take care of your kidneys.COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and other chronic lung diseases

Having COPD (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) is known to increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Other chronic lung diseases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis, may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Keep taking your current medicines, including those with steroids in them (“steroids” is another word for corticosteroids).
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Avoid triggers that make your symptoms worse.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about COPD.Top of PageDiabetes

Having type 2 diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, having type 1 or gestational diabetes may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Continue taking your diabetes pills and insulin as usual.
  • Test your blood sugar and keep track of the results, as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your diabetes medicines, including insulin.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions if you are feeling ill as well as the sick day tips for people with diabetes.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about diabetes.Hemoglobin disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia

Having sickle cell disease (SCD) increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Having other hemoglobin disorders, like thalassemia, may increase your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood, bone marrow, or organ transplant; HIV; use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines

Many conditions and treatments can cause a person to be immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system. These include: having a solid organ transplant, blood, or bone marrow transplant; immune deficienciesHIV with a low CD4 cell count or not on HIV treatment; prolonged use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines. Having a weakened immune system may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Continue any recommended medicines or treatments and follow the advice of your healthcare provider.
  • Do not stop taking your medicines without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Do not delay life-saving treatment or emergency care.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Information for people living with HIV.Liver disease

Having chronic liver disease, especially cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), may increase your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about chronic liver disease.Pregnancy

Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, there may be an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, among pregnant people with COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Do not skip your prenatal care appointments.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about how to stay healthy and take care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions related to your health.
  • Seek care immediately if you have a medical emergency.
  • You may feel increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Learn about stress and coping.

Learn more about pregnancy and COVID-19.Serious Heart Conditions and Other Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Diseases

Having any of the following serious heart conditions increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19:

  • Heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathies
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Having other cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or stroke, may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Learn more about serious heart conditions

Actions to take

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for diet and exercise while maintaining social distancing precautions.
  • Continue angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-I) or angiotensin-II receptor blockers (ARB) as prescribed by your healthcare provider for indications such as heart failure or high blood pressure.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your heart disease medicines, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure medicines.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • Do not delay life-saving treatment or emergency care.

Learn more about heart disease.

Learn more about stroke.

Learn more about high blood pressure.Top of PageObesity

Having obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

 Actions to take

  • Take your medicines for any underlying health conditions exactly as prescribed.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for nutrition and physical activity, while maintaining social distancing precautions.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about obesity in adults.

Learn about obesity in children.Neurologic conditions such as dementia

Having neurologic conditions such as dementia may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Take your medicines as prescribed.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your condition or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn more about dementia.

Learn about caring for people living with dementia during COVID-19.

Learn about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).Smoking

Being a current or former cigarette smoker may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

Learn about smoking and tobacco use.

Learn about the health effects of cigarette smoking.Children with Certain Underlying Conditions

While children have been less affected by COVID-19 compared to adults, children with certain conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness. Children who are medically complex, who have serious genetic, neurologic, metabolic disorders, and with congenital (since birth) heart disease may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Similar to adults, children with obesity, diabetes, asthma and chronic lung disease, or immunosuppression may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. CDC is investigating a rare but serious complication associated with COVID-19 in children called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). We do not yet know what causes MIS-C and who is at increased risk for developing it. Learn about MIS-C.

Actions to take

  • Give medicines as prescribed for your child’s underlying conditions.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your child’s medicines.
  • Call your child’s healthcare provider if you have concerns and to discuss your child’s specific conditions and risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Well-child visits and vaccines are still important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay in contact with your child’s healthcare provider and make sure your child is up to date with vaccines to prevent other diseases. Learn more about how to protect yourself and your family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Learn about preventing illness in your children.

Learn more about congenital heart disease and specific genetic and neurologic disorders in children.People with Multiple Underlying Conditions

The more underlying medical conditions someone has, the greater their risk is for severe illness from COVID-19.

Actions to take

  • Continue your medicines and treatment plans as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or feel sick.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.
  • Do not delay emergency care.

Top of PagePage last reviewed: June 25, 2020Content source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)Division of Viral DiseaseshomeYour Health

Reprinted from Medicare.gov