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June and July are the ‘Fireworks Safety Months’

The only safe way to use illegal fireworks is by not using them.

Nancy Blogin, President of the National Council on Fireworks Safety, urges consumers to not use illegal explosives or professional fireworks.

She says that in 2015 there were serious injuries caused by consumers using illegal explosives and/or professional fireworks.

Blogin cautions consumers to only purchase legal consumer fireworks from authorized stores or stands, and to never buy fireworks from individuals, or from vendors in back alleys or operating out of their house.

Blogin also challenges consumers to educate themselves on the safe and responsible use of consumer fireworks.

If you are at a party where consumer fireworks are being shot, make sure that there is a designated shooter who has not been drinking any alcohol and that the fireworks are being used responsibly.
More safety tips:

* Only use fireworks outdoors and in an area free of overhead obstructions and away from dry grass or other flammable materials.
* Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
* Never give fireworks or flaming sparklers to young children.
* Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
* Always have a bucket of water, and charged water hose, nearby.
* Dispose of a spent product by wetting it down and placing it in a metal trash container where it will stay until morning, and one that is away from any building or combustible materials.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose sole mission is to educate the public on the safe and responsible use of consumer fireworks.

The Fourth of July is the nation’s primary day for using fireworks. The second most popular day is New Year’s Eve.

Want to be smarter, more creative, more motivated? Get enough sleep!

Have you heard them bragging about it? Managers, workers and business people of all stripes are telling about their 16-hour days. They try to make it sound like a way to get ahead.

Inc. Magazine’s Jason Fried thinks this message is one of the most harmful in all business. He says sustained exhaustion is a mark of stupidity. Scientists agree, saying IQ scores decline on each successive day you sleep less than you naturally would.

People pulling 16-hour days are exhausted. They’re too tired to notice that their work has suffered because of it, and their sleep debt compromises their health and creativity. And it affects people around them. The sleep deprived are ruder, less tolerant, less understanding, and they can’t concentrate for sustained periods of time.

New workers and managers say when just getting started, they have to give it all they’ve got. But Fried says that the problem is that once started, they get in the habit and don’t stop working that way. Even though they have seen many entrepreneurs and managers burn out following this pattern, they may continue to do it.

When you get plenty of sleep, you’ll think better and be a better colleague and boss.

One reason: your brain is still active at night. It works through matters you can’t address during the day. You can wake up with new solutions to problems.

In the long run, work is not more important than sleep. If you don’t believe it, Fried says to consider this: You’ll die faster without sleep than you will without food.

Nearly everything can wait until morning when you’ll be well rested and able to be a creative problem solver.

Pre-habilitation: Exercising now pays off before surgery

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic have found that fitness counts when surgery is scheduled. Increasing evidence shows that being fit before surgery may reduce the length of your hospital stay, as well as your risk of post-operative complications.

People who can walk a few blocks or climb several flights of stairs with no problem have fewer complications after surgery than those who aren’t able to do these things.

Recommended exercises are: regular walking or cycling and strength training with resistance bands or free weights. One study found that several weeks of walking and performing breathing exercises improved fitness in a group of volunteers awaiting colorectal surgery.

Other pre-habilitation steps include:

* Stop smoking. Smoking is a risk factor for surgical complications, cardiovascular problems and pneumonia.
* Control blood sugar. If you have diabetes, getting blood sugar under control can reduce the risk of complications.
* Get enough sleep. Sleep apnea increases the risk of post-surgery breathing and blood oxygen problems.
* Improve your diet. Being underweight, especially if you have had rapid weight loss, is a risk factor, as is being significantly overweight.
* Manage stress. Stress management skills can help you cope with anxiety about your surgery and recovery. Pacing your activities and accepting help from family and friends can have a positive impact on your recovery time.

What’s important on your bucket list … or should be

Because many retirees are healthier and wealthier than those of previous generations, their bucket lists sometimes look like travel logs.

Marc E. Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist in Miami, asks “What’s not to love about a life of dream vacations?”

His answer: “After talking with patients and colleagues, rather than feeling exhilarated by a life of adventures, they often end up feeling depressed and disconnected.” Dr. Agronin is the author of How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Growing Old.

As we travel and soak up new experiences, we may lose track of what really matters: connections with family, friends and community. The high from an adventure doesn’t last. We may see our time between trips as boring interludes, and our trips as escapes from fears or failures.

Most of us finally give up the bucket list and spend time with family and friends. According to Dr. Agronin, this tends to be more satisfying.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Agronin says chasing bucket-list thrills ignores a deep psychological truth: You don’t need to make yourself happier in old age. We get happier naturally as we grow older.

At the New York Auto Show, Lincoln wowed them with its Navigator concept car

lincoln2017Concept cars are usually shown for years before they go into production.

Lincoln is changing that pattern. Its new Navigator SUV will go on sale in 2017 and will look like the concept car.

According to an attendee at the New York Auto Show, the Navigator drew actual gasps from the crowd when the doors opened like bird’s wings.

Lincoln calls them gull wing doors which, when opened, let down a helpful series of concertina steps.

The doors cover most of the whole side instead of the hinged, side-opening doors.

The new Navigator also has a push-button shifter that designers compare to piano keys, a flat, retro center console and horizontally ribbed seats.

A Newbie’s Guide to Motorcycle Insurance

Whether you buy a motorcycle for work or pleasure, you need insurance protection to cover your investment. If you’re new to the motorcycle scene, it’s best to research your options before making any definite decisions on what kind of insurance to buy. Insurance companies and policies are not “one size fits all.” Here are a few guidelines that can help you get the best coverage for your new bike.

Get Insurance Quotes in Advance

Similar to car insurance, you can compare what different companies have to offer for bike insurance online. In fact, you may want to get a quote before you even purchase your motorcycle as some makes and models are more expensive to insure than others. High performance bikes used for sports racing, for example, are more costly to insure due to a higher risk of accidents and being more expensive to repair. By discussing insurance costs with a reputable agent in advance, you can make a smart bike choice that will keep your insurance cost down.

Work with a Reputable Agent

Comparing insurance costs online makes it easier to narrow company options so you can pay them a visit and clinch a deal. It’s good to talk to an agent in person as it allows you to ask questions, go over the policy in detail and establish a rapport with a company representative.  An agent can help you personalize your insurance coverage to suit your specific needs and budget. He or she can also explain the legal ramifications of having insurance to give you a better understanding of what kind of coverage to buy.  

Working with a company you trust is key to getting the best coverage at the best price. At InsureUS, we can guide you to making excellent motorcycle insurance choices to protect your new investment.      



What to say, and not to say, after a car wreck

Alex Glenn at NerdWallet, a personal finance site, says you should never say these things after being involved in a car crash:

“I’m fine.” Soft tissue injuries take time to show up. Let your doctor decide if you’re fine.

“Whiplash.” Even if you have it, the word throws up scamming red flags with your insurer.

“Sorry.” Writing in USA Today, Glenn recommends keeping quiet instead. Saying the word could imply you think the crash was your fault.

“Sure, record me.” You can refuse to have a statement recorded at the scene. Know exactly what you want to say before agreeing to it.

Answer questions honestly but stick to the facts. In all circumstances, tell the truth. But don’t offer uncalled-for details. After a wreck they’re hard to remember, and you don’t know all the details yourself.

“Many customers can’t recall specifics,” says Jason Lundberg, a San Francisco attorney specializing in vehicle accidents. “Trying to give precise details can lead to a false recount. Instead of specifics, providing estimates is a good way to cooperate.”

Never assume the blame at the accident scene. Fault is rarely cut and dried, and your interpretation is just that, an interpretation.

“Most accidents are caused by both parties,” Lundberg says. “Sometimes 50-50, sometimes 90-10. Investigations may reveal there is something the other driver could have done to avoid the accident.”

Getting compensated for damages, injuries. Any injury claims that aren’t documented by your doctor won’t be considered.

Getting your vehicle repaired is more straightforward. Get three estimates, but beware of the one that is significantly lower than the other two because the estimator probably missed something.

Why is June 14 designated National Flag Day?

If you were stopped on the street by a reporter, how would you answer this question? With a shrug? Sadly, you’re not alone.

Our veterans and current military are the most knowledgeable because they have fought to protect what it represents.

This June, we have the opportunity to proclaim our respect and honor for our country by flying the flag, attending a Flag Day parade or teaching our children why we’re doing it.

President Woodrow Wilson established June 14, 100 years ago, as a day to fly our flag with pride. His speech could be proclaimed in 2016 as well as in 1916.

“I … suggest and request that throughout the nation and in every community, the 14th day of June be observed as Flag Day.

“There should be special patriotic exercises to express our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride and our enthusiasm for the political program of the nation, our determination to make it greater and purer with each generation, and our resolution to demonstrate to all the world its sentiment and purpose.”

On June 14, 1777, the design of our first national flag was approved by Congress. It has been modified 27 times since then. Old Glory, the star-spangled banner, has flown since 1959, when President Eisenhower ordered the 50th star for Hawaii, the last state to join the USA.

“God bless America, land that I love,” Irving Berlin’s 1938 song of personal thanks, is still worthy of being our personal sentiment of patriotism.

New evidence shows lower levels of blood pressure provide dramatic protection against heart disease

Hypertension is thought to be responsible for 50 million deaths per year nationwide. It’s a major risk factor for stroke, heart attacks, heart failure and peripheral vascular disease.

Many studies have shown that patients with systolic blood pressures (the top number) below 140 have a lower risk of heart disease and death than those above 140.

The cardiac game changer

Results of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) represent a game-changer in the field of hypertension. The study, presented to the American Heart Association, shows that patients who maintained a blood pressure of 120 or less had a 25 percent lower risk of heart failure, heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death than those whose blood pressure was maintained at 140.

They had a 43 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death and 27 percent lower risk of death from any cause than those whose target systolic blood pressure was 140.

It can be difficult to achieve

Lowering blood pressure can be difficult. In order to reach the 120 systolic level, some patients could need more than one medication.

In the SPRINT trial some patients who were able to reach 120 suffered adverse effects, such as fainting and kidney problems. But the trial has been called “one of the most important achievements of 2015.”

It’s not the whole answer.

Researchers at Duke Medicine say the 120 number is no magic bullet. It was chosen because it was significantly lower than 140.

What the trial did show was that bringing systolic blood pressure levels down below 140 can be beneficial in many ways as long as it’s done safely.

Note that no diabetic patients were included in the trial.

More banks are pushing home equity lines of credit

Banks are anticipating a boom time for home equity loans.

With home values rising, consumers have more borrowing power. And lenders want to create home equity lines of credit to offset faltering mortgage originations … and a refinancing wave that is fizzling out.

Average home prices are up 35 percent since the market bottomed out in 2012, S&P/Case-Shiller reports. New homes families looking at are costly and might not be what they’re looking for. So instead of buying or moving, they are choosing to remodel or add a room.

One study showed that the average home equity loan last year was for about $119,000. But economists say the borrowing binge isn’t looking like bad news.

Credit-reporting agency Equifax has announced that lenders originated $546 billion in home equity loans in 2015.

“Consumers are more comfortable using the equity in their house,” says Brendan Coughlin head of consumer lending for Citizens Bank, the No. 6 home equity lender.

Quoted in USA Today, Coughlin says, “The housing market is improving, consumer confidence is also improving, and unemployment is declining.”

During the housing boom of the mid-2000s, homeowners took out equity lines of credit for everything from vacations to boats. Now they’re drawing on them for home improvements as well as debt consolidation, emergencies and education expenses, Coughlin says.

They are not turning their homes into ATMs.

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