Mary Mastroeni
GoogleLinked InYoutubePinterest
 
Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Eat for a Healthy Heart

February 24, 2012 7:34 pm

Making healthy food choices is one important thing you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease—the leading cause of death of men and women in the United States.

According to the American Heart Association, about 80 million adults in the U.S. have at least one form of heart disease—disorders that prevent the heart from functioning normally—including coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems, heart defects, infections, and cardiomyopathy (thickening or enlargement of the heart muscle).

Experts say you can reduce the risk of developing these problems with lifestyle changes that include eating a healthy diet. But with racks full of books and magazines about food and recipes, what is the best diet for a healthy heart?

Food and Drug Administration nutrition expert (FDA's) Barbara Schneeman says to follow these simple guidelines when preparing meals:
• Balance calories to manage body weight
• Eat at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, including a variety of dark-green, red, and orange vegetables, beans, and peas.
• Eat seafood (including oily fish) in place of some meat and poultry
• Eat whole grains—the equivalent of at least three 1-ounce servings a day
• Use oils to replace solid fats.
• Use fat-free or low-fat versions of dairy products.

The government’s newly released “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010” also says Americans should reduce their sodium intake. The general recommendation is to eat less than 2,300 mg. of sodium a day. But Americans 51 or older, African-Americans of any age, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should restrict their intake to 1,500 mg. The government estimates that about half the U.S. population is in one of those three categories.

Packaged and Restaurant Food
Schneeman, who heads FDA's Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, says one way to make sure you’re adhering to healthy guidelines is by using the nutrition labels on the packaged foods you buy.

“Product labels give consumers the power to compare foods quickly and easily so they can judge which products best fit into a heart healthy diet or meet other dietary needs,” Schneeman says. “Remember, when you see a percent DV (daily value of key nutrients) on the label, 5 percent or less is low and 20 percent or more is high.”

Follow these guidelines when using processed foods or eating in restaurants:
• Choose lean meats and poultry. Bake it, broil it, or grill it.
• In a restaurant, opt for steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed.
• Look on product labels for foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. Most of the fats you eat should come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as those found in some types of fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
• Check product labels for foods high in potassium (unless you’ve been advised to restrict the amount of potassium you eat). Potassium counteracts some of the effects of salt on blood pressure.
• Choose foods and beverages low in added sugars. Read the ingredient list to make sure that added sugars are not among the first ingredients. Ingredients in the largest amounts are listed first. Some names for added sugars include sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose. The nutrition facts on the product label give the total sugar content.
• Pick foods that provide dietary fiber, like fruits, beans, vegetables, and whole grains.

Source: www.fda.gov

Tags:

Word of the Day

February 24, 2012 7:34 pm

Assessment. Tax or charge levied on property by a taxing authority to pay for local improvements such as sidewalks, streets, and sewers.

Tags:

Question of the Day

February 24, 2012 7:34 pm

Q: What is a wraparound loan?

A: Also called an all-inclusive mortgage, it is where a new home loan is placed in a subordinate or secondary position to the original mortgage and the new loan includes the unpaid balance of the first.

The wraparound allows the buyer to purchase a home without having to qualify for a loan or pay closing costs. The contract is made between the buyer and seller with the seller remaining on the original mortgage and title. The buyer pays the seller a fixed monthly amount and the seller uses part of this money towards the existing loan.

The seller benefits by offering the buyer a loan at a higher interest rate than the existing mortgage, and the lender profits from the difference in interest in the two loans.

Wraparounds are not for novices and cannot be used when there is a legally enforceable "due on sale" clause in the first mortgage.

Consult an attorney if you are considering this type of financing.

Tags:

6 Extreme Savings Tips You Can Use Right Now

February 22, 2012 4:28 pm

Most people can manage to save a little money by cutting out some of the long-term expenses they enjoy, such as favorite magazine subscriptions, daily coffee stops, and optional cable channels. But, noted Kimberly Palmer, author of a book for young professionals called, Generation Earn, there are plenty of short-term savings tips that may seem extreme but can actually improve your quality of life even as the savings mount up.

Based on tips from the young professionals she interviewed, Palmer offers six ways to get started:
• Buy cheaper clothing – Except for major purchases, such as a suit or a winter coat, try not to pay over $30 for any article of clothing. Check out cheap-chic retailers like Old Navy or Forever 21 for a range of stylish bargains. Habitual shoppers can save up to $200 a month and still be up-to-the-minute.
• Party at home – Game Nights and Girl’s or Boy’s Nights In have been gaining in popularity, taking the place of costlier nights on the town. Get your gang on the bandwagon with Potlucks, Poker Nights, Old Movie Nights and more— and save on cab fare, cover charges, restaurant meals, and expensive first-run movie tickets.
• Give love coupons instead of gifts – Handmade coupons good for a back rub, a home perm, babysitting or a home-cooked meal can make a friend or relative’s birthday more special than a store-bought gift. If you have a special talent, like sewing or calligraphy, your gift can be extra special.
• Plan cheap date nights – Forego expensive dinner dates once or twice a month in favor of a picnic, a home-cooked dinner, or a sandwich stop followed by a lecture, a bookstore browse, a museum exhibit or a local college performance.
• Eat before you go – Snack on a peanut butter and banana or other favorite sandwich before meeting friends for dinner. Then order an appetizer or a small plate instead of a meal, and pocket the extra dough.
• Turn your freezer into a fast-food bistro – Cook a couple of favorite one-pot dishes over the weekend and freeze in single portion containers. When you come home from work tired and hungry, skip the fast-food stop and microwave a healthier dinner.

Tags:

Top 7 Home Burglary Tricks

February 22, 2012 4:28 pm

To help homeowners enjoy their travels away from home with greater peace of mind, FrontPoint Security, offers its list of Top 7 Home Burglary Tricks—featuring tips to help consumers identify and take simple steps that can keep their homes safer from burglars.

1. Newspapers
Burglars look for newspapers piling up on a front door, yard or porch. Make your newspaper vanish by having delivery stopped or a neighbor collect it daily if you plan to be away.

2. Mail
If burglars see mail accumulating in a mailbox, it tells them the homeowners are out of town and this is likely a good pick. Make your mail disappear by having it held by the post office or picked up by a neighbor.

3. Lawns
Hiring someone to keep your lawn mowed while you are gone will keep it from levitating higher than your neighbors’, and can be a good investment in home protection.

4. Lights
Burglars watch neighborhoods to see if any houses are consistently without lights. The best way to ensure your lights don’t go dark for an extended period of time is to remotely control your lights—giving off the natural appearance that someone is home.

5. Pets
If you have pets that are normally seen or heard around the home, a burglar casing a neighborhood may take note when these pets are suddenly absent. For homeowners with dogs, getting a dog-sitter to check in regularly may cost no more than boarding and keeps a presence in your home.

6. Privacy
Social media is the latest trick for burglars. Avoid posting your travel plans or posting comments that say you are away from home. It is better to post those vacation photos after you return home.

7. Noise
When a burglar suspects that a home is unoccupied, he may still listen for the sound of activity once he gets close the house itself. Consider leaving a radio playing while you are away or, like lights, controlling your television remotely through home automation.

For more information, please visit http://www.FrontPointSecurity.com

Tags:

U.S. Maple Syrup Industry at Risk; How You Can Help

February 22, 2012 4:28 pm

As winter begins to wane, the maple sugaring season begins in the Northeast and the Midwest. The centuries-old tradition of tapping maple trees for sap to make syrup is threatened by the spread of the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), which kills maple trees and travels on infested firewood. Because these beetles are not native to this continent, they have no effective natural predators, and native trees have no resistance to their tunneling and chewing.

ALB infestations have occurred in several maple syrup-producing states. The most recent infestation, which threatens the Midwest, was found in June 2011 near Cincinnati, Ohio. Eradication efforts are underway, including the tragic but necessary removal of many mature maple trees. The infestation of ALB discovered in the Worcester, Mass. area in August 2008 poses a particularly serious threat to New England's maples, because of the large area the beetles had infested before being discovered. Earlier infestations of the beetle were found in both New York and New Jersey, but the beetle is believed to be under control in those two states. Throughout the region, state officials are vigilant for new infestations.
"Because some people don't realize that moving firewood can spread this tree-killing beetle, more infestations may be discovered in other cities and towns in maple-producing areas," says Leigh Greenwood, Don't Move Firewood campaign manager, The Nature Conservancy. "Once an infestation occurs, the only way to stop the Asian longhorned beetle's spread is to cut down all the infested and host trees – impacting property owners and local communities and posing a huge threat to the maple syrup industry."

While these pests cannot move far on their own, when people move firewood that harbors them, they unwittingly enable these pests to start an infestation far from their current range. A visual inspection cannot easily detect these pests since they can be hidden in the layers of wood beneath the bark.

"It might seem like a good idea to obtain some firewood from another area, or to take along firewood when going camping, but just one log can start a new infestation of the Asian longhorned beetle or other tree-killing pests," says Greenwood. "By buying locally harvested wood, people can help protect their trees by not risking the accidental movement of insects and diseases that can affect entire forests."

Following are tips from the Don't Move Firewood campaign:

• Obtain firewood near the location where you will burn it – that means the wood was cut in a nearby forest, in the same county, or a maximum of 50 miles from where you'll have your fire.
• Don't be tempted to bring firewood home just because the wood looks clean and healthy. It could still harbor tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungal spores that could start a new and deadly infestation of forest pests.
• Aged or seasoned wood is not considered safe to move, but commercially kiln-dried wood is a good option if you must transport firewood.
• If you have already moved firewood, and you need to dispose of it safely, burn it soon and completely. Make sure to rake the storage area carefully and also burn the debris. In the future, buy from a local source.
• Take care to respect all state and local regulations on firewood movement – some areas are subject to serious fines for violations. For more information, visit your state agricultural department's web site: http://www.rma.usda.gov/other/stateag.html.
• Tell your friends and others about the risks of moving firewood – no one wants to be responsible for starting a new pest infestation.

For more information, visit www.dontmovefirewood.org and www.nature.org.

Tags:

Word of the Day

February 22, 2012 4:28 pm

Assessed value. A value placed on a property by an agency of the government for taxation and other purposes.

Tags:

Question of the Day

February 22, 2012 4:28 pm

Q: What are jumbo loans?

A: If you borrow at or below the conventional loan limit for non-government mortgages, you have what is known as a "conforming" loan. If the amount surpasses the loan limit that is set by both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac –now $333,700 for a single-family home – you would then have a "jumbo" loan and pay a somewhat higher rate because lenders believe these larger loans carry more risk.
There are also loan limits on FHA and VA loans. Veterans who live in high-cost areas or who wish to buy or refinance a home loan above $240,000 can now use their VA status to do so. In instances where the new loan amount exceeds that price, the VA will allow the new loan amount to go up to $333,700 – if the veteran either puts down 25 percent of any amount over the $240,000 or has sufficient equity in the property to cover that amount.

Tags:

Calculating Solar Costs

February 22, 2012 4:28 pm

In our last segment, I began exploring how to size your home up to install solar electrical generating panels. Picking up from there, the folks from residentialsolarpanels.org suggest you calculate up-front costs vs. the long-term savings you could enjoy.

For nearly everyone, the upfront cost of a photovoltaic solar system will be a major factor. However, with the yearly utility savings and the government incentives, it can be well worth the initial investment.

Considering a single solar panel can generate 21.294 kWh/month, if your electricity company charges an average of 20 cents per kWh, you would save about $512 per year. If that system costs $20,000, solar Government rebates / Tax Credits could cut that cost as much as 50 percent, so you’ll have to pay back $10,000.

That means it will take you about 19.5 years for 10 x 2 m² solar panels to pay off the system and begin truly saving. And if you consume 1,000 Kw /Month it will reduce your typical energy bill by about half.

Finally, if all the numbers work out— it's time to plan your photovoltaic system placement. A good rule of thumb to use when determining the correct tilt of solar panels is to find out the approximate latitude of your area and set the panels at an angle equal to that latitude.

This should maximize the amount of solar radiation absorbed all year. If the southward facing roof on which the panels will be installed is slanted beyond the angle of your area’s latitude, then the panels should be lifted at the bottom edges, in order to achieve the best radiation angle, whenever possible.

For flat roofs, any of the four sides can be elevated to match the latitude angle.

Finally, to start a power purchase agreement with your local utility, you will have to start filling out paperwork to get approved. One of the first things that you will have to submit is your current electric bills.

This is to show what your normal consumption is. If you get approved, you could get some solar renewable energy credits for every megawatt hour you are producing.

If your state offers money for these credits, it could add up to some nice pay for you, according to the folks at residentialsolarpanels.org.

Tags:

What Homeowners Want From Their Roofs

February 22, 2012 4:28 pm

Your roof is your home’s largest investment, which could explain why homeowners have some pretty specific roofing expectations. In the 2011 DaVinci Roofscapes’ Homeowners Exterior Preferences Study, more than 1,000 homeowners overwhelming indicated that durability and longevity were the two key aspects that will influence the type of roof they purchase for their homes in the future.

Results of the nationwide consumer study, conducted by Harris Interactive©, show that 88 percent of the respondents indicate that the durability of a roofing product will have “a lot of influence” on the product they select when it comes time to purchase a new roof.

“Extreme weather events have increased in frequency and severity in the past decade and that has changed the way people think about their roofs,” says Ray Rosewall, CEO and president of DaVinci Roofscapes. “It used to be that if you lived in the southern states, winter weather was mild. Now those same states routinely experience the damaging winds and hail that were only seen in the warmer months in the past.

“These weather events are increasing in frequency and severity and are now occurring in almost every state. With the dramatic weather changes we’ve experienced recently it’s no wonder homeowners name durability as their number one influencer when considering the purchase of a new roof.”

When do homeowners plan to replace their roofs and what influences that decision? In the same study, 65 percent of homeowners indicated they would be prompted to replace their roof if it became damaged from severe weather. Another 23 percent reported that their current roof is old and will soon need to be replaced, with an additional 13 percent indicating that their roof is near the end of its warranty and needs to be replaced.

Top 10 Influencers


Homeowners ranked the following factors as having “a lot of influence” in the decision-making process for the type of new roof to purchase:

88 percent – Durability
83 percent – Longevity/Built to Last
72 percent – Low/No Maintenance
71 percent – Resistant to Severe Weather
69 percent – Has a Warranty
57 percent – Fire Resistancy
55 percent – Material Roof is Made Out of
50 percent – Price
41 percent – Colors Available
24 percent – Complements the Neighborhood Setting

“Everyone is cost conscious but it’s interesting to see that homeowners are putting more value on the inherent quality and durability of the alternatives when looking at the cost of a new roof,” says Rosewall. “We believe this truly reflects the thought process of the homeowner that a roof is an investment in their home, and as such, they will get more value from a quality roof versus a lower cost bargain-basement priced roof.

Source: http://www.davinciroofscapes.com.

Tags: