Blood pressure is an important marker of health and a home blood pressure monitor is a wonderful tool for ensuring your numbers stay in the healthy range. A home monitor may lead to savings in health care costs, because you may need fewer visits to the doctor’s office, and it has the advantage of eliminating “white coat hypertension,” the falsely high blood pressure readings that can occur due to the stress of being in the doctor’s office.
All blood pressure monitors have three key parts: the cuff, the gauge, and the stethoscope. On many models, the stethoscope is a built in sensor. Use this buying guide to find the right monitor to fit your health needs, lifestyle, and budget. As you choose a blood pressure monitor, keep the following in mind:
- If you have an abnormal heartbeat, home readings can be inaccurate. Talk to your doctor about whether this is a concern for you.
- Your health insurance may partially or fully cover the cost of a home blood pressure monitor. Call to find out before you purchase one.
- If your arm is smaller or larger than average, you may need a smaller or larger cuff. If you are unsure whether an arm cuff will fit, ask the pharmacist if you can try before buying.
What they are: With manual monitors, the user inflates the cuff around the arm and listens for the pulse through a stethoscope to determine blood pressure as the cuff deflates.
Why to buy: Once you master their use, manual monitors are accurate and less expensive than most automated models.
Things to consider: Manual monitors are more difficult to use than automated models, requiring more practice to learn or even another person to operate it.
What they are: These devices have built-in stethoscopes with readings displayed on a digital screen. With semi-automatic monitors, the user inflates the cuff, while fully automatic monitors inflate the cuff for you.
Why to buy: These monitors typically are more expensive than manual options, but may vary in price depending on features. If you are looking for the most accurate and easiest way to store and track blood pressure readings over time, these models are a good option.
Things to consider: If you’re more concerned about cost than ease of use, manual options may be a better choice.
What they are: These newer devices allow a smaller cuff to be placed on the wrist or on a finger, instead of on the upper arm.
Why to buy: Putting on and taking off these monitors is easier than manipulating an arm cuff.
Things to consider: Although they tend to fall in the same cost range as automatic arm monitors, these monitors tend to be less accurate and lead to more errors than arm cuff monitors.
What they are: Depending on your budget and health tracking needs, you may want to consider spending extra dollars to purchase a digital monitor with more advanced features, including memory to store readings over time and computer software to track and graph your readings on a computer or mobile device.
Why to buy: Advanced features allow you to track blood pressure over time. Along with a few observations and notes, this can help you uncover connections between your behaviors, such as what you’ve eaten or how much you’ve exercised, and your blood pressure readings. Understanding these connections can help you take positive, effective actions to improve your health.
Things to consider: Advanced features cost more and may take more time to learn how to use. Many come with good instructions but if you’re uncomfortable with computers you may find these features take significant effort to learn and use.
Heart rate monitors vary in size and function, but most are easy to use and provide valuable insights that support your exercise goals. For example, a heart rate monitor may help you stay in your target heart rate zone while exercising so you can safely focus on burning fat or improving your cardiovascular fitness. People with certain health conditions may use heart rate monitors to track their heart rate throughout the day and catch issues early. Heart rate monitors may also help keep exercise safe for people who, due to health conditions, should not exceed specific levels.
Remember to always consult a doctor before starting any exercise routine, particularly if you are overweight or managing health conditions.
What they are: Many heart rate monitors look and function similarly to a wristwatch. Simple heart rate monitors measure your pulse in beats per minute while advanced models keep a history of readings and track data like irregular heartbeats and average and maximum heart rates. Some monitors even offer display text in multiple languages including English, German, French, and Spanish.
Why to buy: Measuring your heart rate is important for getting the most out of your workouts, and can be especially important if you have heart health concerns. Most monitors save results by date and time, some for more than one user, and many have averaging functions so you get a feel for how your heart is doing over time.
Things to consider: Many heart rate monitors include a chest strap that sends a wireless signal to the monitor on your wrist. Other heart rate monitors attach to your wrist or finger where your pulse rate may be counted through the skin. While comfort is one consideration, keep in mind that some experts believe chest straps are most accurate. Check which types of batteries the monitor takes and make sure you can replace them yourself. Look for features such as power-saving modes and low-battery indicators.
What they are: Usually worn on your wrist or arm, all-in-one digital devices may measure heart rate, calories burned, number of steps taken, and more. Look for those that combine a heart rate monitor with other interesting tools, like GPS sports watches and mp3 players. Some monitors even interface with exercise equipment or computer software to give you more detail and allow the sharing of results with your doctor or personal trainer.
Why to buy: Multipurpose monitors provide a better overall picture of your health by tracking multiple factors in one place and cutting down on the number of different gadgets you need. Combining music with your workout makes it a lot more fun.
Things to consider: Make sure the monitor is easy for you to use—pay attention to the size of the screen and buttons, how easy it is to switch between operating modes, how long the battery lasts, and so forth. When using a device for multiple purposes, you may use power more quickly and have to replace or recharge batteries more often. Online user reviews can be helpful when choosing a device combined with a heart rate monitor.
What they are: Heart rate monitors are sometimes designed to meet other needs, such as water-resistant and waterproof models. There are even heart rate monitors for cyclists to attach to their bikes, which can record data such as bike speed, pedal rpms, and elevation as well.
Why to buy: If you’re going to wear your heart rate monitor outdoors in rain, snow, or other wet weather, look for ones rated as water resistant. If there’s a possibility your heart rate monitor will get submerged in water, even for a short time period, you’ll need one that’s waterproof.
Things to consider: There are varying degrees of “water resistant” depending on how much moisture exposure the device can handle, so read labels carefully and err on the side of caution.
What they are: Fingertip heart rate monitors—which measure your heart rate through the skin in a few short seconds—are rapidly growing in popularity.
Why to buy: They’re a portable, easy-to-use version of a heart rate monitor that you can carry in your pocket or purse and use on the go.
Things to consider: Some experts believe fingertip heart rate monitors are not as accurate as the chest strap versions. Many fingertip monitors are small, so make sure you can easily read the display screen and operate any buttons.
Incontinence is not a glamorous topic but it is a fact of life. The good news is there are plenty of products designed to minimize discomfort and embarrassment, and make accidents easy to clean. Keep incontinence from being a major burden on you and your loved ones with aids such as disposable undergarments, reusable mattress covers, and a variety of cleansing products.
Some bladder-control issues are related to a health condition and may be resolved with medical help—so talk with your doctor if you have ongoing issues and don’t know the underlying cause.
What they are: Protective underwear are disposable briefs and belted shields that can be comfortably worn under clothing in place of regular underwear. Depending on your needs, protective underwear and shields are available in different sizes and levels of absorbency.
Why to buy: Protective undergarments are your first line of defense for preventing accidents from soiling clothing and furniture. Protective underwear are absorbent and designed to contain messes for easier clean up.
Things to consider: You may need to try several styles and sizes to find ones that fit comfortably and provide adequate protection.
What they are: Pads and sanitary napkins are used for lining your underwear to provide protection from accidents. Protective pads are available in a variety of lengths and thicknesses, and have temporary adhesive to securely fasten to your underwear. Most pads come wrapped in a cloth-like pouch for discreet carrying and disposal.
Why to buy: Adult pads are an easy-to-use option for clothing protection that allows you to wear your own underwear. They’re designed to both contain the accident and lock in odors.
Things to consider: For men with bladder-control issues, look for pads with targeted absorbency in the front. There are also extra-absorbency pads for use at nighttime.
What they are: A wide assortment of both reusable and disposable mattress covers and absorbent underpads can help protect your bed and furniture from moisture and odors.
Why to buy: Mattress covers keep the bed sanitary and easy to clean. Disposable underpads are great for protecting mattresses, chairs, couches, and even wheelchair cushions from the occasional accident.
Things to consider: Look at how often you’ll need to replace or wash mattress covers and how easy it will be to do so. Decide whether bags or rubber containers are most appropriate for temporary disposal before soiled items go to the garbage or laundry. If you have sensitive skin, look at options with a moisture-wicking top layer to keep your skin dry.
What they are: There are antiseptic sprays, disposable cleaning wipes, and personal sanitizing wipes and washes to help you fight germs and bacteria. Most contain isopropyl alcohol to kill the majority of germs and bacteria. Personal creams are also available for skin irritations that may develop from wearing adult protective garments.
Why to buy: Personal washes, wipes, and sprays help you quickly and easily clean up from accidents. Creams help soothe and prevent chafed skin, rashes, and infections. Many caregivers and healthcare professionals are fans of personal cleansing wipes, which can be softer and easier to use than toilet paper.
Things to consider: Look for fragrance-free options if you’re dealing with sensitive skin.
People with a variety of medical conditions and illnesses can improve their health and quality of life through better nutrition. Medical nutrition therapy is an approach to managing health conditions and associated symptoms through a specifically tailored diet, usually monitored by a doctor or registered dietician.
Most nutrition products are purely for calorie and protein intake, including ones designed for people with diabetes, those recovering from weight-loss surgery, or people with chronic renal issues. Regardless of the cause, when you can’t eat a large amount you need to make every calorie count. Medical nutrition products are calorie dense, high in protein, and fortified with the nutrients your body needs. Thickened juices and water products may be more comfortable if you’re having difficulty swallowing. You can also find nutrition powders enhanced with ingredients for wound management or gastrointestinal support.
For many health conditions it’s also vital to support your immune system. Talk with your doctor about which nutrients are most important depending on your specific health needs.
What they are: Nutrition shakes are available ready-made in single-serving cans, cartons, and plastic bottles, and larger cartons with multiple servings. Nutrition powders may be mixed with water or milk before serving. Many ready-made shakes can be purchased in multipacks and cases, and are often available in vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate flavors. Most shakes have a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, plus a healthful mix of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, B complex, calcium, iron, and zinc. For people with renal issues, look for special products designed to meet your nutrition needs with low levels of potassium and phosphorus and no added sucrose or sugar alcohols. If recovering from weight-loss surgery, try calorie-dense nutrition shakes in small serving sizes (usually four ounces).
Why to buy: Nutrition shakes and powders are a convenient way to get a calorie-rich, highly nutritious meal or snack any time of the day. When using in place of a meal, look for formulas higher in protein so you feel full longer. Diets high in protein may help rebuild muscle and strength and give you more energy, which is especially helpful when recovering from surgery or a serious illness.
Things to consider: Most nutrition shakes do not contain milk and are suitable for people with lactose intolerance. You can also find gluten-free options. For people with diabetes, look for sugar-free formulas designed to help control blood sugar. Ready-made shakes are best when chilled and must be refrigerated once opened. Some people experience digestive issues following the consumption of whey protein powder or artificial sweeteners. People who are allergic to dairy products could react to whey protein and should avoid it. For children ages one to ten, look for kid-friendly nutrition shakes and powders.
What they are: Ready-to-serve thickened beverages are made of milk, water, or fruit juice and are commonly found in single-serving eight-ounce packages, available individually or by the case. Popular flavors include orange, apple, lemon, and cranberry. Thickened beverages are often fortified with vitamins A, C, D, zinc, and calcium, and are available in varying degrees of thickness: nectar-like, honey-like, or pudding consistency. You can also find unflavored thickening powders made of modified cornstarch, which you can use to thicken beverages and pureed foods at home. Pureed meats, vegetables, and other foods are also available in cans, ready to heat and eat.
Why to buy: For people with swallowing difficulties, thickened beverages and pureed foods are designed to be easier to swallow with less chance of choking. In addition to hydrating the body, thickened juices help prevent the aspiration of fluids and provide nutritional value through fortification with vitamins and minerals.
Things to consider: Swallowing problems should be diagnosed by a trained medical professional. For thickening powders, follow directions closely so you achieve the correct consistency.
What they are: Vitamin supplements—such as calcium, B-complex vitamins, and fiber—are available as tablets, capsules, powders, liquids, and even chewables to support your health.
Why to buy: Vitamin and mineral supplements are an easy way to add missing nutrients to your diet. Calcium is essential for bone health; fiber promotes bowel regularity and colon health. To help your body heal after injury or surgery, arginine- and glutamine-rich powders support tissue building when your body needs it the most. Glutamine has also been shown to help protect gastrointestinal health; and arginine products are often recommended for bed sores and burns. B-complex vitamins are essential for nervous system health and energy metabolism.
Things to consider: Talk with your doctor before adding supplements to your diet, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking medications. Most vitamins should be taken with food and water to avoid stomach upset and help your body best absorb the nutrients. Be sure to read product labels so you know exactly what you’re taking and how best to use it.
What they are: Nutrition bars and foods are packed with the vitamins, other nutrients, and calories you need for overall health and sustained energy. Nutrition bars are generally 1.5 to 2 ounces in size and available in a wide variety of forms and flavors, from simple protein bars to decadent cookies. Most come in multipacks of individually wrapped bars or snacks for easy access and transport.
Why to buy: Nutrition bars offer a convenient way to eat a well-rounded snack or meal since they’re fortified with nutrients to support overall health such as calcium, antioxidants, folic acid, and the vitamins A,C, and E. For digestive issues, try nutrition bars fortified with fiber. For people with diabetes, look for low-sugar nutrition bars designed to help with glucose control.
Things to consider: Keep nutrition bars in your purse or car for when you’re on the go and need a healthy snack or meal alternative. If you have heart health or diabetes concerns, look for low-sodium options and products without high fructose corn syrup. If you’re suffering from constipation, it’s generally recommended to avoid products high in iron.
Moving around can be a challenge when managing short- or long-term conditions. From ankle sprains to diabetes-related complications in the feet, whether you have temporary restrictions or you’re dealing with more permanent changes, mobility aids can enhance your independence and safety. If you plan to travel, keep that in mind when choosing mobility aids since you must balance the need for stability with other factors like ease of folding and weight.
What they are: Walkers are lightweight, easy-to-use mobility devices featuring two, three, or four wheels to provide moderate stability. Many walkers include places to easily attach baskets and caddies for carrying personal items. Gait trainers are similar to walkers, but are designed to promote correct posture and to assist with relearning proper walking gait and technique.
Why use them: When you are a little unsteady on your feet, a walker can be a big help. Some walkers include a built-in seat for when you need to rest. A physical or occupational therapist may recommend a gait trainer to help a child or adult improve their walking ability.
Things to consider: When selecting a walker or a gait trainer, the main features are height, adjustability, and stability. You should also consider how easily it folds up for storing and travel, the size and number of the wheels, and how easy it is to push. Keep in mind that most two-wheeled walkers work better on carpet if you add special gliding covers to the back feet. If you’re getting a walker for use after weight-loss surgery or are heavier than average, be sure to check the weight capacity.
What they are: Wheelchairs vary widely in terms of features and price, from lightweight transport chairs to electric scooters with all the bells and whistles. Transport or companion wheelchairs are compact and meant to be pushed by a caregiver so they feature four small wheels and easily fit in a car trunk. For more independence, look at electric wheelchairs and scooters.
Why use them: Wheelchairs provide a convenient way to move around if walking is difficult or impossible. The amount of time you’ll use the wheelchair greatly influences the type you need. When recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery, a basic wheelchair will usually do. For more permanent mobility changes, you’ll want to choose a comfortable chair with more features and options.
Things to consider: Factor in the size of the person using the chair (there are extra-wide/plus-size options), how much space it takes up for storage or travel, ease of brake operation, and comfort features such as padding and arm rests. Look at customizing options like gel cushions and adjustable footrests. Also look at temporary wheelchair ramps if you need to take the chair up and down stairs regularly. Keep in mind that electric wheelchairs and scooters are heavy and more difficult to transport, so you may want a standard or companion wheelchair for travel.
What they are: Canes are designed for use by one hand for mild stability support. Most canes are made of metal, wood, or plastic, and come in many different colors. Consider your height and whether the cane needs to be adjustable or foldable. You can also choose handle style—there are both round- and flat-top canes with varying degrees of padding.
Why use them: When you need minor stability support while walking, a cane is an affordable and easy-to-use option. Decide between a standard one-leg cane and the more stable quad cane with four feet, which can conveniently stand up on its own.
Things to consider: Look for a cane with a wrist strap, that way if you need to let go it won't fall to the ground. Some canes include a small flashlight stashed in the handle for easy access in a power outage.
What they are: An alternative to a walker, crutches provide moderate stability and support and are available in wood and lighter-weight aluminum. Standard crutches are positioned under the shoulders and have hand grips; another option is forearm crutches which have cuffs that wrap around the forearm and are helpful for people who do not have a strong grip.
Why use them: Crutches are lightweight and provide reliable support and weight balance when walking with an injury or disability. Many people find crutches easier to use than a walker when going up and down stairs.
Things to consider: The main features to keep in mind are comfort and size. Check for adequate padding on the shoulder, forearm, and hand rests. You can purchase accessories for crutches, such as enhanced shoulder, arm, or hand padding and floor tips for better traction. Choose crutches that work for your height and weight and are easily adjustable. Most crutches allow you to adjust the hand grips separately from the height of the crutches.
Your body uses pain to tell you something is wrong, but in many cases, the problem is minor and may be managed at home with the help of an over-the-counter pain reliever. However, not every pain reliever is right for every situation, and, like all medicines, they should be used with care. Use this quick guide to pick the one that can maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of using these products. As you choose an over-the-counter pain reliever, keep the following in mind:
- Talk to your doctor if you experience prolonged or severe pain; unchecked pain can signal something serious that requires medical care.
- Always compare ingredients to avoid accidentally taking two medications together that contain the same active ingredients.
- If you are treating several aches and pains at once, check with your doctor or pharmacist about which medications are okay to use together.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist how best to avoid mixing drugs that should not be combined, including combinations of over-the-counter and prescription medications.
What they are: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include aspirin and the non-aspirin medications ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins, substances made by the body that cause pain, inflammation, and fever.
Why to buy: NSAIDs relieve muscular and joint pain and may help manage menstrual cramps. Some people find them helpful for treating headaches, especially aspirin (see specialty pain relievers below for more information). NSAIDs may also lessen pain associated with colds, flu, and toothaches.
Things to consider: Non-aspirin NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) slightly increase the risk of heart attack, while aspirin decreases heart attack risk. If you have existing heart disease, or if you already take daily aspirin to lower heart attack risk, consult your doctor before using ibuprofen, naproxen, or additional aspirin. All NSAIDs may increase the risk of bleeding and may cause ulcers in some people. If you have a sensitive stomach, acetaminophen may be a better option.
Children and teens should not use aspirin or ibuprofen as it can lead to a rare, life-threatening reaction called Reye’s (pronounced “rise”) syndrome in these age groups.
What it is: Acetaminophen is a non-NSAID pain reliever and fever reducer that is believed to work by decreasing the body’s sensitivity to pain (in other words, by raising the pain threshold).
Why to buy: Acetaminophen is a fever reducer that may help manage many of the same pains as NSAIDs, including headaches, toothaches, muscular and joint pain, menstrual cramps, and painful cold and flu symptoms. Acetaminophen often is used instead of NSAIDs, because it is easier on the stomach, and is safe for use in children and teens.
Things to consider: Use as directed. Exceeding the recommended dosage can cause liver disease and even death. Use caution with acetaminophen and alcohol as this combination can harm the liver. Acetaminophen may not be right for people with liver disease or abnormal liver function.If in doubt, always consult your doctor.
What they are: Specialty pain relievers include those that contain NSAIDs or acetaminophen, plus other ingredients to treat a particular issue.
Why to buy: People use specialty pain relievers when they have a cold or flu, to help them sleep when they have pain, or to treat severe headaches such as migraines. The additional ingredients are targeted to the problem. For example, cold and flu products may contain pseudoephedrine, dextromethorphan, or guaifenesin, to manage sinus pain, cough, and congestion, respectively. Migraine formulas often contain aspirin, caffeine, and acetaminophen, a combination especially effective for headaches.
Things to consider: These products contain the same ingredients as regular pain relievers—either NSAIDs or acetaminophen—so apply the same cautions. Additionally, you may need to avoid other ingredients in these products. Consult your doctor if you are unsure.
Some specialty pain relievers are not safe for use in young children and those that contain aspirin always should be avoided. Ask your pediatrician or pharmacist if you need help selecting an appropriate product for your child.
What they are: “Topical” refers to pain relievers that are applied to the skin. They may contain NSAIDs like aspirin or diclofenac, or anaesthetic aromatic compounds like menthol and camphor. These aromatic compounds can be derived from plants but most commercial products contain synthetic versions. Menthol is derived from plants in the mint family and creates a cool sensation; camphor is derived primarily from the camphor laurel tree and may produce either warm or cool sensations. Some topical pain relievers combine menthol with methyl salicylate, an aromatic compound from wintergreen that is chemically similar to aspirin.
Why to buy: If you have pain over a small area, such as a muscle or joint, a topical pain reliever can deliver medicine straight to the area, without having to go through the digestive tract. This may bring faster relief, typically with fewer side effects.
Things to consider: If a topical pain reliever contains the same active ingredient as another medication you are using, such as aspirin, do not take the two products together. Pain relievers applied to the skin are still drugs and should be treated as such.The same cautions apply, such as avoiding topical aspirin if you already take daily aspirin or if you are at risk of bleeding or ulcers. Do not use aspirin-based topical pain relievers on children or teens without first checking with your doctor. If you choose a topical preparation with aromatic compounds, check to see if methyl salicylate or wintergreen oil is on the list of ingredients. Methyl salicylate overdose can occur if it is used over a large area of the body or very often. The risk of overdose is higher for babies and toddlers.
Walking is a fun and relatively easy way to get heart-healthy cardio while burning fat and calories. To maintain a healthy weight and stay active, try walking about 10,000 steps each day (approximately five miles). Do you want to lose a few extra pounds? Just step up the amount of walking each day. Whatever your goals, a pedometer is an easy way to keep track of your steps on the road to success.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you are overweight or managing a health condition.
What they are:A pedometer is a small device, usually worn on your belt or clipped to a pocket, which counts how many steps you take in a day. There are two types:
- Pendulum: Placement of a pendulum pedometer is vital for accuracy and they must remain in a vertical position on the hip or waist band.
- Piezoelectric accelerometers: These can be placed anywhere on the front of the body, and some can even be kept in a pocket or on a neck lanyard and still provide accurate step counts.
Most pedometers weigh only a few ounces and include a security strap to attach to clothing to prevent you from losing it.
Why to buy: Pedometers are an easy way to track your daily exercise and overall health. Beyond counting steps, many pedometers track the distance in miles, amount of time you’ve been active, and total calories burned.
Things to consider: When choosing a pedometer, consider the size of the display screen and the ease of reading results. Pendulum-style pedometers are generally less expensive than accelerometers, but the counting of incidental steps can be frustrating. Advantages of accelerometer pedometers are there are no moving parts and they remain silent as they record every step you take. Remember you’ll need to set your average step length or stride length in order for the pedometer to be accurate. Read the instructions on your pedometer carefully; most ask for the step length and explain how to measure it properly. Also note that some pedometers reset at midnight so you’re ready to go each morning, while others require you to manually reset them. Look at whether you need to change the batteries regularly or if it’s rechargeable through a USB connection to your computer.
What they are: Monitors that help you measure steps plus other tracking, such as heart rate, calories burned, and so on.
Why to buy: Pedometers with features that track heart rate and so on are handy for keeping an eye on your cardiovascular health, too. More advanced models include a memory function to save your accomplishments and some can upload data to a website, so you can easily track your results online and share with your doctors and friends.
Things to consider: When investing in tools to support your health goals, sometimes simplest is best, but other times it can be helpful to combine goals and look for a device that will give you other helpful information, such as heart rate or trackable online information.
Reading glasses do more than help you see better, they can help prevent eye strain and headaches, especially if you read or use a computer for extended periods. Consider owning multiple pairs for variety and to avoid wasting time looking for your glasses. Keep your reading glasses close by wearing them on a neck strap, and store them in an eyeglass case to protect them from damage. Eyeglass repair kits are handy when you need to replace a screw or make other small repairs.
If you have vision concerns, see an optometrist for an eye exam. It’s best to catch and correct vision issues early—preventing further decline and many eye-related discomforts.
What they are: Reading glasses can be bold and playful, serious and professional, or barely noticeable. With so many styles, colors, and brands of reading glasses to choose from, there's something for everyone. Some glasses cover your eyes entirely, others are “half-eye” lenses, that allow you to look down to read and to peer over the top to see farther away.
Why to buy: Choose reading glasses that are stylish and attractive so you’ll wear them often. Reading glasses that snap together in front using magnets and have an adjustable head strap are a good option if you regularly take your glasses on and off and don’t want to misplace them.
Things to consider: For long-term comfort, pay attention to how well the reading glasses rest on your ears and on the bridge of your nose. Trying to be a little greener? Purchase glasses made with recycled materials and be eco-friendly in style.
What they are: Reading glasses offer low magnifying power, generally between 1.00 and 2.50, for minor vision correction or enhancement.
Why to buy: Reading glasses give your eyes a little extra boost and help prevent eye strain and headaches, even if you have 20/20 vision. If you have a prescription, you can easily find the right strength reading glasses online and at most drug stores. Don’t have a prescription? Try on different pairs to find the right ones for your needs.
Things to consider: Some reading glasses are available with impact- and scratch-resistant lenses. For those days spent reading and relaxing in the sun, make sure you have glasses that block harmful UV rays and glare.
What they are: A variety of reading glasses and magnifying lenses are available with built-in reading lights. Most reading glasses with lights feature small LED bulbs at the corners of the frames near each temple.
Why to buy: The built-in lights provide focused illumination to make reading easier, especially in a dimly lit room or restaurant.
Things to consider: Try reading glasses on before buying to make sure you choose ones that aren’t too bulky or heavy on your face. Look at battery life and how easy it is to change them when the time comes. Also pay attention to how easy it is to turn the lights on and off.
Many things motivate people to quit tobacco: being a good role model, wanting to reduce others’ exposure to second hand smoke, saving money, and wanting to feel better and improve health. Whatever your reason, keep in mind that quitting cold turkey is the least successful method for kicking cigarettes for good. Fortunately, many over-the-counter and prescription quit aids have been developed that may significantly improve your odds of success. As you figure out which quit-smoking aids best meet your needs, keep the following in mind:
- Some treatments to stop smoking are covered by health insurance. Check with your carrier to see.
- Some products are available both over the counter (behind the pharmacy counter) and with a prescription. Ask your health insurance about whether you need a prescription for coverage or reimbursement.
- Try, try, and try again. People who successfully quit smoking rarely do so on the first attempt. If you’ve tried before without success, don’t be discouraged. Consider a different quit aid—the nicotine patch instead of gum, or adding in a prescription medication—and evaluate what worked and didn’t work to keep you on track during past attempts to quit.
- Start with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. They can offer invaluable advice and connect you with programs for people trying to quit, including support groups and other resources. Consider taking advantage of these supports, because most people do best when they combine quit-smoking products with behavior change programs.
- When selecting a product, consider your current medications and health conditions. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if unsure about whether any particular smoking cessation product is safe for you.
- Use nicotine replacement carefully and follow all package directions. Some people load up on patches, gum, and sprays yet continue to smoke at the same time. This can overload your system with nicotine, resulting in jitters, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and trouble sleeping. Some products can be used together, so ask your doctor or pharmacist what’s best for you.
What they are: Nicotine patches are similar to an adhesive bandage; you place one on your skin and it releases a constant amount of nicotine into the body while you wear it. They come in different sizes, with larger sizes delivering more nicotine.
Why to buy: Nicotine replacement patches are available over the counter or with a prescription, and typically cost less per day than a pack of cigarettes. Patches are convenient and easy to use and can be removed during sleep to lessen the likelihood of insomnia. Due to the constant, slow release of nicotine, you are not likely to develop a craving for a patch; it doesn’t provide the intense delivery of a cigarette.
Things to consider: Unlike smoking, which delivers a large dose of nicotine to your body within seconds, nicotine from a patch can take up to three hours to get into the body. For this reason, putting on a patch when a cigarette craving strikes is not effective. The nicotine patch reduces smoking withdrawal symptoms, such as lack of concentration and irritability.
What they are: Nicotine replacement gums are available over the counter or with a prescription and typically cost much less per day than a pack of cigarettes. Gum comes in different strengths to provide the amount of nicotine you need, based on your previous smoking habits.
Why to buy: Gums are relatively convenient and easy to use, although you must remember to keep yours with you, because it must be chewed frequently to deliver enough nicotine to manage cravings. Though it cannot get nicotine into your body quite as quickly as a cigarette, gum delivers nicotine within minutes, which is far faster than a patch.
Things to consider: Nicotine gum should not be used with cigarettes and you should not eat or drink for 15 minutes before or while using the gum. To chew enough gum to quell cravings, most people need between 15 and 30 pieces per day, chewed off and on for about 30 minutes. Nicotine gum should not be chewed continuously like regular gum and should never be swallowed. It is chewed a few times to break it down and then placed in between your gum and cheek for 10 or 15 minutes, chewed again for a bit, then put back into the cheek. Continuous chewing may cause stomachaches.
What they are: Nicotine replacement lozenges and lollipops are available over the counter or with a prescription. They may cost a bit more than patches or gum, but typically less than a pack of cigarettes. Lozenges and lollipops come in different strengths to provide the amount of nicotine you need, based on your previous smoking habits.
Why to buy: Some people don’t like to chew gum and prefer sucking on a candy to replace nicotine when quitting smoking. These products are relatively convenient, but you must remember to keep them on hand to use throughout the day. Lozenges and lollipops deliver nicotine within a few minutes, similar to gum.
Things to consider: Nicotine lozenges and lollipops should not be used with cigarettes and you should not eat or drink for 15 minutes before or while they are in your mouth. Nicotine lozenges and lollipops should not be chewed or swallowed as this can lead to heartburn and stomachaches. Some people find these products irritate the mouth and throat.
What they are: These products deliver nicotine through a spray into the nose or are inhaled through the mouth. They are available by prescription only.
Why to buy: Nicotine nasal sprays and inhalers deliver nicotine as quickly as a cigarette, making them particularly helpful for people who are highly dependent on tobacco. For the person who smokes more than a pack of cigarettes per day, these products may be very effective.
Things to consider: You need a prescription to obtain a nicotine spray or inhaler. Sprays cost about the same as gums and patches, but inhalers can be more expensive. They may be covered by insurance, which can help reduce the cost.
What they are: Two different non-nicotine prescription medications may help people quit smoking by reducing the desire to smoke.. These are bupropion (brand name Zyban) and varenicline (brand name Chantix).
Why to buy: These medications may significantly increase the quit smoking success rate beyond using nicotine replacement alone. They can be used in conjunction with nicotine replacement, further increasing success rates of quitting.
Things to consider: Like all prescription medications, these drugs can have side effects. Many people tolerate them well, but some people experience very serious side effects, particularly from varenicline, which in some people causes hostility, agitation, anger, aggression, depressed mood, anxiety, paranoia, confusion, mania, or suicidal thoughts or actions. These can develop when a person begins taking the medication, after several weeks of treatment, or after stopping the varenicline. Insurance may not cover the cost of these medications.