July 20, 2011 7:59 pm
Q: Why buy a condo?
A: They are an appealing way to enter the housing market if the cost of a single-family home is out of your reach. Condos are especially popular among single homebuyers, empty nesters, and first-time buyers in high-priced housing markets.
Unlike a house, condos offer a lifestyle that is free of yard work and exterior maintenance and repairs. Many condominium communities also offer amenities such as exercise rooms, tennis courts, and swimming pools that you might otherwise be unable to afford if you purchased a single-family home.
July 20, 2011 7:59 pm
The season’s picnics and back-yard barbecues can make it hard to eat right, but a healthy summer lifestyle doesn’t have to mean nibbling on bland fare. With strategic substitutions and smart snacking tips, you can still enjoy a helping of potato salad or a few campfire s’mores without compromising your nutritional goals.
“Eating healthy means enjoying a broad variety of foods,” says one of the country’s most recognized sports dietitians, Leslie Bonci, who consults for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Milwaukee Brewers. With smart food swaps that add nutrients and flavor, Bonci can help you enjoy the season without the extra pounds. Read on for her advice.
1. Stay hydrated—If you are on the go, drink cold water—it leaves your stomach and gets to the muscles faster, thus doing a better job of hydrating your body. Also, try swapping some of the foods on your menu for ones with liquid: Foods such as cold soups or applesauce take up more room in the stomach and can help keep you full longer.
2. Taste the color of the season—it will increase the nutrient richness of your diet, contribute to your daily fluid requirements and provide carbs for fuel. Here are some of the summer colors you should look for:
• Dark green: Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are great sources of vitamin K for bone and eye health.
• Orange: Peaches and cantaloupe contain natural carotenoid pigments for lung and skin health.
• Deep red or purple: Plums, cherries, and berries all boost heart health.
3. Allow yourself some indulgences. Enjoying foods you love is important to long-term success, and making smart choices doesn’t mean sacrificing treats. Just opt for products that provide portion control and good calorie count. A pre-packaged better-for-you option like the one from Weight Watchers Sweet Baked Goods is a great choice. All of the Weight Watchers sweet baked treats have 4-5 grams of fiber, contributing to your daily fiber requirements, and few people actually get the daily fiber requirement of 20-35 grams.
4. Forget bland condiments—if you want to eat better, spice things up. Healthful spices include cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and oregano. You can use spices to add flavor to dishes or drinks while cutting the amount of calorie-rich ingredients such as oil and sugar.
For more information, please visit www.sacbee.com.
July 20, 2011 7:59 pm
Want to know how a medication might affect your breast milk? Got a question about a disability, aging, mental health?
There’s an app for all that—and a whole lot more.
The variety and availability of smartphone applications—or apps—have exploded in recent years as multi-tasking consumers increasingly use their phones to keep up with the latest on news, finance, and health. Apple says its iPhone App Store has more than 350,000 apps, and Android, BlackBerry, Windows, and other smartphones account for tens of thousands more. With so many apps on the market, it’s no wonder the number of health care related apps has also spiraled.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now proposing guidelines that outline the small number of mobile apps the agency plans to oversee—medical apps that could present a risk to patients if the apps don’t work as intended. The proposed guidelines are scheduled to be posted on the Federal Register website and appear in print on Wednesday.
FDA wants consumers to weigh-in on the guidelines during a 90-day public comment period that follows that posting.
FDA policy advisor Bakul Patel says some of the new mobile apps are designed to help consumers manage their own health and wellness—like the National Institutes of Health’s LactMed app, which gives nursing mothers information about the effects of medicines on breast milk and nursing infants.
Other apps are aimed at helping health care providers improve and facilitate patient care—like the Radiation Emergency Medical Management (REMM) app, which gives health care providers guidance on diagnosing and treating radiation injuries. There are even apps to aid diagnosis of rashes and heart irregularities.
FDA has already cleared a handful of mobile medical apps used by health care professionals, such as a smartphone-based ultrasound and an application for iPhones and iPads that allows doctors to view medical images and X-rays.
There’s an app for that!
“There are advantages to using medical apps, but consumers and health care professionals should have a balanced awareness of the benefits and risks,” Patel says.
Apps can give consumers valuable health information in seconds and are opening innovative ways for technology to improve health care, Patel says. However, the small group of mobile medical apps FDA proposes to oversee present a potential risk—these apps may impact how a currently regulated medical device (such as an ultrasound) performs, he adds.
FDA is proposing to oversee mobile medical apps that:
• Are used as an accessory to an FDA-regulated medical device. For example, an app could enable a health care professional to view medical images on an iPad and make a diagnosis;
• Transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device. For example, an app that turns a smartphone into an electrocardiography, or ECG, machine to detect abnormal heart rhythms or determine if a patient is experiencing a heart attack.
If you want to provide input on FDA’s proposal, you can submit your comment online at http://www.regulations.gov/
This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page10, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
July 20, 2011 7:59 pm
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report recently examining the differences between credit scores sold to consumers and scores used by lenders to make credit decisions.
“The consumer bureau’s mission is to bring transparency to the consumer financial markets so families can compare products and choose the ones that are right for them,” says Elizabeth Warren, Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the CFPB. “One way consumers have tried to empower themselves is by knowing their credit scores. We are assessing whether purchasing a credit score provides a consumer with the information he or she needs. ”
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) required the CFPB to study the differences between credit scores consumers purchase and those creditors use to make credit decisions. The CFPB’s report covers the process of developing credit scoring models, why different scoring models may produce different scores for the same consumer, how different scoring models are used by creditors in the marketplace, what credit scores are available to consumers for purchase, and ways that differences between the scores provided to creditors and those provided to consumers may disadvantage consumers.
Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) compile and maintain files on consumers that are used to produce credit reports. Credit scores are numerical summaries of the comparative credit risks of default; they are calculated based on information contained in credit files and credit reports. These scores are important because they are used to make credit-granting decisions, to identify prospects for credit offers and solicitations, to make decisions about raising or lowering credit limits on credit cards, and to set terms for mortgages or other loans, among other uses.
While most credit scores are purchased by lenders and other users to assess consumers’ credit risk, consumers can also purchase credit scores when they obtain their free annual credit reports, when they request copies of their credit reports directly from CRAs, or when they enroll in “credit monitoring” services that offer credit reports and scores for a monthly subscription fee. The credit scores available for purchase by consumers may vary from the score used by a lender for a variety of reasons, including:
• Use of different scoring models;
• Lenders and consumers may not use the same CRA;
• Data in the consumer’s credit reports change between the time the consumer purchases a score and the time the lender obtains the score;
• A consumer and a lender could possibly access different reports from the CRA, if they were to use different identifying information about the consumer;
The report discusses the general lack of information about credit scoring. One survey shows that many consumers do not know that a credit score represents the risk of not repaying a loan. Furthermore, many consumers do not know that credit scores they buy may not use the same credit scoring models that are most widely used by lenders.
Consumers who are unaware of the variety of credit scores available in the marketplace may purchase a score believing it to be their “true” score. The most significant adverse impact on a consumer from score differences would likely occur if the credit scores the consumer buys give a substantially different impression of his or her credit risk than credit scores that a lender would use.
As a follow-up to the report, the CFPB is obtaining data from each of the three nationwide CRAs, and credit scores from the CRAs and Fair Isaac Corporation widely used by lenders and consumers to compare the variations between the credit scores sold to lenders and those sold to consumers. To help educate consumers, the CFPB also plans to post advice on its website about how to obtain and maintain a good credit score.
For more information, please visit www.consumerfinance.gov.
July 20, 2011 7:59 pm
Our culture may be obsessed with youth, but research indicates that Americans are actually happier after 50. Commissioned by OurTime.com, the largest online dating community catering to singles over 50, a survey released recently indicates that 82 percent of people age 50 and older say they are happier with their lives now than they were when they were younger. 72 percent are more optimistic about their future happiness. Conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf on OurTime.com in June 2011, the nationwide survey of 1,064 U.S. adults aged 50 and older also revealed that 85 percent of these adults consider companionship more important than it used to be when they were younger.
To look deeper into factors driving this group's brighter outlook, in a separate study, OurTime.com surveyed a segment of the one million singles that comprise its membership and found that 93 percent agree that having a romantic relationship is an important component of their overall happiness.
"The main reason people 50-plus are happier now is that they are more confident in themselves and about what they want from life," says Dr. Gail Saltz, OurTime.com's Relationship Expert. "Priorities shift in this stage of life and relationships become more and more important to one's happiness."
Today, there is someone turning 50 every seven seconds. In fact, the 50-plus demographic is the fastest growing demographic in the country. The 78 million Baby Boomers now represent 28 percent of the U.S. population. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, almost 30 percent of Boomers are single.
This large group of singles is actively seeking companionship online. Over the last year, the number of dating-site users 50 years of age or older has grown twice as rapidly as any other age group. The OurTime.com community has experienced astonishing membership growth of more than 400 percent in just two years.
"As these surveys illustrate, most people in this stage of life are no longer so stressed about getting ahead in their careers, and their kids are already out of the house," says Dr. Saltz. "This allows them to focus on companionship and sharing this fulfilling time with someone they love."
The survey of those 50 and older also found that, compared to when they were younger, these adults have changed their views in the following ways:
• 85 percent agree that companionship is more important now.
• 79 percent are more confident in what they want out of life.
• 87 percent are more confident in their intelligence.
• 82 percent are more confident when meeting new people.
• 91 percent are more confident as a judge of character.
• 52 percent are less focused on "getting ahead" in their career; another 29 percent said the career question was not applicable to them.
OurTime.com members also weighed in as follows:
• 89 percent are at a point in their lives where they feel fulfilled and are looking for someone to share their lives with.
• 95 percent are more focused on compatibility, and finding someone who makes them happy, than they were when they were younger.
• 89 percent say they have a better idea of the type of person who will make them happy.
• 80 percent have children over the age of 25; 81 percent do not have children who live at home.
For more information, visit http://www.ourtime.com.
July 19, 2011 4:59 pm
Q: Which is better, a 15-year or 30-year loan?
A: The 15-year mortgage offers you a chance to save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. This is because the interest rate is typically lower and amortization is half that of the 30-year loan, which means that the total interest paid on the 15-year note, as compared to a 30-year note, is significantly less because of the shorter borrowing period.
Put another way, a 15-year loan accrues principal much more quickly than a 30-year loan, so you get to own your house in half the time.
However, because you are building equity faster and paying down the loan sooner, a 15-year mortgage requires higher monthly payments.
Get a lender to help you calculate the overall savings of the 15-year loan versus the 30-year mortgage. In the end, though, base your decision on your circumstances and overall financial plan, such as whether you are nearing retirement age and also will have to shell out college expenses for children, in which case a 15-year loan may not be for you. Remember that your spending habits, budget, and financial goals should all be considered before making a final decision.
July 19, 2011 4:59 pm
Condominium. Type of housing where buyers own their units outright, plus an undivided share, or joint ownership, in the common elements of the building or community.
July 19, 2011 4:59 pm
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced recently that it has approved the influenza vaccine formulation for the 2011-2012 vaccine that will be used by the six manufacturers licensed to produce and distribute influenza vaccine for the United States.
Vaccination remains the cornerstone of preventing influenza, a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza virus strains. The vaccine formulation protects against the three virus strains that surveillance indicates will be most common during the upcoming season and includes the same virus strains used for the 2010-2011 influenza season.
Between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population develops influenza each year, leading to more than 200,000 hospitalizations from related complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Influenza-related deaths vary yearly, ranging from a low of about 3,000 to a high of 49,000 people.
"Vaccines to prevent seasonal influenza have a long and successful track record of safety and effectiveness in the United States," says Karen Midthun, M.D., director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. "It is important to get vaccinated every year, even if the strains in the vaccine do not change, because the protection received the previous year will diminish over time and may be too low to provide protection into the next year."
In addition to the important role that health care providers play in recommending influenza vaccination for their patients, influenza vaccination of health care personnel is also important to protect themselves, their patients, their family, and the community from influenza. The FDA urges health care organizations to encourage their members to follow CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations to get vaccinated.
For more information please visit www.flu.gov.
July 19, 2011 4:59 pm
It's tough to keep your cool when the inside of your car is full of hot air from a malfunctioning air conditioning (A/C) system. According to the Car Care Council, an annual checkup of your vehicle's A/C system will help prevent it from breaking down when you need it most, especially as sky-high temperatures are hitting many parts of the country.
"Getting stuck in traffic is hard enough but getting stuck in traffic during the heat of summer without properly functioning A/C is the pits," says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "It is important to always have the A/C system properly maintained to keep it in tip-top shape and avoid costly repairs down the road."
A vehicle's heating, ventilating and air conditioning system (HVAC) keeps the interior cabin comfortable in any season by providing the right temperature and humidity level. Typical A/C service consists of the following steps:
• A service technician checks pressures to test operation, refrigerant charge and outlet temperatures.
• If the system is found to be low on refrigerant, a leak test is performed to find the source of the leak. Keep in mind that if your vehicle is leaking refrigerant, it is damaging the ozone layer.
• Refrigerant may be added if necessary to "top off" the system, although some states do not allow "topping off."
• A technician may also check for evidence of refrigerant cross-contamination, which is the mixing of refrigerants.
• A/C service should also include a check of the compressor's drive belt and tension.
"Checking the A/C once a year is key to making sure your cooling system is running efficiently all year long," White says. "A properly running HVAC system will help improve your gas mileage, is more environmentally friendly and will keep you from losing your cool on the road."
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council's Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.
July 19, 2011 4:59 pm
At a time when it seems that prices are soaring everywhere we look, it is no wonder that cost conscious homemakers are now saying, "Ouch!" at the cost of some popular household cleaning products.
But there are proven home remedies that will do many of the same cleaning jobs-and often for pennies on the dollar. Here are some of the top picks:
Keep chrome fixtures clean and shiny by wiping them down with new or used fabric softener sheets. For stubborn water spots, try rubbing alcohol on a paper towel.
To remove tough stains from the inside of a vase, fill the vase with warm water and drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets.
For a fog-free mirror after you shower, wipe it down a couple of times a week with a few drops of aftershave on a paper towel.
Fill in unsightly nail holes with plain white toothpaste; smooth with a damp sponge.
Make an effective all-purpose cleaner for countertops and appliances by filling a spray bottle with one third pine cleaner, one third ammonia and one third water.
Prolong the life of fresh flowers by filling the vase with a quart of warm water, two tablespoons vinegar and three tablespoons sugar.
Sharpen scissors by cutting 10 times through three layers of foil or by cutting a piece of fine sandpaper into small pieces.
Try polishing the silver with toothpaste; just rub on and wipe off.
Remove small scratches on polished wood furniture by rubbing them with a shelled walnut.
Smelly shoes? Put a few tea leaves into nylon stockings and stuff one stocking into each shoe. Leave it there for a couple of days until the smell vanishes.
To keep lint and dust off glass tabletops longer, clean them with a solution of one tablespoon of fabric softener and a quart of warm water. (Also works well for computer screens and TV screens.)