Money, Health, and Other Things

Educational Blog in the Area of Family and Consumer Sciences for the Middle Peninsula


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Three Things to Know about Well Water

This week, we’ll discuss three things to know about well water:

1.  We’ve heard a lot about lead in drinking water in the last few years, but what you may not know is that it is incredibly rare for lead to be naturally found in groundwater. Instead, water that is either too low in pH and/or has other corrosive elements, is leaching lead from plumbing components. Water doesn’t have to be all that corrosive or acidic to leach metals from your plumbing either; it’s generally recommended that drinking water have a pH above 6.5 to prevent corrosion, which means regular rain water, for instance, is more than acidic enough to leach metals from your pipes! Now you may be thinking, ‘I don’t have an older home and I don’t have lead pipes, this shouldn’t be a concern for me.’ However, lead solder was allowed in homes until 1986, and “lead-free” brass fittings and fixtures could have up to 8% lead in them until 2014, when new regulations reduced the allowable level to 0.25%.

2.  There are quite a few different sources of potential contaminants to drinking water; surface contaminants could be getting into your drinking water, especially if the well head or grouting is not well maintained, metals could be leached from your plumbing, sodium may be added from your water softener, and many contaminants come naturally from the groundwater if they aren’t addressed with treatment devices.

3.  How often should you test your drinking water? Generally, it’s recommended to test for bacteria annually, and do more comprehensive tests every three years or so, including testing for pH, total dissolved solids and other local concerns. Testing is particularly important since some of the contaminants most detrimental to your health, like E. coli, nitrates, and lead, may be at high enough levels to cause serious health issues without you ever noticing a different smell, taste, or appearance.


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Ways to Prevent Exercise Burnout

Has COVID-19 made your workout plan a thing of the past? Were you looking to lose weight during the summer, but instead lost your motivation? Here are some quick tips to prevent exercise burnout!

1. Add variety – for some people, doing the same exercise over and over and over can get old, fast. Switch up workouts and try something new, do your current exercise in a new location, or start doing your exercise with a new workout buddy, socially distanced of course!

2. Make it fun – dance, listen to music or books on tape, put the exercise bike in front of your TV during your favorite show, look for active events like biking groups, and find ways to make your exercises and workouts more enjoyable!

3. Challenge yourself – it can be easy to get stuck in a rut and only do the minimal amount of exercise. Add more steps or time to your exercises as you progress, or train for a run or a walk-a-thon. Create some challenging, measurable, and increasing goals to improve your health!

If you’d like a new, team-based challenge, consider joining Fit-Ex, an 8-week, team-based health program designed to increase physical activity and improve eating habits. For the Middle Peninsula, FitEx begins October 11th and goes through December 5th, with registration opening October 1st, at just $2 per person. To participate, you’ll need to form a team of six, designate a team captain, and create an 8-week personal goal. For more information visit www.fit-ex.org, and feel free to contact me at gjsturm@vt.edu or 804-815-9458.


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No Bones About It – Osteoporosis and Calcium, Part II

This week we’ll wrap up our two-part discussion on osteoporosis and calcium and delve a little deeper into calcium intake.

What is calcium? Calcium is a vital mineral we get from food sources that not only helps with bone strength and longevity of bone density, but also aids with muscle contractions, regulates heart rate, helps nerve functions, and helps with blood clotting.

Where can we get calcium? One of the best sources is low-fat or non-fat diary products. Other sources include dark leafy greens, certain fish like sardines, beans, soy products, and other foods fortified with calcium.

How much calcium do we need? For most adults, the recommendation is to consume at least 1000 milligrams of calcium a day. For women over 50 and men over 70, that recommendation goes up to 1200 milligrams per day. To give you a general idea of how much that is, a glass of milk has roughly 300 milligrams of calcium. If you’re unable to get enough calcium from your diet, consult with a doctor or dietitian about boosting your calcium intake with supplements.

Keep in mind, there are a number of nutrients that can influence calcium absorption. Vitamin D is critical for calcium absorption, while excessive sodium consumption may hamper it. Additionally, certain compounds found in food, like oxalates, may inhibit calcium absorption, which is why the calcium in spinach, for example, is not as readily absorbed as calcium in dairy products. Calcium can also negatively affect the absorption of other nutrients as well, namely iron, which is why you should not take calcium and iron supplements at the same time.

While calcium intake is critical, don’t forget about what you learned in part I – strength training, moderate-impact cardio, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use are also important factors for maintaining good bone health!


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No Bones About It – Osteoporosis and Calcium, Part I

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be discussing osteoporosis and calcium – what they are, what are the risk factors for osteoporosis, and in addition to calcium intake, how can we reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

So, what is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, resulting in an increased risk of bone fractures, and may be accompanied by a stooped posture, loss of height, and back pain.

What are the risk factors? There are a number of uncontrollable risk factors related to osteoporosis, including age, sex, race, and family history. As we age, the risks of osteoporosis increases. Additionally, women, those of white or Asian descent, and those with a family history of osteoporosis are also at a greater risk. Hormones can also play a role – women with reduced estrogen levels and men with lower testosterone levels are at a higher risk of accelerated bone loss. A number of medical conditions have been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis as well, including Celiac disease, kidney or liver disease, and cancer.

There are quite a few controllable risk factors as well. This includes a sedentary lifestyle – those who spend a considerable amount of time sitting and rarely doing strength and/or moderate impact exercises are at a much higher risk of osteoporosis. Excessive alcohol consumption is another controllable risk factor; more than two alcoholic drinks a day has been linked to accelerated bone loss. Tobacco use can be problematic as well. While the exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis is not clear, several research studies have identified smoking as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone fractures.

The final controllable risk factor we’ll talk about is inadequate calcium intake, which we’ll discuss more next week!


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What are Periodic Expenses and How can they Wreck your Spending Plan?

This week, we’ll talk about periodic expenses, discussing what they are, how they can mess up your spending plan, and how to adjust your spending plan with these expenses in mind.

 

First thing, what are periodic expenses? Periodic expenses, also known as irregular, seasonal, or occasional expenses, are expenses that occur just a few times a year and are often overlooked when developing a spending plan. Some examples include personal property taxes, certain insurance plans with annual or semi-annual premium payments, gifts, birthday expenses, holiday expenses, school expenses, home furnishings, repairs, auto licenses and inspections, home warranty plans, and vacations and trips to name a few. These have a way of really throwing off your month-to-month spending plans if not adjusted for. Let’s say your monthly fixed and flexible spending is typically $3000 a month. However, in August you have about $400 in back to school expenses, as well as $200 for a birthday, and $600 for a home warranty annual premium. Then in December, you have $500 for holiday expenses, $100 for personal property taxes, $200 for another birthday, and another $400 for an annual insurance premium. All of a sudden you have two months that are measurably different than the rest, creating potential challenges towards having the funds to cover those two months.

So how do we adjust for this? One way is to create a reserve fund. To do this, we’ll total all of our periodic expenses for the year, divide by 12, and save that much each month. Going back to our previous example, we’ll add up the $400 for the back to school expenses, $400 for the two birthdays, $500 for the holiday expenses, $600 home warranty annual premium, $100 for personal property taxes, and the $400 for the annual insurance premium, totaling $2400. Divided by 12, we’ll save $200 a month, much more reasonable than coming up with $1200 in August or December. Keep in mind, this reserve fund savings should be separate from savings plans you’ve developed for other financial goals. You can also keep track of your reserve fund by creating a simple table, each month tracking how much you spent on periodic expenses, how much you saved for periodic expenses, and your balance.