Dark Chocolate is Heart Healthy

If you are looking for a good excuse to indulge in a little sweet treat but not totally fall off the wagon, have some dark chocolate.  A small dark chocolate candy bar, or about half of one full size candy bar a day is actually good for you!  The reason for this is that dark chocolate has a high cocoa content and cocoa is loaded with epicatechin. Epicatechin is a particularly active member of a group of compounds called plant flavonoids.

Flavonoids are found in dark leafy vegetables and contain antioxidants which protect the body from free radicals that can cause damage to the heart  and help reduce blood pressure.   Since cocoa beans are plant based, they have many of the same benefits of dark leafy vegetables.  Antioxidants scavenge the free-radicals that are responsible for oxidative damage.  In fact, dark chocolate contains nearly 8 times the number of antioxidants and flavonoids found in strawberries!

Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent.  LDL cholesterol refers to low density lipoprotein cholesterol. When your blood is checked for cholesterol, the doctors will be looking at both HDL - the good cholesterol and LDL -the bad cholesterol.   Too much LDL in your blood can build up in the arteries.

However, not all chocolate is created equal.  Dark chocolate contains a lot more cocoa than other forms of chocolate like white or milk chocolate.   Standard manufacturing can destroy up to half of the flavoniods, so you want to make sure you buy high quality chocolate and read the lable.  The higher the cocoa content, the healthier it is.  In fact, why not take an international cocoa plantation tour to find the best cocoa in central and south America.

In Ticul, Mexico, there is a relatively new chocolate plantation.  The plantation is relatively new because the plantation is only 5 years old and it takes 10 years for a cocoa plant to reach maturation.  However, with tender loving care, most cocoa trees begin to bear fruit in the fifth year, although some cocoa trees can yield pods in the third and forth years.   A cocoa tree reaches peek production in about 10 years and can continue to produce pods for up to 30-40 years.    At the plantation in Ticul, the seedlings and plants are sheltered by other trees, like banana, plantain, coconuts or hardwood trees to protect them from the wind and sun.  Plantation farmers in Ticul care for the cocoa plants and other plants very carefully and the plantation is thriving.

When you are travelling internationally to find the best cocoa beans and dark chocolate, make sure you have international health insurance.  Your domestic carrier does not cover you outside the border, so purchase some travel insurance to ensure your trip is safe and sweet!







Four Major Advantages of Purchasing ExPat Health Insurance

Expat health insurance features four major advantages over domestic coverage:   Worldwide coverage no matter where you travel; local billing networks; medical evacuation options should you be injured or become seriously ill abroad; it’s less expensive.

Worldwide Coverage

American Insurance for ExPats offers long term, permanent health insurance as well as short term travel insurance that will follow you where ever you go.  If you are traveling to multiple countries in one year, or even in one trip, this insurance goes with you.  Multi-lingual customer care representatives can work directly with your care provider, in their native language, to discuss treatment options and costs.  They are also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year so that no matter what time zone, form of currency or holiday schedule you happen to be in, a customer care professional is available.  Access to a customer care provider is available through phone, email, chat or fax.

Local Billing

Depending on the care provider you go to, some will work directly with the insurance provider, but if they are a more remote care provider, they may only accept payment at time of service.  This can be the case internationally and the insurance underwriter is familiar with this.  They will reimburse all charges associated with care.  All claim forms can be accessed on line so submission of claims is simple as long as you have access to internet, email or fax within 60 days of treatment.  Reimbursement is usually about 10 business days.

Medical Evacuation

No matter which long term health insurance plan you choose, Silver to Platinum, medical evacuation is a benefit.  Coverage is available from $50,000 per period of coverage - not subject to deductible or coinsurance - up to maximum limit, not subject to deductible or coinsurance.  In worst case scenarios,  return of mortal remains are included with coverage from $25,000.00 - $50,000.00.

However, if you are going to be traveling to a very remote location, you may want to consider purchasing a more robust medical evacuation service like MASA.  MASA stands for Medical Air Services Assistance, and they specialize in emergency evacuations from remote locations.  MASA addresses medical emergencies, in and out of the United States.  MASA is not a health insurance agency, so no physical or underwriting is required.  MASA delivers emergency air transportation and will fly spouses, friends or family members with the patient from the disaster point to the hospital and back home, or from home to visit the patient during the hospital stay.  They will also return vehicles, minor children, grandchildren and return of mortal remains.

Coverage Is Less Expensive Outside the U.S.

International health insurance is lower than health coverage at home because the claims are less expensive outside of the United States.   A doctor’s visit in the U.S. will run you $150 on average but a doctor’s visit in Venezuela or Mexico is about $30 to $40.   A private hospital room is about $300 in South America, but in the U.S., even a semiprivate room can run much higher.

Saving thousands of dollars on your health insurance is appealing to most expats, another perk of living outside the U.S. at least 6 months of the year along with the excitement of travel.   Some expats want the option of being able to seek medical care in the United States.  The American Insurance for Expats policy allows you to include or exclude U.S. coverage and premiums are lower if you take the exclusion.

Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap

It’s officially summer and the warm weather has us all begging to be outside.  However, you don’t have to be sunbathing on a tropical beach to get too much sun, even 10 minutes of unprotected exposure to sunlight can result in a sunburn.  Activities that may give you 10 minutes or more of sunlight are dining on an outdoor patio, watching your children’s soccer game, shopping in an outdoor mall, or standing outside talking to your neighbor.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States but luckily, is actually one of the most preventable forms of cancer too.   Although most skin cancer’s are formed in our early years, it’s never too late to take care of your skin.

To help prevent skin cancer’s from forming this summer,  The American Cancer Society started an awareness campaign by promoting the slogan “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap”.

“Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap”  is a catch phrase that reminds people of the 4 key ways they can protect themselves from UV radiation:

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slop on sunscreen
  • Slap on a hat
  • Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes

Along with the helpful tips above, limit the amount of time spent in direct sun when the sun’s rays are most intense, generally from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  If you are going to be outside during these hours, make sure you use all of the helpful suggestions above for proper protection.

When traveling this summer, if you are actually lucky enough to end up sunbathing on a tropical beach, you may forget a lot of things, but don’t forget your sun protection.  Make sure you also have plenty of medical travel insurance coverage in case of a medical emergency that could end up with a trip to a local hospital such as severe dehydration, food poisoning, sports injuries or auto accidents.

Most of all, have a happy and healthy summer playing outdoors!


Coconuts A Great Addition To Your Diet

Coconuts are full of nutrients that help stave off a number of health issues. If you are traveling abroad to an exotic location where coconuts are abundant, make sure you take advantage of this fruit’s healthy benefits. Coconuts are not only delicious, but they are good for you too.


For starters, coconut water is one of the best ways to rehydrate your body after a day in the sun as it is a natural isotonic beverage that helps carry other nutrients and oxygen to your cells. In fact, in times of famine and war, coconut water has been used as an intravenous fluid and saved many lives because it’s electrolyte (ionic mineral) content is so similar to human plasma. It’s the only natural substance that can be safely injected into the human blood stream!   However, drinking it is much more fun than injecting it.

Get Your Potassium

Coconut water also contains many nutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and enzymes. Coconut water is a good source of the major minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. It is particularly rich in potassium. In fact, a cup of coconut water contains more potassium than a banana and has less sodium than a sports drink, with no added sugar! Coconut water also contains a variety of trace elements such as zinc, selenium, iodine, sulfur, manganese, boron and molybdenum which are derived from volcanic soils and seawater, where the palms grow.

Reduce High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one of the primary risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke. Potassium and magnesium are known to help reduce high blood pressure, and in human studies, coconut water has been shown to be effective in
reducing high blood pressure and increase circulation. In fact, the evidence is so convincing that the FDA allows coconut water to carry the claim that it “may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.”

You can buy bottled coconut water but nothing is as healthy for you as the real thing, just like getting vitamins from food is the best way to get your vitamins. If you don’t happen to live in a tropical location where coconuts grow naturally, pick one up at your local health food store and enjoy the health benefits of coconuts.

If you are traveling out of the country, make sure you have adaquate international health insurance coverage.  You never know what can happen when you are miles from home indulging in all those yummy, healthy coconut drinks.

Re-Energize With Meditation

Meditation can help calm your mind and your nerves, however, sitting in meditation can be challenging.  While trying to clear your mind, you may feel anxious that you are not attending to your busy day.  Your mind may wander and your feet may fall asleep but with continued practice, meditation does get easier.  In fact, it can help re-focus your mind so that you process information more efficiently to make better decisions.
Meditation has both short and long term benefits to brain function by actually thickening the insula, the part of the brain that links the emotional center to the thinking center.  Meditators are more equipt to control their internal psychological
and physiological responses to stimulus, or the ‘fight or flight’ response, and are able to make better decisions in times of stress.
Yoga is a great warm up to meditation because exhausting your physical energy makes calming your mind a little easier.
Simple Strategy
In a quiet area, sit on the ground or floor in an upright, relaxed position.  Make sure that you have some padding below your ankles such as a towell or yoga mat.  Rest your hands on your knees.  Facing your palms up means you want to accept energy from the universe, facing your palms down means you do want to deflect outside energy.
Close your eyes, your mouth, and bring your attention to breathing through your nostrils.  Without breathing too deeply, focus on the sensation of pulling air into your lungs through your nostrils, and the cool air.  Maintain your attention to each breath.  If your attention wanders, notice the distraction, and bring your thoughts back to your breath.  As you practice this, you will notice that your ability to focus on your breath lengthens.  Eventually, you will be able to let go of even this thought.
Make Time To Practice
If possible, schedule in meditation just like any other appointment.  I am  a licensed international health insurance agent, living in Tulum, Mexico, who practices meditation twice a week, for 30 minutes each session.   I have a standing “appointment” every Tuesday and Thursday evening to meditate which helps me maintain my practice.

Plan C or Plan F For Your Medigap Coverage?

We all know that Medicare was never intended to pay for all of your medical expenses.  However, according to a recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services, Medicare Part A, B and D pays for a little less than half of the average medical costs for seniors age 65 and older.  For this reason, it is important to have supplemental insurance coverage.

On June 1, 2020, Medicare changed when the Federal government mandated states to force insurers to stop sales on the “old” plans and begin offering a new set of plans.  These new plans eliminate the plans that offered pharmacy protection which is now covered under Part D.  Before Part D, we had to look at the H, I, or J plan for medication coverage but is no longer the case.  The new plans feature certain cost sharing elements designed to lower premiums.  Some new plans also offer eye wear or hearing aid benefits as well.

With the new Part D for medication, subscribers can concentrate on the core benefits for Medicare supplements.  Today, Plan F is a very good value because it offers coverage for Medicare key gaps such as the 20% co-insurance, 15% allowable excess charges (amount providers can charge up to 15% higher than what Medicare allows) and the two deductibles (Part A and B).

The best value on the market tends to be the F plan and that is why 85% of Medicare supplement purchasers go that direction.

Difference Between Plan C and Plan F

Today, by law, a provider can charge up to 15% higher than the standard Medicare rate and still be considered participating.  This is a big deal for two reasons:   First, you do not want to pay 15% of a $100K hospital bill ($15,000). Secondly, as the Medicare program finds itself under more financial pressure, reimbursement to providers will be under pressure. This means that more providers will likely charge the excess in the future. This is the sole reason we recommend the F plan over the C plan. The C plan does not cover Excess where the F plan does cover Excess. For the small monthly premium difference between C or F, it makes sense to cover this potential amount.

Below are the eight gaps covered by Standardized Medicare Supplemental Insurance plans. 6 of these 8 gaps are covered by Medicare Supplement Plan F. The two gaps that aren’t covered (At Home Recovery and Preventative Care) are not covered by Medicare Insurance at all.

Covered by Medicare Supplemental Plan F

1) Basic Benefits:

  • Part B Coinsurance (Generally 20% of outpatient expenses)
  • Hospital Coinsurance
  • 365 Additional Days Hospitilization Coverage
  • Blood Deductible Coverage

2) Skilled Nursing Coinsurance

3) Part A Deductible

4) Part B Deductible

5) Part B Excess

6) Limited Foreign Travel

Not Covered by Medicare Supplement Plan F

1) At Home Recovery

2) Preventative Care

Plan A Plan B Plan C Plan D F F* Plan G Plan K Plan L Plan M Plan N
Basic, including 100%
Part B co-insurance.
Basic, including 100%
Part B co-insurance.
Basic, including 100%
Part B co-insurance.
Basic, including 100%
Part B co-insurance.
Part B co-insurance.
including 100%
Part B co-insurance.
Hospitalization and preventative care paid at 100%; other basic benefits paid at 50% Hospitalization and preventative care paid at 100%; other basic benefits paid at 75% Basic, including 100%
Part B co-insurance.
Basic, including 100%
Part B co-insurance except**
Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance 50% Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance 75% Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance Skilled Nursing Facility Co-insurance
Part A Deductible Part A Deductible Part A Deductible Part A Deductible Part A Deductible 50% Part A Deductible 75% Part A Deductible 50% Part A Deductible Part A Deductible
Part B Deductible Part B Deductible
Part B Excess (100%) Part B Excess (100%)
Foreign Travel Emergency Foreign Travel Emergency Foreign Travel Emergency Foreign Travel Emergency Foreign Travel Emergency Foreign Travel Emergency
Out-of-Pocket limit at $4,620; paid at 100% after limit reached Out-of-Pocket limit at $2,310; paid at 100% after limit reached

*Plan F also has an option called a high deductible Plan F. This high deductible plan pays the same benefits as Plan F after one has paid a calendar year $2,000 deductible. Benefits from high deductible plan F will not begin until out-of-pocket expenses exceed $2,000. Out-of-pocket expenses for this deductible are expenses that would ordinarily be paid by the policy. These expenses include the Medicare deductibles for Part A and Part B, but do not include the plan’s separate foreign travel emergency deductible.
**Plan N includes Basic, including 100% Part B co-insurance, except up to $20 copayment for office visit, and up to $50 copayment for ER.

Foreign Travel

There is not a supplemental plan that offers more than 60 days of coverage outside the U.S., and the maximum benefit is $50,000.00 within that 60 days.  The supplemental plans that offer this limited foreign travel protection are C,D,F,G,M and N.

International Long Term Medical Insurance Options

If you are a senior that lives outside the U.S. for more than 6 months of the year, there is another option available to you.  Long term international health insurance acts as your Medicare Supplemental insurance but also covers you outside the U.S.

Global Medical Insurance offered by IMG covers you outside the U.S. and within the U.S.  To qualify, you have to live outside the U.S. at least 6 months out of the year.  You need to provide a foreign address but you do not need to own a home.  Renting is O.K.  If you have to submit a claim, your passport stamp is proof of your time outside the country.  Home ownership is not necessary.

When you are in the U.S., Medicare is your primary insurance provider, and your Global Medical Insurance is your secondary, or supplemental, provider.  Within the U.S., you have access to a P.P.O. network of doctors who accept Medicare.  Outside the country, you may seek treatment any where you need to in a foreign country.

When choosing between Medigap Plan C or Plan F, Plan F is the most comprehensive supplemental insurance available today if you live full time in the U.S.  International health insurance is another robust option for seniors that live outside the country for at least half of the year.

The Difference Between Unsaturated and Saturated Fats

At some point in our aging process, our cholesterol levels  come into consciousness.  The kind of fat we eat, and how often we eat it, plays a roll in controlling our cholesterol levels.   Some fats can raise cholesterol levels, while other fats lower cholesterol levels. The good news is that you do not have to cut fat out of your diet entirely.  Including fat in our diet is actually good for us as long we don’t over do it and we eat the correct types of fat.  Also, when traveling abroad, make sure you have good international medical coverage in case of an emergency.

Triglycerides, the main form of fat in our bodies and in our diet, provide us with energy, insulation, and protect our internal organs from damage as well as enable our bodies to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates. Triglycerides play an important part in our blood circulation.  However, when our triglyceride levels get too high, they can cause major health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and even cancer.  Saturated, Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats can raise or lower your triglyceride levels.

Saturated Fats

When you are reading food labels, you need to watch out for the three types of fats.  Saturated fats or trans fats are the worst for your body.   It is recommended that you limit your intake of saturated fat to 20 grams per day, which is met fairly quickly.  Some common foods that are high in saturated fats are straight butter, lard, shortening, cheese, processed meats such as sausage and bratwurst, and whip cream.  Watch out for boxed cereals and baked goods like packaged cookies, crackers, granola bars, breakfast bars and candy bars.

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats are better for you and help lower “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and leaves the “good cholesterol” (HDL) levels the same.  These are usually liquid at room temperature.   Some healthy foods that contain monounsaturated fats include vegetable oil, olives and olive oil, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, avocado and avocado oil, almonds and almond butter.  Monounsaturated fats are also typically high in vitamin E, a beneficial antioxidant vitamin.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats  lower both LDL and HDL levels.   They include essential fats that your body needs but can’t produce itself – such as omega-6 and omega-3.  These essential fats are only obtained through food. Omega-6 and omega-3 play a crucial role in brain function and in the normal growth and development of your body.  Foods high in polyunsaturated fat include a number of vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil and safflower oil, as well as fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.  Other sources include some nuts and seeds such as walnuts and sunflower seeds.

For a heart healthy diet, avoid foods with Saturated or trans fats.  Think natural foods rather than packaged, processed foods.  When you do your grocery shopping, try to primarily buy foods that are included on the perimeter of the store (fruits and vegetables, seafood, chicken, low fat dairy, soy) and limit the packaged, processed foods in the middle aisles.





Take Deep Breaths While Moving

Moving can be exciting and over-whelming at the same time.  Deciding which items to take with you, which ones to sell or donate, packing boxes, arranging for a truck and potentially a storage unit, while also juggling your change of address forms, work and maintaining some sort of family life, is a lot to juggle.  All this added stress can take a toll on your mind and your body.

When we have this kind of schedule on our plate, we can often forget to eat, let alone fit in exercise.  Existing on adrenaline, caffeine and take out is no way to live for long for as soon as the rush is over, and the adrenaline subsides, the aches and pains settle in.

When you are in the middle of a move abroad, try to keep the big picture in mind, and keep yourself organized with lists.  If things do not work out as planned today, add it to the list for tomorrow. Let’s face it, the list will never be completely crossed off so what was not accomplished today can be on the agenda for tomorrow.  The most important thing to take care of is your health during this time.

It is especially important to watch your diet during a move.  Try to cut out sugar and purchase healthy snacks that are easy to grab but nutritional.  Greek yogurt, almonds and almond butter, apples, cottage cheese, pre-cut veggies and bags of salad are some great, easy meals that include protien and nutrients.  To reduce caffeine, make sure you buy some bottles of mineral water that you can add a squeeze of lime to for a refreshing boost.

Getting to the gym may be a stretch during this time, but there are exercises you can do at home, for just minutes a day, that will help relieve tension and increase circulation.  While you are doing these quick exercises, take deep long breaths to further improve circulation and help clear your mind.

With a clear mind and relaxed body, you can look more clearly at your list, stay focused on important tasks, and sleep more soundly knowing you did the best you could do today.  Mañana is another day!