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Savvy Senior

High Blood Pressure: How to get it under control
By Jim Miller
Jul 12, 2007, 11:30

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Dear Savvy Senior
A while back I read an article about “home exchange” programs that offer free travel accommodations to their members. My wife and I will both be retiring soon and are interested in traveling, but also have a limited budget. What can you tell us about this option?  
Budget Travelers

Dear Travelers,
Home exchange programs have become a popular option among many retirees who like to travel, providing free accommodations in a homey setting, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s what you should know.
Free Vacation Lodging
In a home exchange program, you agree to swap homes with someone who is interested in visiting the area where you live. You stay in their place; they stay in yours, and no money is exchanged – it’s purely a barter system. The payoff comes in the opportunity to live like a local, have some extra space and save money.

All you need to do is list your home (photos included) on an exchange Web site for a modest fee. Then you e-mail the owners of houses you’re interested in – or they e-mail you – and you cut a deal. Perhaps you exchange cars too or agree to take care of each other’s pets.
Who would visit here?
Finding an exchange partner can be more difficult if you live in a remote area but it’s not impossible. Home exchange companies recommend focusing on your best assets. For example, if you live in an area that’s not an obvious tourist attraction, pitch the nearby destinations that are appealing.
Not For Everyone
While home exchanges have a great upside, they’re not for everyone. For starters, you have to feel comfortable opening your home and possessions to someone you’ve probably never met face-to-face. And keep in mind you’ll be staying in somebody else’s home, which is different from staying in an anonymous hotel room. Your fellow exchangers may have different standards of cleanliness or neatness from yours. And, there’s also the concern they might break or damage something while in your home or back out of the deal at the last minute.
Swapping Sites
While there are lots of online companies that provide home exchange services, here are some top sites that offer both U.S. and international listings:
•    HomeExchange ( Offers more than 16,000 listings in 100-plus countries. Listing and contact privileges cost $100 per year. Nonmembers can view listings for free.
•    HomeLink International ( Provides about 14,000 listings in around 70 countries. Yearly membership fee and Web access are $90. Add $50 to receive their annual printed directory.
•    Intervac ( Lists about 10,000 homes in more than 50 countries. Fees start at $65 a year for Web only, $110 for Web plus printed directory.
•    Digsville ( Has about 4,000 homes and apartments in 55 countries. Annual fee is $45.
•    Seniors Home Exchange ( The only home exchange service exclusive to the over 50 age group. They offer around 2,500 home listings in more than 40 countries. Fees are $79 for three-years or $100 for a lifetime membership.
•    Craigslist ( This isn’t a home exchange site but it does offer a house-swap section and it’s free.
House Sitting
If you don’t like the house swapping concept another option is house sitting. This is where you live in someone else’s home while they’re away. In exchange for the free accommodations, you take care of certain responsibilities such as their pets, lawn, mail, etc. To find these worldwide opportunities visit which posts more than 1,000 house-sitting openings per year, ($30 annual fee to see listings). Also check out, and

Evergreen Club
If you like staying in bed-and-breakfasts and have a spare bedroom yourself, consider the Evergreen Club ( This is network of more than 2,000 club members (age 50 and older) who agree to play host to each other for short stays. For a modest gratuity of $15 a day for two ($10 for singles) you can stay in a host guest bedroom with breakfast. Annual club dues are $60 ($75 for married couples). Guests make arrangements directly with hosts, and you’re free to turn down inquires anytime you choose.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.

Dear Savvy Senior,
My 60-year-old husband who has high blood pressure takes his medication as prescribed but can never seem to get it under control. He is however a little overweight and doesn’t exercise like he should, but we thought the medication was supposed to resolve the problem. What can you tell us?
Worried Wife,

Dear Worried,
Many people with high blood pressure think that taking their medication is enough to get their condition under control – ignoring important lifestyle changes – but it doesn’t usually work. Here’s what you should know.

Out of Control
A recent study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while most Americans with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) are taking some steps to combat their condition, only 30 percent actually have it under control. That means the 70 percent of adults with high blood pressure need to do more to bring those levels down, including changing their diet, exercising, as well as sticking to their prescribed drug regimens. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and even blindness.

What To Do
High blood pressure can almost always be controlled, but it’s not always as easy as just popping a pill. Here are some healthy suggestions that can help:
•    Eat smart: A healthy diet can lower hypertension 10 to 20 points. A diet for better blood pressure emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts. The DASH eating plan, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” is a great guide to help you get started. See - click on “Prevention” then “Healthy Eating.”
•    Control your weight: If you’re overweight, losing even 5 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
•    Get moving: Regular exercise can lower blood pressure by 10 points, prevent the onset of high blood pressure, or let you reduce your dosage of blood pressure medications.
•    Don’t smoke: Smoking a cigarette can cause a 20-point spike in systolic blood pressure.
•    Drink alcohol in moderation: Going beyond a drink a day can contribute to higher blood pressure.
•    Shake up your salts: Too much sodium and too little potassium can boost blood pressure. Aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, and at least 4,700 mg of potassium from fruits and vegetables.
•    Sleep is good: Too little sleep can contribute to high blood pressure. Get at least six hours a night.
•    Reduce stress. Mental and emotional stress can raise blood pressure. Meditation and deep breathing can lower it. A tool that can help is Resperate ( This is a non-drug, over-the-counter, portable electronic device that uses rhythmic tones to slow your breathing pace which helps lower blood pressure. It really does works and costs $299.
•    Stick with your medications: If your doctor has you on high blood pressure medication, taking it as prescribed can keep you from having a stroke or heart attack.

Get Checked
The tricky thing about high blood pressure is that it usually causes no outward symptoms. In fact, nearly one-third of the 65 million Americans that have it don’t even know it. The only way to know for sure is to have your blood pressure checked by your doctor. If you find you have hypertension or prehypertension, consider buying a home blood pressure unit to monitor your blood pressure between doctor’s visits. They cost around $100.

What’s Too High?
High blood pressure is defined as 140/90 or higher. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89, you have prehypertension, which means you may be at risk for developing high blood pressure in the future. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80.

Savvy Note: A common problem for many seniors is that the first number in their blood pressure reading (systolic) is often high (greater than 140), but the second number (diastolic) is normal (less than 90). This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension and should be treated in the same way as regular high blood pressure.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.

Dear Savvy Senior
Do you have any tips for seniors who want or need to downsize to a smaller home but need help moving? The idea of packing and moving from my home of 45 years is overwhelming me. Any suggestions?
Stressed-out Sandy

Dear Sandy,
Any move is stressful, and moving from a long-time residence is even more so. The idea of actually sorting through decade’s worth of stuff can be terribly daunting. But today, there’s a new kind of moving service that can make downsizing and relocating a lot easier. Here’s what you should know. 

Hassle-Free Moving
There’s a growing new industry called “senior move managers” that specialize in assisting older adults and their families with the emotional, physical and organizational aspects of relocation. These are professionals who understand how difficult it can be to move from a long-time residence and can make the move easier and less stressful. Although services will vary, most senior move managers can help with some or all of the following:
•    Setting up a time-line and comprehensive plan for your move.
•    Locating and overseeing a mover.
•    Drawing up a scale-model floor plan of your new residence.
•    Creating scale-models of your furniture to help you plan your space.
•    Helping you sort through your possessions.
•    Packing those items to be moved.
•    Arranging for the disposal of unwanted items (donations, estate sales, etc.)
•    Unpacking and organize your new home.
•    Helping you prepare your home for sale.

Note: Costs vary depending on the services and size of the move, but you can expect to pay somewhere around $1,000 to $3,000, not including the cost of movers.

To locate a senior move manager visit the National Association of Senior Move Managers Web site at But before you hire one, be sure you ask for references from previous clients and check them. Also find out how many moves they have actually managed, and get a written list of services and fees. And make sure they’re insured and bonded.

If you can’t find a senior move manager in your area, another option is to hire a certified professional organizer – many of whom offer moving/relocating services for seniors. To find one, check out the National Association of Professional Organizers at

Hiring a Mover
If you don’t have any luck locating a senior move or organizing professional, or you don’t need this type of service you’ll probably still need to hire a mover (see But before handing your money and your hard-earned possessions over to just anyone, it’s smart to do a little research. Here are some tips to help you hire the right mover.

Start by getting recommendations for movers from family and friends. Real estate agents are also a good source. Look for companies that will offer you estimates in person – these are the only ones that will give you a reliable figure.

Once you have a few options, conduct a background check starting with the Better Business Bureau ( Also see and, which provide blacklists of moving companies and a history of consumer complaints.

Next, get several in-home estimates, and ask for a written, binding estimate, which guarantees the total cost of the move based on the weight of the items to be moved, the distance to be moved, packing, and other services. When an estimator comes to your home, be sure you show everything you want to have moved (the closets, the backyard, the basement, the attic) so there are no surprises. Also, find out what the mover’s responsibilities are for damages that may occur to your belongings, ask for a list of references, and get the company’s USDOT and motor carrier license numbers.

If one company offers a much lower bid than the others, it’s smart to be skeptical. Once you choose a company, make sure it has the license and insurance it needs to move you legally. Visit and enter the company’s USDOT number to check. You can also call the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hotline at 888-368-7238 to check if there have been any complaints filed against your company.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.

Dear Savvy Senior,
I recently read an article about some new devices that allow you to send e-mails and pictures to people who don’t have a computer. How is this possible? My 73-year-old “technology phobic” grandmother doesn’t have a home computer or the ability to use one, but would love to get regular e-mails and pictures from her grandkids. Do you know anything about these products and where can I find them?
Seeking Solutions

Dear Seeking
There are actually several products on the market that can help seniors join the computer age – without a computer. Here’s what you should know.
While seniors age 65 and older make up the fastest growing group of computer and Internet users in the U.S., they still lag way behind the younger generations. Currently 33 percent of seniors go online, compared to 70 percent of 50 to 64-year-olds, and 82 percent of those ages 30 to 49.
No Computer? No Problem
Looking to reach-out electronically to your computer-less grandmother? Take a gander at Celery! This is a unique service that will give your grandmother the ability to actually receive e-mails, pictures and documents, as well as send handwritten letters as e-mails, all without a computer. It uses a color fax/printer connected to a standard phone line instead of a computer, and it’s simple to use.

How does it work? To send an e-mail to a Celery is just like sending one to any other e-mail address (you choose a Celery e-mail when you signup – for example After you send grandma an e-mail, Celery calls her announcing she has a message being sent, and is automatically printed out on paper. Then to reply, she simply handwrites a letter putting your name in block print at the top. She then places the letter into her Celery, pushes two buttons and the letter is sent to your e-mail address as an image document. The system use handwriting-recognition software to match your name to an e-mail address stored in her Celery address book. And to eliminate spam, Celery only delivers messages from people you allow. The cost for this system is $99 for the fax/printer machine, plus a monthly service fee of about $14 or 140 per year. Visit or call 866-692-3537.
Another neat device you should checkout is the Presto (, 866-428-0970). It’s similar to the Celery, where your grandma can receive printed e-mails, photos and even newsletters without a computer, but the drawback is it doesn’t offer a way to respond, unless you do it the old fashioned way – by telephone. Presto works using a special Hewlett-Packard printer called the Printing Mailbox which cost $150, plus a service fee of $10 per month or $100 per year.

TV Connection
The GrandCare communication system (, 262-338-6147) is another unique way to stay connected. This system differs from the Celery and Presto because it lets you send e-mails, pictures, video clips, calendar appointments and more directly to your grandma’s home television set, which she can see anytime. The only thing she needs to do is turn on her TV, and turn to the GrandCare dedicated channel. This system works off a small computer that connects to her television and the Internet and cost $1,295, plus a $13 monthly service fee. To send messages, pictures, etc. you simply log on to the GrandCare Web site and e-mail her anytime you choose.

Picture Perfect
If sending pictures is a priority check out is the Ceiva ( or 877-692-3482). This is a digital picture sharing device that allows you to send pictures from your computer or camera phone directly to a high-tech picture frame, that can sit anywhere in your grandmother’s home. She can enjoy a slide show of pictures anytime, and you can even send a short message along if you choose to. The picture frame uses a standard phone line that silently dials a local number to automatically pick up and display any new photos that were sent that day. The Ceiva starts at $150 plus a $10 monthly subscription fee or $100 per year.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.

Savvy Senior
Online Health Information: How to find reliable resources
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you give me some pointers for finding reliable health information on the Internet? With so much information out there I’m not sure where to turn or who to trust. What can you tell me?
Surfing at 70

Dear Surfing,
You’re wise not to believe everything you read, especially when it comes to health-related information on the World Wide Web. Here’s what you should know.

Credible or Quackery
The Internet is a wonderful resource for finding health-related information, but with so many different Web sites and so much information available today, how can you know what you’re finding is credible? As a rule, health-related sites sponsored by the U.S. government, not-for-profit health or medical organizations, and university medical centers make up the most reliable sources of health information on the Web. On the other hand, sites offering health information that are supported by for-profit companies, such as drug or insurance companies (who may be trying to sell you their products) may not be your best option. To find out who’s sponsoring a site and where the information came from, click on the “About Us” tab on the site’s home page. You can also look for the red and blue “HON” seal at the bottom of each page, which means that the site met certain standards set by the Health On the Net Foundation. However, there are many good sites that don’t have this seal. 

Also be aware that good health and medical information changes all the time so check the date that information was published to make sure it’s current. And as always, use common sense and good judgment when evaluating online health information and remember to talk to your doctor about your findings.

Reliable Health Sites
Another way to insure you get dependable health information is to visit trusted Web sites. While there are dozens of good sites that provide quality information, here are four top-rated, general health sites that are also easy to navigate:
•    MedlinePlus ( This comprehensive health site brings together information from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and other government and health-related organizations. It provides easy-to-find information on more than 700 diseases and conditions. It also provides lists of hospitals and physicians, a medical encyclopedia and a medical dictionary, extensive information on prescription and nonprescription drugs and links to thousands of clinical trials at It also offers a senior specific health site ( that makes age-related health information easy to get.
•    Mayo Clinic ( Run by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, this site provides comprehensive information on a wide variety of diseases, conditions, treatments, drugs and supplements. It also offers a collection of informative health tools, including a symptom checker, health decision guides, self-assessments, interactive health calculators, slide shows, videos, up-to-date health news and more. And, on their “Ask a Specialist” page you can e-mail your health questions to a specialist in about 40 different areas.
•    WebMD ( A popular site that provides top quality health information and news in an easy-to-find format. It also provides a number of nifty bells and whistles, such as interactive checkups and a symptom checker. WebMD also offers information and tips on healthy living, health care services, prescription and over-the-counter medications and much more.
•    Healthline ( This is a unique site that works like a medical search engine providing articles and information from top health sites on the Web. On its home page, you can research almost any health topic or treatment using the search option, or you can choose among 200 disease-specific channels. Click on high blood pressure, for example, and you’ll be provided articles that have either appeared in peer-reviewed medical publications or have been written in simple language by one of 1,100 physicians, specialists and medical editors hired by Healthline.

Savvy Tips: The Medical Library Association offers a consumer’s list of 100 top health-related Web sites you can trust at And see Steve Case’s (American Online founder) massive new health site at

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.


© Copyright 2007 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

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