Monday, February 20, 2017

Where's My Tax Refund?

Where’s My Refund?

Go online to find out when to expect your money

This year some taxpayers won’t get their refunds until the week of Feb. 27. — Getty Images
On Feb. 15, something wonderful happened: The river of money taxpayers send to the federal government temporarily reversed its flow.
Yes, it’s tax-refund season, although that reverse flow won’t start hitting individual bank accounts until next week at the earliest, depending on whether you filed on paper or electronically and whether you asked for direct deposit. The season officially began Feb. 15 for taxpayers who claim child-related deductions and for low-to-moderate-income families who qualify for the earned income tax credit, thanks to legislation called the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015.
The IRS’ Where’s My Refund? webpage, which the agency will start updating on Feb. 18, lets you check on when your money should arrive. There’s also a smartphone app, for the super impatient who need hourly updates.
Starting this year, the 2015 law requires the Internal Revenue Service to hold refunds until Feb. 15 to give it more time to detect fraudulent claims. Tax season is a boom time for identity thieves, who file thousands of bogus returns early in the season in an attempt to pilfer refunds before the real taxpayers get around to filing. Earned-income and child-related refunds are favorite targets because those are usually worth thousands of dollars.
“It’s a quick refund, and it adds up to be a lot of money when you file a lot of fraudulent returns,” Richmond, Va.-based CPA David Creasy told the Los Angeles Times. “They don’t just file one or two. They file in the hundreds or even in the thousands of returns.”
This year Feb. 15 fell on a Wednesday. Allowing for processing time and a long Presidents Day weekend, the IRS said it’s possible that some taxpayers won’t get their refunds until the week of Feb. 27.
As always, AARP offers IRS-certified volunteers, both online and in locations throughout the country, who provide free tax help. For information, check here.

More on Taxes

Join AARP Today — Receive access to information, benefits and discounts

Thursday, February 2, 2017

National Heart Health Month

February is Heart Health Month

*REPOST* Brought to you by: The Heart Foundation

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The good news? It is also one of the most preventable.  Making heart-healthy choices, knowing your family health history and the risk factors for heart disease, having regular check-ups and working with your physician to manage your health are all integral aspects of saving lives from this often silent killer.  FEBRUARY IS HEART HEALTH MONTH.  Make a difference in your community by spreading the word about strategies for preventing heart disease and encouraging those around you to have their hearts check and commit to heart-healthy lives.

How can YOU make a difference during Heart Health Month
  • Wear red on National Wear Red Day on Friday, February 3rd to increase awareness of heart disease.  Then share a photo of you and your friends in your best red gear on social media with the hashtag #theheartfoundation.
  • Like The Heart Foundation on Facebook and follow us on Twitterand SHARE the postings with your friends.
  • Purchase jewelry from the Amanda Rose Trends Collection during the month of February and The Heart Foundation will receive $1 from each item purchased.
  • Register for one of our upcoming indoor cycle fundraising events or our CPR/AED training event (more details to follow soon)
  • Educate yourself.
  • Donate to The Heart Foundation and help support heart research.

What is Heart Disease?

To clarify, when we use the term heart disease on The Heart Foundation website, we are primarily referring to coronary artery disease, also called coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.  This is a condition in which plaque, which is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the blood, builds up inside the coronary arteries which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.
This plaque build-up is called atherosclerosis.  A plaque can grow large enough to reduce or completely block blood flow through an artery.  More frequently, a plaque may rupture, causing a blood clot to form that either blocks the artery or breaks off and travels somewhere else in the body causing a blockage at another site.  When the blockage takes place in a blood vessel that feeds the heart, the result is a heart attack or, depending on the severity, Sudden Cardiac Death.
If the plaque build-up or blood clot resulting from the plaque rupture occurs in the carotid arteries on either side of the neck, this is called Carotid Artery Diseaseand can result in a stroke.  Peripheral Arterial Disease is when the major arteries that supply blood to the legs, arms or pelvis are obstructed.  If blood flow to any of these areas of the body is reduced or blocked, numbness, pain and sometimes dangerous infections such as gangrene can occur.

It is important to be familiar with the anatomy of the heart and how it functions in the body to truly understand heart disease.  Click here to view the video Cedars-Sinai Heart Center Anatomy of the Heart.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Symptoms of a heart attack or myocardial infarction can vary greatly from person to person, but in order to help you identify a possible heart attack, we have listed some of the most common symptoms below:
  • Approximately 2 out of every 3 people who have heart attacks experience chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue a few days or weeks before the attack.
  • A person with angina (temporary chest pain) may begin to find that it takes less and less physical activity to trigger the pain.  Any change in the pattern of angina should be taken very seriously and brought to the attention of your physician.
  • During a heart attack, a person may feel pain in the middle of the chest which can spread to the back, neck, jaw or arms.  The pain may also be felt only in the back, neck, jaw or arms rather than the chest.   
  • A person having a heart attack may have gas-like pain or pressure in the stomach area which is often mistaken for indigestion. The pain is similar to angina, but it is usually more severe, longer lasting and does not improve with rest or a nitroglycerin pill.
  • It is important to note that approximately 1 out of every 3 people who have heart attacks do not feel any chest pain.  Many of these are women, non-Caucasian, older than 75, have heart failure or diabetes or have had a stroke.
  • Nausea & vomiting which are sometimes mistaken for food poisoning or the stomach flu
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath, especially in older people
  • Feelings of restlessness, sweatiness, anxiety or a sense of impending doom
  • Bluishness of the lips, hands or feet
  • Heavy pounding of the heart or abnormal heart rhythms
  • Loss of consciousness (This can be the first symptom of a heart attack!)
  • Disorientation resembling a stroke may occur in older people.
  • Also, older people, especially women, will often take longer to admit they are not well and to request medical assistance.

Helping a Victim of a Heart Attack

Half of the deaths from heart attack occur in the first 3 or 4 hours after the onset of symptoms, so it is important to know and recognize the warning signs.
  • If you think that you or someone in your presence is having a heart attack, call 911 IMMEDIATELY!  Every minute you delay can result in more damage to the heart muscle.
  • Having the victim chew an aspirin after the ambulance has been called may help reduce the size of the blood clot. 

Helping a Victim of Sudden Cardiac Death

  • Call 911 IMMEDIATELY!
  • Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR.  CPR can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival. 
  • Utilize an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is available.  Follow the instructions provided by the unit.  Many public places such as airports and shopping malls now have AEDs.  Brain death begins in only 4 to 6 minutes after cardiac arrest, but it is often reversible if treated within a few minutes with defibrillation, or an electric shock to the heart, as from an AED, to restore a normal heartbeat. 
The chances of survival for a victim of Sudden Cardiac Death drop by 7 to 10 percent with every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, and very few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes, so the key is to ACT QUICKLY!

Heart Disease: Scope and Impact 1

  • Heart disease (which includes Heart Disease, Stroke and other Cardiovascular Diseases) is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 787,000 people alone in 2011.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most racial/ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics and Whites. For Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders and American Indians or Alaska Natives, heart disease is second only to cancer.Heart Disease Scope and Impact Photo
  • Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing nearly 380,000 people annually.
  • In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Every 60 seconds, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.
  • About 720,000 people in the U.S. suffer heart attacks each year. Of these, 515,000 are a first heart attack and 205,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
  • In 2011, about 326,200 people experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States. Of those treated by emergency medical services, 10.6 percent survived. Of the 19,300 bystander-witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the same year, 31.4 percent survived.
  • Direct and indirect costs of heart disease total more than $320.1 billion. That includes health expenditures and lost productivity.

Women & Heart Disease 1

  • Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
  • While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.
  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • Only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
  • An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood.
Women and men are not the same when it comes to heart disease.  Visit the Information on Women and Heart Disease page of our blog to learn more.

1. Sources: – Heart Disease Facts
American Heart Association – 2015 Heart Disease and Stroke Update, compiled by AHA, CDC, NIH and other governmental sources

How to Reduce Your Risk

  1. Choose a Heart Healthy Lifestyle.
    • Engage in regular moderate aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week or more vigorous workouts at least 20 minutes three times a week.
    • Adopt a diet low in salt, saturated and transfats and high in unsaturated fats (fish, avocado, etc.) like the Mediterranean Diet.
    • Maintain a normal body weight with caloric adjustment.
    • Take fish oil supplements.
    • Avoid smoking and recreational drug use.
    • Imbibe no more than ½ to 1 alcoholic beverage per day.

  1. Know and review your risk factors with a trusted physician.
  2. Your physician may recommend medications to control cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes.
  3. High-risk individuals should consider taking a daily aspirin.
  4. Avoid hormone replacement unless you have severe menopausal symptoms.
  5. In selected cases, it may be necessary to conduct non-invasive or even invasive tests to determine the nature and severity of the heart disease.
  6. Sometimes angioplasty/stenting or even bypass surgery may be needed if you have severe and symptomatic arterial blockage.
  7. Learn CPR.
  8. And as Dr. P.K. Shah always recommends, CHOOSE YOUR PARENTS WISELY!

Common Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Heart disease can occur at any age. However, four out of five people who die from coronary heart disease are aged 65 or older. The risk of stroke doubles with each decade after the age of 55.
Men and women are equally at risk for heart disease, but women tend to get coronary artery disease an average of 10 years later than men. The risk for women increases as they approach menopause and continues to rise as they get older. Death rates from heart disease and stroke for women are twice as high as those for all forms of cancer.
Family History (Heredity)
Presence of heart disease in a parent or sibling, especially at a young age, increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Smokers are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks as non-smokers, and they are more likely to die as a result. Smoking is also linked to increased risk of stroke.  The nicotine and carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke damages the cardiovascular system. Passive smoking may also be a danger. 46 million Americans (25 million men and 21 million women) smoke.  Women who smoke and take the oral contraceptive pill are at particularly high risk of heart disease and stroke.
The higher the blood cholesterol level, the higher the risk of coronary heart disease, particularly if it is combined with any of the other risk factors. Diet is one cause of high cholesterol – others are age, sex and family history. High levels (over 100 mg/dl) of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad cholesterol”, are dangerous, and low levels (under 40 mg/dl in men and under 55 mg/dl in women) of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good cholesterol”, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. High levels (over 150 mg/dl) of triglycerides (another type of fat), in some, may also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Nearly 40 million Americans have high cholesterol levels.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (over 140/90 mmHg and over 130/80 mmHg in diabetics) increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, and kidney damage. When combined with obesity, smoking, high cholesterol or diabetes, the risk increases several times. High blood pressure can be a problem in women who are pregnant or are taking high-dose types of oral contraceptive pill. 72 million Americans over age 20 have high blood pressure.
Physical Inactivity
Failure to exercise (walking or doing other moderate activities for at least 30 minutes five days a week or more vigorous workouts at least 20 minutes three times a week) can contribute to an increased risk of coronary heart disease as physical activity helps control weight, cholesterol levels, diabetes and, in some cases, can help lower blood pressure.

People who are overweight are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, even if they have none of the other risk factors. Excess weight causes extra strain on the heart; influences blood pressure, cholesterol and levels of other blood fats – including triglycerides; and increases the risk of developing diabetes. 66% of Americans over age 20 are obese.
Small amount of regular alcohol consumption (1/2 to 1 drink per day for women and 1-2 drinks per day for men) can reduce risk of heart disease. However, drinking an average of more than one drink a day for women or more than two drinks a day for men increases the risk of heart disease and stroke because of the effect on blood pressure, weight and levels of triglycerides – a type of fat carried in the blood.  Binge drinking is particularly dangerous.
Drug Abuse
The use of certain drugs, particularly cocaine and amphetamines, has been linked to heart disease and stroke.  Cocaine can cause abnormal heartbeat which can be fatal while heroin and opiates can cause lung failure. Injecting drugs can cause an infection of the heart or blood vessels.
The condition seriously increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, even if glucose levels are under control. More than 80% of diabetes sufferers die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.
Previous Medical History
People who have had a previous heart attack or stroke are more likely than others to suffer further events.
Stress, Depression, Anger/Hostility
Stress, depression, and negative emotions have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.