BUSINESS BRIEFS

An official ribbon cutting ceremony will take place this weekend at Bounce Back Fitness, 457-459 Main Street, Metuchen.

Bounce Back Fitness is a private personal training studio specializing in training people with physical challenges or injuries. Trainers offer one-on-one personal training, small group training and sport specific training.

Owner Phillip Clermont will be joined at 9 a.m. Dec. 12 by representatives of the Metuchen Area Chamber of Commerce and the Borough Council.

Stop and start

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q:

I read or heard there’s a mid-size American car (the U.S. part is important to us) — not a hybrid — that has an automatic cut-off/cuton function for when you’re at stoplights. I haven’t been able to learn what car that is. Can you help?

A:

The 2014 Chevy Malibu got a lot of attention for being the first mainstream midsize sold in the U.S. with what’s termed “stopstart technology” as a standard feature. Fact is, this feature is increasingly available, sometimes standard and sometimes for extra cash. Here’s how it works: The engine shuts off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop (as when you’re stopped at a stoplight or in a traffic jam). The car turns back on in a fraction of a second once the pressure on the brake pedal is released. It’s regarded as a fuel-saver (though, of course, that depends on the kind of driving you do — how many stoplights you regularly hit; how much stop-and-go traffic you encounter). Chevrolet reported that its firstyear Malibu provided a 14 percent gain in city fuel economy. Most manufacturers say the savings is 5 percent to 10 percent or so. It’s available from many carmakers, including some models of Chevrolets, Chryslers, Fords, Hondas and BMWs. It’s safe to say it will be offered on an even greater proportion of the 2016 crop of vehicles that’ll be at dealerships soon. Ford, for one, said last year its stop-start technology would be on about half of its models by 2017. Some who have purchased vehicles with the feature have loved it; others have said it has taken much getting used to (especially when parking). Worse, some hapless buyers have reported that they wound up with this feature without realizing it (poor sales people?) and believed the car was acting up or breaking down within minutes of driving away from the lot. So, note to all soon-to-be buyers: ask whether this is on the car you’re buying, on the chance that your salesperson might not think to mention it. (The function can be switched off — at least in the vehicles that have offered so far — but you’ve got to be aware of its existence to know it’s possible to make it disappear.) © CTW Features What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email Sharon@ctwfeatures.com.

Where motorists spend the most time in traffic

With more cars and trucks on the road, commuters are paying the price with increased travel times. Here’s where to find (or avoid) the worst gridlock while driving.

By Jim Gorzelany CTW Features

It should come as no surprise to commuters that traffic on our nation’s highways is worse than its ever been, due largely to the increase in cars and trucks on the road spurred by a healthy economy. Unfortunately, what’s good for the nation’s financial fortunes can be bad for both car- and truck-drivers alike, and it’s shocking to see the actual impact — both personal and financial — of the country’s growing gridlock.

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard compiled by traffic information and driver services provider INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, motorists wasted a collective 7 billion extra hours last year sitting in traffic — that’s 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. What’s more, all those vehicles burned more than 3 billion gallons of fuel crawling their way to and from the office.

For many motorists, that amounts to a week’s vacation time and income down drain each year, and that’s not counting the potential productivity wasted just sitting in a car. Add up the numbers and the total value of time and fuel wasted amounts to an annual $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.

Findings from the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard are based on traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways, along with highway performance data provided by the Federal Highway Administration.

By comparison, INRIX reports that back in 1982, when there were fewer vehicles sharing the road, the average traffic delay per consumer was just 18 hours per year with 0.5 billion gallons of fuel burned at a total cost of $42 billion. Though extreme gridlock affected only one out of every in nine commutes in 1982, it caused delays in an average of 25 percent of automotive excursions during 2014.

What’s more, the study found that traffic is getting so onerous in big cities that drivers find they have to allow more than twice as much travel time as they would otherwise require just to account for the unforeseen effects of bad weather, collisions, and construction zones. Drivers traversing America’s most congested roads typically waste 84 hours — that’s 3.5 days a year — sitting in traffic, which is twice the national average.

And the report’s findings indicate that the nation’s clogged arteries are spreading beyond the most populated areas. Though the average travel delay per vehicle is more than double what it was in 1982, it’s gotten four times worse in cities having populations with fewer than 500,000 people. And INRIX predicts commuters will be spending more time behind the wheel in the years ahead. Assuming the nation’s economic fortunes remain strong, by 2020, the annual rush-hour delay per U.S. motorist will swell to 47 hours, with a shared nationwide delay of 8.3 billion hours at a cost of $192 billion.

According to INRIX data, Washington, D.C. is the nation’s most traffic clogged city, where commuters suffered an average of 82 hours of delay last year, with Los Angeles coming in a close second at 80 hours, followed by San Francisco at 78 hours, New York City at 74 hours, San Jose, Calif. at 67 hours, Boston at 64 hours, Seattle at 63 hours and Chicago and Houston tied at 61 hours.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way for the nation to simply build its way out of its traffic woes. “Our growing traffic problem is too massive for any one entity to handle — state and local agencies can’t do it alone,” says Tim Lomax, a report co-author and Regents Fellow at TTI. “Businesses can give their employees more flexibility in where, when and how they work, individual workers can adjust their commuting patterns, and we can have better thinking when it comes to longterm land use planning.”

© CTW Features

The benefits of townhome living

By Jane Mueller

The condo you once thought of as a dream come true — your own place — now feels too much like an apartment and just not enough space. Now it’s time to make a decision: a single family or townhome.

Why choose a townhome? It is an opportunity to have the space and amenities in a younger home affordably priced. It can offer limited or extensive maintenance, depending on the type of ownership. With fee simple ownership you own the land and the building; with condominium ownership only the interior walls are owned, offering more services by the association besides common area, snow and trash removal, blanket insurance and capital fund. Very often recreation facilities are also included besides the building exterior. Along with these services covered by a monthly maintenance fee, there can be a special assessment for capital improvements in the community for sidewalks, roads, roofs, siding, railings and fences, and water and sewer lines beyond normal occurrence, as well as excessive snow removal. The benefit to the owner is that these routine expenses are bought in bulk at a much-reduced fee than would be available to an individual. Although one may look at this as a loss of control, these routine expenses are necessary occurrences and not optional, in order to protect the investment and maintain the integrity of the community. The benefit is that someone else will handle the logistics.

One can expect a townhome to be younger, with more amenities than a singlefamily home, in the same price range, and yet provide a spacious living area and the freedom from the chores.

East Brunswick experienced a proliferation of townhome developments starting in the early ’80s and continuing well into the 2000s, and they provide a variety of styles on multiple levels, and amenities from the very basics to homes with garages and basements as well as yards. Now add to this the easy lifestyle of some country club amenities such as pool, tennis courts and club house. Sounding better? If a move is in your forecast, don’t overlook the many benefits of the ease of townhome living.

Jane Mueller is an agent with RE/MAX First Realty, 385 Route 18, East Brunswick. For more information, call her at 732-257- 3500.

Prevent colds and flu before they start

Though the holiday season is a joyous time of year, it’s also one when many people succumb to cold and flu. Spending so much time indoors in close proximity to others can increase a person’s susceptibility to flu and cold, so it’s no surprise that the holiday season, when many people spend lots of time celebrating indoors with family and friends, marks the unofficial start to cold and flu season. Despite what Mom might have told you about going out into the cold with a wet head or leaving home without wearing a coat, such actions do not increase your risk for cold and flu. But being cooped up indoors, where germs from others who are sick can fester, can increase that risk.

Cold weather also can be a factor, but not for the reason you think.According to a 2007 study from researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the influenza virus is more stable and can stay in the air longer when the air is cold and dry. Dr. Peter Palese, a flu researcher who is professor and chairman of the school’s microbiology department, examined guinea pigs infected with the flu virus to determine the connection between the flu and cold weather. Dr. Palese varied the air temperature and humidity in the guinea pigs’ environment and determined that flu transmission was best at 41 F, while the prevalence of transmission declined as the temperature rose. By the time temperatures reached 86 F, the virus was not transmitted at all. Low humidity also helped transmit the virus, and high humidity stopped the spread. Flu viruses spread through the air in water droplets expelled from sick individuals’ noses and mouths. High humidity may cause these droplets to fall to the ground before they can infect someone else.

Colds are largely transmitted through surface contact with the virus or direct contact with a sick individual.The cold virus is then contracted on the hands and typically transferred to the nose, eyes or mouth through inadvertent touching of these areas. Spending time indoors in close quarters with other people, which is more common in the winter, can facilitate the spread of colds as well as the flu virus.

There are many ways to reduce your risk of contracting a cold or the flu virus this winter. Perhaps no preventive measure is more effective than getting a flu shot. In addition, wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs, and disinfect remote controls, computer keyboards, tablets, mobile phones, and other items that are handled by multiple people on any given day. In addition, spend as much time outdoors as possible so you can escape potentially contaminated indoor air.

If you come down with the flu, increase the humidity in your home by running the shower with the door open, using a recreational aquarium or boiling pots of water. Maintain a warm indoor temperature to reduce the likelihood that the flu virus will spread.

Other ways to reduce your risk for cold and flu include:

 maintaining a healthy diet

 getting several minutes of sunlight per day

 exercising regularly

America’s ‘hottest’ cars

By Jim Gorzelany CTW Features

I t seems the Golden State is indeed golden — for auto thieves. Seven out of the 10 U.S. cities suffering the most stolen cars are situated in California, according to the latest “Hot Spots” report issues by the National Insurance Crime Bureau in Des Plaines, Ill.

San Francisco leads all metro areas in the nation in per-capita car thefts, with more than 29,000 vehicles purloined during 2014. The only non-California cities on the NICB’s top-10 list were Odessa, Texas, and the Spokane and Seattle, Wash. regions (see the accompanying box for the full list).

On the plus side, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says car thefts are steadily on the decline, with a 5.7 percent reduction in motor vehicle thefts reported during 2013 and 2014; they’re down by a whopping 42.8 percent since 2003. The National Highway Safety Administration attributes the decrease to a variety of factors including the increased use of standard antitheft devices (especially coded keys, engine immobilizers and vehicle locating systems), parts marking, increased and improved prosecution efforts by law enforcement organizations and heightened public awareness.

As before, older cars are most often valued for the sum of their parts; they’re usually driven away and quickly disassembled at so-called chop shops and sold off piecemeal to shady auto supply stores and mechanics. Meanwhile, newer and flashier stolen cars are more typically sold overseas or offered domestically with altered titles, or are simply taken for what amounts to a joyride.

The latest trend in auto theft involves models being quickly and efficiently dismantled on the spot for top-dollar components, with flashy alloy wheels being increasingly targeted by crooks. “Because it’s harder to steal an entire vehicle these days, thieves are stealing the parts,” says Terri Miller, executive director of the organization Help Eliminate Auto Thefts in Livonia, Mich. “Tires and rims are not marked (for identification) and they are very, very marketable.”

No matter where you live or what you drive, it’s important to take every precaution to protect what is one of a family’s largest expenditures. Aside from the surprisingly often ignored common sense tips like closing the windows and locking the doors, parking in a well-lit area and never leaving the keys in the ignition while the vehicle is unattended, the NICB advises motorists make their vehicles as theftproof as possible.

This includes using an antitheft device, which will often also warrant a discount on your car insurance. Having a simple ignition “kill switch” installed in a hidden location makes it more difficult for a crook to start a car or truck and drive it away.

It’s also a good idea to have your car or truck’s vehicle identification number etched on the windshield and major components to make them more difficult for chop shops to sell as replacement parts.

And especially if you’re driving a costly luxury sedan or sports car, go the extra mile and use a subscription based telematics system like General Motors’ OnStar or similar technology offered by other automakers. Such systems use GPS technology and can help police departments locate cars and trucks if they are stolen. Some cars can even notify their owners if they’re broken into or moved via a connected smartphone app.

© CTW Features

Hot spots’ for stolen cars

1. San Francisco- Oakland-Hayward, Calif. 2. Bakersfield, Calif. 3. Stockton-Lodi, Calif. 4. Odessa, Texas 5. Modesto, Calif. 6. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. 7. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. 8. Seattle-Tacoma- Bellevue, Wash. 9. Fresno, Calif. 10. San Jose-Sunnyvale- Santa Clara, Calif.

Note: Ranking is relative to population size. Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Know the pros and cons of weight loss medications

By Dr. Ayotunde Adeyeri

‘By next summer, I’m going to lose some weight.” If you find yourself uttering these words, know this: many so-called “miracle” weight loss supplements and foods (including teas and coffees) don’t live up to their claims.Worse, they can cause serious harm, say FDA regulators.The agency has found hundreds of products that are marketed as dietary supplements but actually contain hidden active ingredients (components that make a medicine effective against a specific illness) contained in prescription drugs, unsafe ingredients that were in drugs that have been removed from the market, or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans.

For example, the FDA has found weight-loss products tainted with the prescription drug ingredient sibutramine. This ingredient was in an FDA approved drug that was removed from the market because it caused heart problems and strokes.

The FDA also found some weight-loss products, marketed as supplements, in fact contained dangerous concoctions of hidden ingredients used to treat high blood pressure and even depression. (Most recently, the FDA discovered products marketed as dietary supplements containing fluoxetine, the active ingredient found in Prozac.) Another product contained triamterene, a powerful diuretic (sometimes known as “water pills”) that can have serious side-effects and should only be used under the supervision of a health care professional.

Many of these tainted products are imported, sold online, and heavily promoted on social media sites. Some can also be found on store shelves. And if you’re about to take what you think of as “natural” dietary supplements — such as bee pollen or garcinia cambogia — be aware the FDA has found some of these products also contain hidden active ingredients contained in prescription drugs.

Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products. It is each company’s responsibility to make sure its products are safe and that any claims made are scientifically proven.

The FDA has received reports of harm associated with the use of weight loss products, including increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, stroke, seizure and even death. It has issued more than 30 public notifications and recalled seven tainted weight loss products in 2014.

To help people with longterm weight management, the FDA has approved prescription drugs such as Belviq, Qysmia, and Contrave, but these products are intended for people at least 18 years of age who:

 have a body mass index (BMI, a standard measure of body fat) of 30 or greater (considered obese)

 have a BMI of 27 or greater (considered overweight) and have at least one other weight-related health condition

Prescription drugs are not an answer for people who want to lose just a few pounds. Moreover, if you are going to embark on any type of weight control campaign, always talk to your healthcare professional about it first. Your doctor will also consider your health history, possible side effects and the potential interaction of weight-loss drugs with other medications you’re taking.

When combined with a low-calorie diet and regular exercise, weight-loss drugs produce an average weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of total body weight within a year, which is a typical weightloss goal.

Diet and exercise are responsible for part of this weight loss, and medications are responsible for part as well. Even modest weight reduction can help to decrease blood pressure, lipid levels and blood glucose levels as well as increase insulin sensitivity.

It’s important to keep in mind that these medications may not work for everyone.And when you stop taking them, you could regain the weight you lost.

If extra weight, obesity or morbid obesity is impacting your health and quality of life, consult your physician or schedule an appointment with a bariatric surgeon to discuss your options for more permanent weight loss solutions.

Dr.Ayotunde Adeyeri is a board-certified and fellowship-trained laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgeon and serves as medical director of the Institute for Weight Loss at Raritan Bay Medical Center. For more information or to attend a free bariatric surgery seminar, call 855-TIME-4-ME.

Top four reasons why you should try aqua fitness classes

Health&Fitness

Now is a great time to get into fitness classes in the pool. Five Star Aquatics in Edison offers aqua fitness three times a week in their heated, indoor swimming pool. Exercising in the water is a fun way to stay in shape all year long. Wondering if this is the right fit for you? Read on to see why working out in water is beneficial to all participants

1. You don’t need to know how to swim.

You do not need to know how to swim in order to participate in aqua fitness classes.The pool at Five Star Aquatics is 4 feet deep, making it perfect to exercise in while standing up. Exercising, dancing, or walking in the pool are things that anyone can do, it does not take any practice or skills to begin. If you do want to learn how to swim, you can enroll in small group swim lessons at the same facility. Swimming has many health benefits since it is a full body exercise, but if you have never learned it can be intimidating.

2. It is low impact.

Exercising in the pool is great for your joints because it is a low impact workout. If you are overweight, suffering from arthritis, or recovering from an injury, your doctor has probably recommended that you begin a low impact exercise routine.The pool is the best option because the water provides a unique environment.The buoyancy of the water reduces stress on your joints, while the water resistance helps build muscle. Read more about building muscle in the pool below.

3. Water resistance helps build muscle.

On land, we use weights to increase muscle mass, but did you know the resistance of the water can help you do that simply with every move you make? Working out in water adds 12-14 percent more resistance than on land.At Five Star Aquatics, the students use water weights during the aqua fitness classes. These foam weights don’t feel like much, but used in the right way, give you an excellent strength training work out. As you age, you tend to lose muscle mass. Don’t let that be the case by keeping up with regular exercise in aqua fitness classes.

4. Working out reduces depression and stress.

When you exercise, your body produces endorphins. Endorphins trigger a reaction of feeling positive and happy.Along with the endorphins you will be releasing, you will also feel accomplished for trying something new and by coming to classes you will meet new people.Your body will thank you for keeping it healthy and in shape.

For more information, call Five Star Aquatics at 732-902-2267 or visit the website at www.fivestaraquatics.com.

Vaccines and rheumatism in biologic era

By Flora Bai, M.D., FACR

Live, attenuated vaccines are made from live organisms that have been modified to make them inactive. These vaccines are close to a natural infection, which makes them good “encounters” of the immune systems.They include yellow fever, varicella-zoster, rotavirus, MMR, rubella, oral typhoid, and BCG for tuberculosis.

Individuals whose immune systems already have been compromised by antirheumatic medications may fail to respond, and a full-blown infection can occur. Consequently, most professional groups for physicians, along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), say that those who are immunocompromised should never receive a live, attenuated vaccine. Most patients in North America have access to adequate substitutes for live, attenuated vaccines (except for those against the zoster virus that causes shingles), but yellow fever could be a concern for those traveling to certain areas outside of United States. Check the website of the State Department and talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated before you plan the trip.

As of today, there is no sufficient medical evidence that quantifies the risks of such infection after vaccination. National Institute of Health and American College of Rheumatology are conducting a study while CDC remains appropriately conservative because live vaccines could potentially be dangerous in an immunocompromised host receiving biologic agents.

Experts also voice concern about the lack of data on how patients on biologic agents actually react to vaccines as opposed to general population. Nobody is certain that if an immune system repressed by both medications and rheumatic diseases requires a different schedule of vaccinations. It is not clear whether the vaccinated patients are meaningfully protected.

Studies of quality of care on the national level consistently show that patients with rheumatic disease are under-vaccinated per CDC standard.As the complexity of treatment options for rheumatoid diseases increases, the recommendations for vaccines have also become more complicated. This can lead to physicians’ lack of confidence in knowing what their patients actually need.The confidence concerns may lead doctors to decide not to vaccinate until these issues become clearer.There may be hesitancy by both your rheumatologist and your family physician to recommend you the vaccines due to a split in care. Vaccines have long been the focus and responsibility of the primary care physician. However, the drugs in the biologic era given and better understood by the rheumatologist are the ones causing the concerns.

It often falls to you to coordinate with both physicians regarding whether you need vaccinations and which ones are indicated, and then actually getting them either at your primary care physician’s office or local pharmacies. Many questions remain unanswered in the discussions about vaccinations for those prescribed biologic medications. Keep asking your doctors about the vaccines you need and when you need them. Make vaccination a topic of discussion during your next office visit.

Dr. Flora Bai is the founder of Arthritis and Rheumatism Institute at 2163 Oak Tree Road, Edison. She is a board certified rheumatologist and clinical instructor for Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center. For more information, call 908-754-4900 or visit www.centraljerseyrheumatology.com.