Van's Blog ~



Hurricane Harvey Financial Recovery

Hurricane Harvey may throw some peoples’ finances into chaos.

This is a natural disaster that may affect peoples’ finances in abnormal ways. Here are several important items that may help you or others you know get through this difficult time. Click on the links for more details.

Information for Now

  1. If you are forced to seek medical or dental attention and the provider imposes a penalty because you are out of the network that penalty should be waived if you are affected by the storm disaster.Communicate with your medical provider and your insurer concerning your status.
  2. If you have prescriptions that are due for renewal, however, a new insurance company approval is required, that requirement should be delayed for 90 days. Communicate with your insurer to clarify your status.
  3. If you are an employer and you have commercial vehicles that are participating in the storm relief effort, commercial insurance should extend to cover those vehicles during their relief activity.

Information for After the Storm

  1. If you are displaced because of the storm and your employer is still operational, contact them to let them know your status if you cannot make it into work.
  2. If you are forced to leave your home for an extended period, let your property insurer know and ask them to waive the occupancy requirement because of the disaster.
  3. If you experience a financial hardship and cannot make payments that are due, contact your creditor and let them know you will be delayed. If your area is part of that which is considered a natural disaster, delays should not affect your credit rating. It is important that you communicate with your creditors.
  4. If you have insurance renewals that change or increase and the change is attributed to your status as a storm victim that change is inappropriate. Contact your insurer to clarify the reason for any changes to your policy.
  5. If you have insurance premiums due and are unable to make payments because of a hardship from the current disaster, insurers have been encouraged to allow extra time to pay. It is important to communicate with your insurer and let them know your status.

The key to making it through this difficult time is communication. 

There are a lot of people that are eager to help. However, be aware that there are also unscrupulous people that may attempt to take advantage of your situation. If you have an issue that is related to insurance coverage, call your agent or insurance company. If you cannot get the answer you need you can turn to the Texas Department of Insurance.

Posted by: Van Richards

Van is the founder of Advice4Retirement and Advice4LifeInsurance you can contact him at Follow on Twitter @VanRichards or Facebook at and

ADHD and Life Insurance

Can ADHD sufferers get life insurance?

The perception that ADHD usually conjures up is the picture of a frazzled person who is fidgety and has a lack of concentration. It is a condition that is often misunderstood, and even some make jokes. Everyone becomes anxious at some point. Everyone forgets something now and then. Just because a person becomes anxious or forgets something does not mean they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. It is important that life insurance companies understand this too. Incorrect labeling of mental health conditions by life insurance companies due to company protocol or misinterpretation of medical records can cause applicants to be charged more for life insurance coverage. Medical records are usually brief. If a doctor states that a patient appeared to be giddy, what does that mean? Does the patient have anxiety, depression, ADHD or does it mean something else? The person reviewing the information for a life insurance company is called an underwriter. How is an underwriter to interpret that statement? My doctor wrote that I was giddy in my file, and I have none of those conditions. However, an underwriter may take that to mean that I have a mood disorder.

When applying for life insurance, a history of ADHD can be interpreted in several ways. That is why it is important that you have an experienced advocate. In most instances an experienced life insurance agent is your best advocate. When the medical conditions are complicated, and the life insurance amounts are large, a life insurance medicine doctor is helpful in clarifying conditions and communicating risk levels to the life insurance company. A life insurance agent should be able to help identify if a physician consultant would benefit your life insurance application.

How to find the right company.

Mislabeling mental health conditions can occur because some life insurance companies lump mental health disorders like ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety all together and classify them as mood disorders. Insurers that follow this practice will often charge those they classify with mood disorders higher rates or decline to offer them coverage. However, not all life insurance companies follow this strategy. Some life insurers methodically categorize different mental health disorders and charge people rates based on that categorization. Most of the time, these insurers offer life insurance to those with mild to moderate mental health disorders at lower rates than companies that generalize many mental health conditions together.

Insurers that definitively categorize mental health disorders are more likely to consider treatment outcomes rather than protocol when it comes to determining the cost of life insurance. A typical example is an adult with ADHD that has received treatment and medication since childhood. Even though they are in excellent health, they may be charged higher rates because they are treating their ADHD with a single or multiple drugs. Some insurance companies have strict protocols for offering coverage. Their rating methods may call for decreasing their rating by one level for any mental health related medication and declining a person for life insurance if they take two medications.   The key to giving yourself the best chance of being offered the lowest cost life insurance coverage is to avoid life insurance companies that generalize mental health conditions. Seek those insurers that are more specific about how they offer coverage to those with ADHD and other mental health disorders. To find the best life insurance at the most competitive rates it is important for those with ADHD to work with a life insurance agent that has an understanding of which life insurance companies categorize mental health conditions rather than generalize.

How to get the best rates.

Once you have found a life insurance provider that will consider mental health disorders on a categorical basis the next step to getting the best rates is presenting your application. When someone applies to a life insurance company for coverage, the company considers medical history, lifestyle, and habits to determine if that person is an acceptable risk.   How the facts surrounding a person’s ADHD are presented to the life insurance company can significantly affect the life insurance policy that is offered. A complete description of a person’s ADHD plus a chronological representation of how the condition has been treated can help in getting a lower cost. Communicating how you have been managing your ADHD will help show that your condition is under control, and it does not inhibit your day-to-day life.

NEJM CT Scan 1990

It may be helpful to take a moment and give a basic overview of how ADHD is viewed. The aspect of ADHD that is commonly overlooked is a person with ADHD has different biological brain functions. The accompanying image shows the difference between a person with ADHD and without. The condition can be treated with therapy, medication or both. This is a condition that does not go away over a person’s lifetime, so presenting how it is managed will help show that it does not make you a higher life insurance risk. The image on the left shows “white, red, and orange [which] indicate areas of relatively high glucose metabolism, whereas [on the right] blue, green, and purple indicate areas of lower glucose metabolism” (NEJM, 1990).   Glucose was given to the people tested immediately following skill test. The person on the left shows a higher degree of brain chemical activity immediately following sessions where they were asked to complete a task that was to challenge their thinking skills.

From a life insurance company’s perspective, they are not as concerned about why there are biological differences in brain function as they are concerned about the effect it has on a person’s life expectancy. Non-controlled ADHD usually accompanies other life risk conditions or activities. Individuals with non-controlled ADHD are more liable to have depression, alcoholism and drug abuse (Coltar, 2003).  Controlled ADHD is a non-life event. In the best of controlled situations and the absence of other complications, some life insurance companies will offer their lowest rates.

How to apply.

If you know you have ADHD; there are two ways you can apply for life insurance. The process begins with a discussion of your situation with an experienced life insurance agent. Ask what their experience has been with life insurance companies that best work with applicants that have ADHD. Then go with their recommendation of a life insurance company. If your medical situation is not too complicated, this may be the best approach. A critical service that your life insurance agent should include as part of submitting your life insurance application is a cover letter to the underwriter. The cover letter details and clarifies any information that may be pertinent to your application. If your medical situation appears to be complicated, you may have a better chance of getting the best policy at the lowest cost by submitting an informal inquiry.

An informal inquiry is the best way to avoid being declined for life insurance coverage. An informal inquiry is where we take all of your health history information and anonymously submit that to several life insurance companies. Without disclosing who you are the life insurance companies will look at your circumstance and tell us if they are willing to consider a person with your health history. Also, they will say what they expect the cost will be. You can take advantage of the best offer that is made. This process gets you the best life insurance policy at the best possible price without having to bounce between life insurance companies. It is also the best way to avoid a denial for ADHD. Could you still be denied? Yes. This is not a foolproof process. However, if we can completely answer all of the questions up front and there are no unexpected circumstances, it is your best chance. It is the best process because you are getting the benefit of shopping many different life insurance companies at the same time.

For most people the following step will not apply. For those special cases where a life insurance applicant has a complicated medical history, and they are applying for large amounts of life insurance, it is prudent to engage the services of a life insurance medicine doctor to review the medical history and clarify any potential problems. Consider this example. I am applying for a ten-million-dollar life insurance policy, and the consultant perceives that I could be rated as having anxiety because the doctor stated that I was giddy. The consultant would then communicate with my doctor and ask him to add a note to my file clarifying his statement and diagnosis. The clarification of the diagnosis could make a significant difference in the cost of a life insurance policy.

No matter what size of life insurance policy you are considering, if you have health concerns, you will need guidance in the application process. I have been helping customers find life insurance coverage to protect their families for twenty-eight years. I’d be honored to begin helping you. The best way to start is by completing the quote request form on our website, or you can call, email or text too.

Thank you,

Van Richards


Usually I recommend term life insurance and when you request a quote you will get the cost from several highly rated term life insurance companies. After reviewing your information, I can guide you toward the option that will give you the best opportunity to obtain low cost term life insurance.

Get a quote now.


Cotlar, M. J. (2003). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd)— life insurance implications. Journal of Insurance Medicine, 51-56. Retrieved from

New England Journal of Medicine. (1990, November 15). Cerebral glucose metabolism processing [CT Scan]. Retrieved from

Seven Steps to Better Sleep

How to get sleep apnea under control and reduce your life insurance rates too.

Life can be shortened by the simplest of things, like the lack of sleep. We all need sleep and one of the most common reasons people lose sleep is obstructive sleep apnea. This is a condition where a person’s throat closes off for brief periods of time while they sleep. It may be for a few seconds or even minutes. A person that has sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring, pausing breathing during sleep and gasping for air. Children can have sleep apnea can too, and the symptoms are less pronounced. These disruptions of the body during sleep interferes with the quality of sleep. I have sleep apnea and before treatment, one of the most significant aspects of the disorder for me was feeling tired all of the time. Before finding out that sleep apnea was my sleep problem, I could sleep for nine or ten hours and still feel exhausted. I did not realize that my body was not getting to a deeply relaxed state that is necessary for good health. Constantly my body was struggling for air, and I would wake up just enough to breath, then drift off to sleep again.

Sleep apnea is one of the causes of many physical problems and diseases. High blood pressure, weight control, some forms of cancer and many more ailments are related to sleep apnea. Most people want to live long happy lives. If you are a parent, you want to live to see your children be parents. Sleep apnea can shorten your life. If you are a parent, you are a provider for your family. Your family would struggle financially without you.

If you have sleep apnea, it will affect your ability to obtain life insurance. If you take proper measures to control the problem, there are life insurance companies that will offer you life insurance coverage at good rates. Most importantly, it will improve your life and give you a better chance of living longer.

To give sleep apnea suffers a chance at a longer life and the opportunity to obtain life insurance, they must take two vital steps. First, get your sleep apnea under control. Second, prove to the right life insurance company that you do have your sleep apnea under control. When it comes to cost, not all life insurance companies consider sleep apnea in the same way. Some life insurance companies avoid people with sleep apnea by either denying them coverage or offering coverage at high rates. Some life insurance companies see sleep apnea as an opportunity to help an underserved group of people by giving clear guidelines for providing life insurance coverage.

If you want to get your sleep apnea under control here are seven steps to follow that will help you and give you the best opportunity to obtain life insurance coverage at the lowest price. FYI, the seven steps do take time and it is probably the best route to improve your health. However, if you need life insurance now, skip to the P.S. at the end of this post and then come back to here to learn how to improve your health.

  1. Step one, see your physician to determine if a sleep study is necessary. If your doctor suggests a sleep study, don’t ignore it. The record of his recommendation will be in your medical file. If you have decided to not have the sleep study done, you may be declined for life insurance or offered a very high price.
  2. Step two, after the sleep study is done confirm that the results are in your physician’s file.
  3. Step three, follow-up with your doctor to get his or her recommendations for controlling your sleep apnea.
    • Use a CPAP machine, lose weight, control blood pressure, take medication, etc. or
    • Surgery to correct the sleep apnea is a possibility. If you have surgery, there is a different route for showing that your sleep apnea is under control.
      • You must see the surgeon, have the surgery and the show active follow-up to that surgery.
  4. Step four, you are fitted for a CPAP machine, purchase it and begin to use it. Showing that you have bought the CPAP machine is important. If you have the sleep study, have the CPAP prescription and stop here you may be declined.
  5. Step five is follow-up with your physician when he or she suggest. When you get a CPAP machine, it may take some getting used to and you will probably be in communication with the sleep study lab technicians with questions. That correspondence will be in your file and that is good, it shows that you are using the machine.
  6. Step six is continued follow-up with your physician to track results. You began the process of solving your sleep problem with a physician consultation. By the third follow-up you can determine if the CPAP therapy has improved your sleep. Are you sleeping better? How has it affected your weight and blood pressure? All of this information will be in your doctor’s file the life insurance company will review in considering to offer you a life insurance policy.
  7. Step seven is on-going maintenance. If you have sleep apnea and it has been a few years, good compliance is represented by ongoing doctor consultations. After some time, another sleep study may be recommended. This follow-up step will depend on your condition and your doctor’s approach toward helping you manage your sleep apnea. You may be prescribed to have a sleep study done every year, or it may be every four years. Whatever the procedure is, be sure to follow-through.

Considerations on the sleep study.

When you go for a sleep study it is because you are having some problem with your sleep. At first, the results of that sleep study will not show your condition under control, it will show your current condition. Do not worry about the results of that study, the most important consideration is that you have had a sleep study completed. How you follow-up will determine how the life insurance company views your sleep apnea.

Once you have your sleep apnea under control to the best of your ability, it is time to take steps to protect your family financially if you were to die. How much life insurance you need is an important part of buying life insurance? I have a terrific tool on my website that is free and will help your find that number. You can find that tool through this link.

Finding the right life insurance company.

Once you have this figure, it is time to find a life insurance company. There are 6,118 life insurance companies in the United States and not all of them consider sleep apnea in the same way (NAIC, 2015). To give you an idea of how life insurance companies approach offering life insurance to sleep apnea suffers, I will highlight the process that my top company recommendation goes through for applicants who have sleep apnea.

Knowing which of the 6,118 life insurance companies to buy is one of the reasons people chose my services (NAIC, 2015). That knowledge has come from years of experience and is one of my competitive edges. For that reason, I do not disclose the actual name of the life insurance company. When you decide to use my services, I will give you lots of information to help you select the best life insurance company that will offer you coverage at the best price. For now, let’s call this company Number One Life Insurance

This is the top company that I recommend to clients who have sleep apnea. Number One Life Insurance has a system of analyzing life insurance applicants. They have created a benchmark classification system. If an applicant has an adverse health condition such as being overweight or if they have a negative lifestyle habit such as hang-gliding, the applicant will be assigned points. The more points assigned, the higher the premium. You can have points reduced with positive health behavior. With Number One Life Insurance, sleep apnea is a condition that can play in your favor if you are managing your condition. For example, if you are overweight you are assigned points, use of a CPAP machine to control sleep apnea takes points off.

Number One Life Insurance has taken a negative health condition and made it a positive. Remember lower points means a lower premium. Here are a few specific situations in which Number One Life Insurance may take points off. The first positive is if you have a sleep study available. Another way that Number One Life Insurance would reduce your points would be a follow-up exam with your doctor that shows a weight loss or lower blood pressure reading after use of the CPAP machine.

In conclusion.

If you have sleep apnea, it takes an effort to control it. Documenting the steps you have taken to control your condition will be evident in your medical records. It will be very helpful in this process if the life insurance agent you are working with writes a cover letter to accompany your application which details all of the steps above. I do this for every client, and it makes a big difference in communicating with the life insurance company. Your application paperwork gives facts, and the cover letter serves as a road map to your health management. If you clearly communicate how you are controlling your health, that action will give the life insurance company a better understanding and hopefully show that your health is not an adverse risk. Controlling sleep apnea not only means you will get better consideration for life insurance rates, the most important aspect is that your quality of life will improve.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog,

Van Richards


If you’d like to use my service to find the best life insurance policy at the best price for you, start by requesting a quote. Additionally, the seven steps do take time. If you need life insurance now, you may be able to apply for a guaranteed issue policy that does not require so much reporting. It will be more expensive. This may be a short term solution until you can apply to a company like Number One Life Insurance. Remember that is not the real name of the company.

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National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (2015). State report cards. Retrieved May 23, 2016, from

Sleep = Life

An alarming number of children and athletes have sleep apnea risk.

          We all sleep. The quality of sleep affects every aspect of our life. What would your day be like if you had an extra hour of sleep? How do you think children would act with an extra hour of sleep? Sleep affects adult work performance and children’s learning ability in school. Lack of sleep accounts for about 83,000 car crashes every year (NHTSA, n.d.) Sleep disorders are linked to a wide variety of health conditions from depression to high blood pressure to increasing the risk of Parkinson’s disease (NIH, 2011). Sleep even affects the cost we pay for life insurance.

          By increasing your quality of sleep, you can give yourself that feeling of extra sleep and improve your future health. Common thought is that we all need about seven hours of sleep per night, some people can get along with less, and children need more. A quick look at some of the reasons people don’t sleep or do not sleep well can help you understand how to get better rest and improve your life. Three areas affect sleep:

  • Physical – what is going on inside the body affects sleep.
  • Mental – how a person thinks does have an impact on sleep.
  • Environmental – sound, temperature, lighting, smell, and touch affect sleep.

            The details of these three areas are the subjects of extensive studies that continue to develop every day. Let’s look a little deeper at the physical aspect of sleep. If you improve what is going on inside your body, your sleep will improve. One of the most prevalent physical conditions that affect men and women is sleep apnea. Suffers from sleep apnea pause or stop breathing while sleeping. The pause in breathing can range from seconds to minutes. The condition is not limited by age; sleep apnea occurs in infants, children, and adults.

            There are several types of sleep apnea however obstructive sleep apnea is the most common.   With this condition, “the airway repeatedly becomes blocked, limiting the amount of air that reaches your lungs” (AASM, n.d.). Obstructive sleep apnea sufferers are often loud snorers and wake up frequently gasping for air. I have obstructive sleep apnea and in the first sleep study I had done, I woke up over 100 times. I never consciously knew this was happening, I only knew that I was always tired.

            The first time I met someone that had sleep apnea, it was a middle-aged friend that was overweight. I thought to myself, thank goodness that is not me. I am not overweight, and I would never use one of those machines with a mask at night. Oh, how cruel time can be. I still don’t consider myself overweight, but according to the Body Mass Index or BMI, I am overweight. However, the validity of the BMI is a topic for another day.

            What led up to my sleep apnea diagnosis seemed to be typical for sleep apnea sufferers: I snored loudly, my wife told me that I would stop snoring then suddenly gasp for air, and I was tired all the time. I could sleep for eight or nine hours and still be tired. By that time, learning to adjust to wearing a sleep mask seemed to be a small price to pay if I could get back that fresh feeling of a good night sleep.

            Most people accept the importance of sleep. The prevalence of sleep apnea has grown for two reasons. First, Americans are getting less sleep. “In 2005, the National Sleep Foundation stated that 16% of Americans say they sleep less than six hours a night, compared with 12% in 1998” (UCLA, 2016). The second reason there seems to be more people with sleep apnea is there are more professionals and facilities to help identify and treat all those sleepy people. Since its establishment in 1975, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine or “AASM has expanded membership to over 11,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals” (AASM, About, 2016).

            From its initial diagnosis in 1981, sleep apnea has been a disease that is associated with overweight middle-aged men (Sullivan, Issa, Berthon-Jones, and Eves, 1981). Through extensive research, an alarming number of children and athletes have been identified to have the similar symptoms of the typical sleep apnea suffer. The recognized trend in tiredness and the identification of cognitive impairments such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD has led sleep scientist to connect sleep apnea to as many as 25% of children that have ADHD (ASAA, 2016). Additionally, many athletes in the NFL, NBA, and MLB have been identified with sleep apnea (George, Kab, & Levy, 2003; MacMullan, 2016; Russell, 2016).

            Most recently, Texas Ranger’s first baseman, Prince Fielder disclosed his struggles with sleep apnea, and in 2015 Cleveland Indian’s Mike Napoli had surgery to cope with sleep apnea (Russell, 2016). Dr. Andrea Natale, a cardiologist, and consultant for the NBA, points out that because of their size, NBA players have a “genetic predisposition, [of] being overweight, sleep apnea and hypertension” (MacMullan,2016).

            There are many reasons children can have sleep apnea. They may have enlarged adenoids, swollen tonsils or they just may be large children. If your child is having trouble breathing while they sleep, talk to your pediatrician. It may be sleep apnea, or it may be:

  • Another sleep disorder
  • A medical condition
  • Medication use
  • A mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse (AASM, Children,2016)

Symptoms of a sleep disorder in children may not be the same as in adults. As previously mentioned studies have indicated that as many as 25% of children with ADHD do show sleep disorder symptoms. The first step to proper control of a child’s sleep disorder is guidance from your doctor.

            For adults and children, the key to living with sleep apnea is early detection and after a diagnosis proactive management. If you think that you have a sleep disorder, I cannot say it enough, the first place to go is your doctor. After talking with my doctor about always feeling tired and loud snoring, his recommendation was to have a sleep study. Treatment of sleep disorders can offer some relief with other health conditions. In my case, after the sleep study, not only did I feel more rested, but over time, it helped me control my blood pressure and lose weight. I began managing my sleep apnea by using a continuous positive airway pressure machine or CPAP machine. The sleep lab I went to helped me with the fit and ongoing maintenance. Your doctor can best help you determine a solution for your sleep problem.

            Your doctor will probably recommend a sleep lab for your test. I did not go with my doctor’s recommendation at first. I thought I’d try to find a cheaper alternative closer to my home. It was like a cheap motel and a bad experience. I had to have the test redone and went with my doctor’s recommendations. The second location was much better. It was quieter; each room had a private restroom and the staff seemed to understand what needed to be done much better.

            If you have questions about finding a sleep lab, here are a few things to keep in mind. Ask if the sleep clinic has accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine? The standards that the AASM requires of members seems to make a difference. To me, it seems to be the gold standard of sleep labs. Check to see if the sleep clinic you are considering is in your health insurance network, it will make a big difference in cost. Ask if they offer patient education, follow-ups as well as on-going monitoring. Also a point I felt was very important, will they allow you to visit their clinic.

            About every three to six months you will need to replace part of your CPAP machine. It makes a difference in fit and hygiene. A leaky mask will allow you to snore and you lose the benefits of the CPAP machine. If you are using a dental appliance, regularly check with your dentist.

            Losing weight can help you to manage your sleep apnea too. Talk to your family members. If they notice you snoring through the mask or still continuing to gasp for air as you sleep, contact your sleep technician for further help.

            For many people, having a sleep disorder does affect the ability to obtain life insurance. I have addressed the growing problem of children who have sleep disorders. In addressing life insurance, this is not an encouragement to get life insurance for a child. People do not need to have a significant amount of life insurance on their children. There is no reason. However, a small amount of life insurance is always a prudent step. In most cases, this can be easily and cheaply accomplished by adding what is called a rider on to an adult life insurance policy.

            For those who are looking for life insurance, finding a life insurance company that is willing to consider active sleep disorder management as a positive attribute in considering you for a life insurance policy is important. There are life insurance companies that will look at your sleep disorder as an incurable disease and will deny you a life insurance policy. It is important to avoid a denial if at all possible because when you apply for other life or disability insurance, there will be a question that asks if you have ever been declined coverage for any reason. If you have to answer, yes that can cause a problem with the application. You do not want to lie; you want to avoid having the insurance denial altogether.

            The best way to prevent a denial is to submit an informal inquiry. An informal inquiry is where we take all of your health history information and anonymously submit that to several life insurance companies. Without disclosing who you are the life insurance companies will look at your circumstance and tell us if they are willing to consider a person with your health history. Also, they will say what they expect the cost will be. You can take advantage of the best offer that is made. This process gets you the best life insurance policy at the best possible price without having to bounce between life insurance companies. It is also the best way to avoid a denial for sleep apnea. Could you still be denied? Yes. This is not a foolproof process. However, if we can completely answer all of the questions up front and there are no unexpected circumstances, it is your best chance. It is the best process because you are getting the benefit of shopping many different life insurance companies at the same time.

            If you have health concerns, you will need guidance in the application process. I have been helping customers find life insurance coverage to protect their families for twenty-eight years. I’d be honored to begin helping you. The best way to begin is by completing the quote request form on our website, or you can call, email or text too.

Thank you,

Van Richards

Get a quote now.




American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (n.d.). Sleep apnea overview and facts – sleep education. Retrieved from

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2016). About the AASM. Retrieved from

American Sleep Apnea Association. (2016). Children’s sleep apnea. Retrieved from

George, C. F., Kab, V., & Levy, A. M. (2003). Increased prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing among professional football players. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(4), 367-368. doi:10.1056/nejm200301233480422

MacMullan, J. (2016, February 29). Larry bird will die young. just ask him. ESPN The Magazine. Retrieved from

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). Research on drowsy driving. Retrieved from

National Institutes of Health. (2011). 2011 nhi sleep disorders research plan (NIH Publication No. 11-7820). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website:

Russell, J. (2016, March 11). Rangers slugger prince fielder diagnosed with ‘extreme’ sleep apnea. Washington Post. Retrieved from

Sullivan CE, Issa FG, Berthon-Jones M, Eves L (April 1981). Reversal of obstructive sleep apnoea by continuous positive airway pressure applied through the nares. Lancet 1 (8225): 862–5. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(81)92140-1.

UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. (2016). Sleep medicine growth and trends. Retrieved May 8, 2016, from








Sleep Disorders and Life Insurance

I stopped breathing over 100 times during my first sleep study. My general physician was the one who suggested a sleep study. He said it might offer some solutions to my health problems. My blood pressure was difficult to control, I was constantly tired and I snored. I tried to control my hypertension with diet and medication but that had mixed results. I found that having a sleep study was a turning point in my health.

You may find that controlling your health by improving your sleep will not only give you a renewed sense of living, but it will also get you better life insurance rates. If you are looking for life insurance and have sleep disorders, you should understand that life insurance companies want to give better rates to people who are trying to control their health.   If you are still struggling to get an upper hand on your sleep problems, there is hope for getting life insurance at a reasonable cost.

Here are four points that may lead you to better health and better life insurance rates.

  1. Sleep apnea may be the sleep problem that most people are familiar with, however sleep disorders encompass a wide variety of conditions such as “hypertension, cognitive impairment[..]restless legs syndrome [..] depression, substance abuse, and impaired waking function [..] narcolepsy [..] increased risk of Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions[..] increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, motor vehicle crashes, and difficulty adhering to school and work schedules” (NIH 2011).
  2. I have sleep apnea and have been using a CPAP machine every night for the past eight years. It has made a profound difference in the way I feel. When I was trying to find a solution to my sleep problems here a few things that I learned:
    • Talk to your doctor. He or she will be the best one to help you get started. Reading blogs like mine is great, but there is no substitute for your own doctor.
    • Ask your doctor if he or she can recommend a sleep clinic. Do not pick a sleep clinic because it’s the cheapest. I made that mistake. I thought I could find a cheap clinic close to my home. It was horrible, it was like a cheap motel. The rooms were very small, the walls were paper thin so you could hear everything, including other people snoring and the technicians talking. And there was one bathroom for the entire clinic. After the first night, they said I’d have to come back for a second night at a significantly higher price for more testing. Yea no, I don’t think so. So I ended up going with my doctor’s recommendation.
    • The second clinic was so much better. It had individual rooms that were like a nice hotel. Each room had its own bathroom. I found that selecting a sleep clinic that had accreditation through the American Academy of Sleep Medicine made a big difference.
    • Check to see if the sleep clinic you are considering is in your health insurance network, it will make a big difference in cost. Ask if they offer patient education, follow-ups as well as monitoring and will they allow you to visit their clinic.
  3. Life insurance companies want the same thing that you do. You want low rates, they want to give you low rates, yes they do! If you’re healthy, you have less chance of dying. If you’re healthy you get lower rates. Solving your sleep problems will help you improve your health.
  4. Not all life insurance companies are the same. Some life insurance companies have strict guidelines and some of them are more open to considering clients with a sleep disorder. If you use my services to find life insurance, let me know that you have a sleep disorder in the beginning and I will guide you to life insurance companies that are open to considering your condition, not all of them do. I cannot stress enough how important this is. If you even talked to your doctor about sleep problems, lets discuss this issue.

Sleep disorders can be a significant problem in applying for life insurance, but don’t let that stop you. Remember you are buying life insurance to protect your family. If you are worried about qualifying for life insurance, there are three options to consider

  1. Apply to the best sleep disorder friendly life insurance company we can find.
  2. Submit an informal inquiry.   This is where we gather your health information and informally submit it to several life insurance carriers on your behalf anonymously.
  3. Accept a guaranteed issue life insurance policy. It will be more expensive; however, you may want to avoid the depth of disclosure necessary with a life insurance company that wants more medical information.

The reason you want life insurance is to protect your family in the event that you are not alive to provide for them. When you start to look at what is involved in applying for a life insurance policy, especially when you have a sleep disorder, you can lose sight of why you are doing this. If you do not want to go through this process alone and you want someone who understands the system, I’d be honored to help you. The first step is completing the term life insurance quote request information on my website at

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog,

Van Richards


National Institutes of Health. (2011). 2011 nhi sleep disorders research plan (NIH Publication No. 11-7820). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website:

PruebasBMA (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Five Keys to Buying Life Insurance Online


Buying life insurance is changing from a drawn out face-to-face endeavor to a timesaving online purchase. Although the transaction process is changing, there are some aspects that are the same. For most people, it helps if they have an understanding of what to expect when buying life insurance online. Here are five keys to help make buying life insurance online a smoother process.

Why do you need life insurance?

Many people start thinking about life insurance when they have a change in their life. Having a baby, buying a house or a business are all financial obligations that are exciting times. However, if you have that kind of change happening in your life, what would happen if you died? Would it leave someone in your life with a financial hardship? When faced with this problem, most people have a deep heartfelt sense of obligation to care for their family and the way to care for their family is buy life insurance. When you buy life insurance, you know it is not for you, it is for the people you love.

How much life insurance do you need and for how long?

You know that you have obligations but what is the dollar value of those responsibilities? $245,340 is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s study says that it will take to raise a child[1].  Asking yourself questions like this is how you answer the second question, how much life insurance do you need and for how long? Look at your obligations and put a dollar value on them. If you are providing for a child, a $250,000 life insurance policy would be enough money to provide for a child. If you buy a policy at birth, it will be in the best interest of your child for you to have life insurance for twenty to twenty-five years. For a young parent, the cost of a term life insurance policy would cost about a $1 a month. If you would like to get more detailed about the total amount of life insurance you need for all of your obligations, there is a great calculator at When you go to the quote request page, look for the calculator, it will lead you through a few questions that will help you quickly determine how much life insurance you need.

What is the purchase process?

Now that you know why you are buying life insurance, how much to buy and for how long to keep it, you need to know the most important part of purchasing a life insurance policy online; what is the purchase process? When buying a life insurance policy, you are asking a life insurance company to guarantee to pay your beneficiary an enormous amount of money if you die anytime after paying the first premium. If you bought a quarter-million-dollar life insurance policy for about $30 a month and died after paying one premium, the life insurance company would pay your beneficiary $250,000 income tax free. Knowing the magnitude of this obligation should help you understand why the life insurance company is going to want to know as much as they can learn about your health and lifestyle. If you smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, you are a lumberjack (the most dangerous job)[2] and have three speeding tickets, you are going to pay more than a first grade school teacher that has a balanced diet, doesn’t smoke and exercises regularly.

Once you decide how much term life insurance you need, then use the website quoting tool at to determine which companies will offer the type of insurance you are requesting and get an idea of how much it may cost. Our website quoting system will ask for your name and contact information however no need to worry. For many people, it is understandable that you are still shopping and trying to figure out what is best for you to do next. When you leave your name, email, and telephone number, only one insurance agent is going to contact you, and that is going to be me. If you say, you were only shopping; that is OK. I’ll be here when you are ready.

Get A Quote Now

When you decide you want to apply for a policy, I am available to help answer any questions you may have, gather some basic information and I am going to give you a brief list of information that you will need to gather to complete your application. Shortly after our conversation an insurance company representative will give you a call to collect the more specific information. That representative will then arrange for a no-cost para-medical exam at your home or work. The exam is done by an experienced para-medical professional or a nurse. The extent of the medical information they gather from you will be determined by your age, health history and level of life insurance that you are requesting. If you have a regular doctor, requests will be made to that doctor for information about your health and a request will be made of the Department of Motor Vehicles for your driving record. Once all of this information is received, a person called a life insurance underwriter will review your information and determine if your application will be accepted or if any alterations are necessary. You are not being charged anything for any of application process, and you have the right to change your mind all the way up until thirty days after accepting the final life insurance policy. It may take from four to six weeks to complete this process, and you will receive regular updates on the status of your application until delivery to you.

Only apply for one-at-a-time.

This final information is critical to you getting the best price on your life insurance policy. It is understandable that you will shop around for the best price and plan. Once you decide to apply for a life insurance policy do not apply for another life insurance policy until the first policy is complete. Any time that you apply for a life insurance policy, every life insurance company shares their information with each other through a non-profit business called the Medical Information Bureau or MIB[3]. If you apply for another policy, any company will know about the other policy. If you have not disclosed that you are applying for another policy, you run the chance of both life insurance companies declining to offer you life insurance because they assume that you are trying to hide something. Your information is still kept private and not sold. If you encounter any questions during the application process, it is best to call, email or text me. I will be able to resolve any questions you have and help you get the best term life insurance policy available. If you do have health concerns, let us talk about that in the beginning of our conversations. Buying life insurance online is a streamlined process and can save you a lot of time. However, it is a very human process, that is why I am here to help.

Keep in mind why you are doing this.

The reason you are buying life insurance is because you don’t want to leave those you love with financial hardships in the event the worst happens. Famous writer Maya Angelou had a saying that she learned from her mother that is good advice to remember, always be “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”[4]

Thanks for reading my blog. If you liked it, please click the button. –Van Richards

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[1] U.S. Department of Agriculture. Parents Projected to Spend $245,340 to Raise a Child Born in 2013, According to USDA Report | USDA Newsroom. 2014.

[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics. Logging Workers: Occupational Outlook Handbook. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Labor, 2015.

[3] Ryan, J. B. “Insurers keep tabs on medical data.” USA Today Network, June 13, 2014.

[4] Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1970.


Personal Pre-Surgery Checklist

This is nothing like experience to help you understand a situation. I had the unenviable experience of a hospital stay recently and I found myself questioning a lot of things. My own personal health is one thing; however I’m sure I am like a lot of people and think about how what happens to me will affect the people around me. In sharing my experience, perhaps I can help someone else be better prepared if they are faced with a similar occurrence.

The first thing that comes to mind is what if I die? It’s one thing to be positive; it’s another to face the reality that we are all mortal. I’m going to a hospital for a reason; not thinking about death is ridiculous. I was reminded about this during my stay when I heard “code blue” several times that day. I’m ignorant; I did not know what it meant so I ask the nursing assistant that was in my room at the time, “what does code blue mean”? She was young and didn’t have a lot of tact. She said, “It means somebody kicked the bucket”. She went on to tell me that was the third one that day and one of them happened when a wife was checking her husband out and he “kicked the bucket” in the lobby! My wife had gone to get the car, should I have been worried?

Before I went for surgery, the first thing that came to mind “is my will update”? It was twenty-five years old, the answer was no. So I logged onto and for about $150 I had an updated will within about an hour. I think that going to a lawyer is a good thing, but it was Friday night. So the internet was the next best thing. FYI, when you are married, your spouse needs to have a separate will. Most of the time it is identical, so I did my wife’s will too. I also did a healthcare directive or living will. I did not want to leave my family with the decision of when to pull the plug if need be, so I covered that in the healthcare directive too. If you are one of my relatives reading this, I’m not dying yet. I just wanted to do the right planning. Additionally, so someone could sign on my business accounts and other financial accounts, I did a “power of attorney” document as well.

I went over my life insurance too. I have been selling life insurance for over twenty-eight years, so you’d think this would be up to date. I’m like the cobbler whose children had no shoes; I needed to update my life insurance beneficiaries too.  I bought my life insurance over twenty-five years ago, at the time, I thought I bought enough. If I die sooner than expected, it will make things a lot easier for my family, I am sure of that. But I would like to have more. I’m looking forward to recovery and I am sure I can get more for not too much money. So I’ll be optimistic and plan for a year from now.

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Most people, including family, try to be optimistic during a hospital stay. It’s the right thing to do, but if you are the one who is responsible for making sure the bills are paid on time, you need to talk to your spouse. We sat down and she made a list of everything that was paid, not paid, to pay, etc. The most important thing to share is how to log into the online accounts. I use a program called Splash Data ID. I have all my passwords on my IPhone and on the computer at home. All my wife needs to know is the password to get into that app and everything is in one place.

I have a second hospital stay coming up in about three weeks; however I expect to be in full swing before too long. But just in case, we talked about taxes too. If I can’t do the taxes on time, I filled out the form for an extension. All she needs to do is mail it if necessary. I take the responsibility of insurance, wills, taxes and I do not expect my wife to have to worry about that stuff. But if the unexpected happens, I gave her a list of people we trust that will help her if she needed.

I am humbled by the fact that God has blessed me with the family I have. I want to do the right thing and take care of them if I am not here. I have created an infographic to go along with this post to share this information. I hope that sharing my knowledge and experiences will give others the incentive to think about how they can care for their loved ones too.  I have a new website that can help with some of your planning:

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Thank you for reading, please feel free to share this post and the following infographic.

Van Richards


Curing Cancer

Is the answer to curing cancer in a “moonshot” research effort or changing our habits?

In his last State of the Union Address, President Obama appointed Vice President, Joe Biden to head the “moonshot” effort to cure cancer (Obama, 2016). Biden’s part in this effort is to help eliminate controversy and obstacles that may stand in the way of advancements to finding a cure. This is an effort that has bipartisan support. Cancer is such a widespread disease that most people’s lives have been touched in one way or another by it. However, is a cure possible? By stepping back and taking a broad view of the past efforts to heal people, the answer to curing cancer may involve more than most people expect.

           The earliest recorded efforts to treat cancer dates back to 3,000 B.C. Writings on Egyptian papyrus from that time “describes 8 cases of tumors or ulcers of the breast that were removed by cauterization with a tool called the fire drill” (ACS, 2014). Treatments have improved over the centuries, although the approach to treating cancer and many other diseases is the same as it was 3,000 years ago. People want a magic pill; they want to take a very complicated issue and reduce it to one simple answer.

          The problem with this reductionism attitude is that the human body and diseases that affect it are incredibly complicated. In many scientific studies, the tactic is to take one component and attempt to see how one factor affects the overall body and disease. This is generally how modern medicine works. If a person has a medical problem, there is a pill for that. High blood pressure, there is a pill for that. High cholesterol, there is a pill for that. To its credit reductionism in medicine has produced many advances that have improved and lengthened the life of the average person. The reductionism approach to research has been used in the search for a cure to cancer with some good results. However, cancer is still one of the major diseases throughout the world, especially in the United States. Perhaps it’s time to widen the scope of the approach to reducing the number of cancer cases. Any decrease in the number of cancer cases is a victory to some family.

          In research studies such as the Nurses’ Health Study, over a quarter million female nurses participated (Nurses’ Health Study, 2016). One of the goals was to determine if fat in the diet had a connection to breast cancer. After investing millions of dollars in research that began in 1970 and ran for decades, the study produced very little information that correlated fat intake to breast cancer. The study determined that “breast cancer risk does not rise with increased intakes of fat, meat, dairy or saturated fat” (Campbell, 2005). The research project had a significant number of factors that were analyzed and produced masses of information. However when addressing the results of how fat intake affected breast cancer, one of the lead researchers Dr. Meir Stampfer, stated: “this has been our greatest failure – that we have not learned more about what people can do to lower their risk” (Marchione, 2001). Perhaps, the answer to reducing the incidence of cancer may not be in the treatment of one factor such as fat, it may be in changing the dietary lifestyle of society.

          To get a good understanding of how dietary lifestyle affects people, compare two studies of very different dietary lifestyles. Participants in The Nurses’ Health Study are primarily women from the United States that consume animal protein as a part of their diet. In that study, changes in the types and level of fat had no noticeable effect on the development of breast cancer. The study did not attempt to show the impact of animal protein versus plant protein in the development of cancer.   The Cornell China Study is a study of lifestyle and diet of thousands of people in China that primarily consume a plant-based diet. The New York Times called The Cornell China Study the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” (Brody, 1990). They went further to explain “Sixty-five hundred Chinese have each contributed 367 facts about their eating and other habits that could ultimately help them and Americans preserve their health and prolong their lives” (Brody, 1990).

          The Cornell China Study was lead by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. Dr. Campbell’s research found that diets with lower concentrations of protein had a lower incidence of cancer. Dr. Campbell said, “dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth by changing the level consumed” (Campbell, 2005, p.6). The study got even more precise by showing that not all proteins promoted cancer growth. “Casein which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process” (Campbell,2005, p.6). In the study, plant protein had no effect on the growth of cancer at all.

          If Vice President Biden wants to lead the effort to cure cancer, his efforts would be more productive if he and the government put more resources into helping people understand how animal protein and plant protein affects the human body. Living in one of the richest countries in the world has lead to Americans having some of the worst dietary habits. The challenge for Vice President Biden is to change the dietary habits of an entire nation. The consumption of animal protein is an enormous part the American economy. Companies such as Tyson Foods, ConAgra, Kraft Foods, Smithfield Foods, and General Mills have billions of dollars in revenue and employee thousands and thousands of employees. Their primary products are animal based. Their presence in the economy is politically and legislatively entrenched.

          Americans have a growing appetite for meat which in part is based on the marketing efforts of the meat industry that is sponsored by the US Government. The average American eats 128 grams of meat per day (Daniel, 2011, p 578). The public perception is that eating beef is healthy because the United States Government promotes it. “The Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 directs the Secretary of Agriculture to implement a federal program to promote the marketing and consumption of beef” (Champoux, 2006, p.1108). The United States Department of Agriculture provides funds to assist with the general endorsement of beef consumption through a program referred to as a commodity checkoff program. A dollar from the sale of each head of cattle sold is a tax used for the promotion of beef consumption. The “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” (Champoux, 2006, p.1107) advertisement is a commodity checkoff advertisement campaign to promote beef as a healthy and versatile meal.

          The beef industry goes beyond advertising and creates its own research as propaganda. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a dinner with beef is healthier than the average healthy American diet (Roussell, 2011, p.1). This study shows that the average American meal has 287 milligrams of cholesterol as compared to a meal with lean beef at 168 milligrams of cholesterol (Roussell, 2011, p.3). The perception that the study is communicating is a 41% decrease in food cholesterol is good. The only problem with that logic is 168 milligrams of cholesterol is still greater than zero which is the level of cholesterol in a plant-based diet meal.

          Higher cholesterol leads to obesity. The American Institute for Cancer Research recent report estimates that 351 cancer cases a day are connected to obesity (AICR, 2016). That brings up the question of why a research study would try to sway readers to think that beef is healthy. The study was funded by the government subsidized Beef Checkoff Program, which is a part of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a group that co-sponsors the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” (Champoux, 2006, p.1107) advertising campaign. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study is biased because it was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program to promote the sale of beef.

          To be fair, almost all commodities in the United States have a check off program. For example, the “cotton, the fabric of our lives” (ACPI, n.d.) advertisement campaign is a commodity checkoff program. Programs like the beef, dairy, pork, poultry checkoff programs are the strongest and most heavily funded.

          Vice President Biden is supposed to lead the Nation to find a cure for cancer. Would he and the Nation consider anything less than an absolute cure a failure? Would a 20%, a 40% or even a 60% reduction in cancer be a success? Yes, any decrease in the incidence of cancer would be a success. A decline in the number of cancer cases diagnosed would mean more sons, daughters, mothers and fathers that would live longer healthier lives. Perhaps we need Meatless Monday, Tofu Tuesday, Watermelon Wednesday, Tomato Thursday, Frijoles’ Fridays, Soy Saturday and Salsa Sunday. For those that can accept the facts of the research, the answer to drastically reducing the incidence of cancer is the elimination of animal protein from their diet. Yet it may be unreasonable to expect everyone to change their dietary habits suddenly. Perhaps, with education and an understanding that changes in “dietary protein […] could turn on and turn off cancer growth” (Campbell, 2005, p.6) will help people begin to eat healthier and, reduce the incidence of cancer. It might not be the magic pill society is in search of; however it will help many people avoid cancer and live longer lives.


American Cancer Society. (2014). The history of cancer. Retrieved from

American Cotton Producers and Importers. (n.d.). Cotton, the fabric of our lives. Retrieved from

American Institute for Cancer Research. (2016). New estimates: obesity, overweight a cause of 351 cancer cases a day. Retrieved from

Brody, J. E. (1990, May 8). Huge study of diet indicts fat and meat. New York Times. Retrieved from

Campbell, T. C., & Campbell, T. M. (2005). The China study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

Champoux, M. (2006). Uncovering coherence in compelled subsidy of speech doctrine : Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Ass’n, 125 S. Ct. 2055. Harvard Journal OfLaw & Public Policy, vol. 29(3), pp. 1107-1108.

Daniel C.R., Cross, A.J., Koebnick, C, and Sinha, R. (2011). Trends in meat consumption in the USA. Public Health Nutrition, 14, pp 578. doi:10.1017/S1368980010002077.

Marchione, M. (2001, July 16). Taking the long view. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, p. 2G.

Nurses’ Health Study. (2016). Our story – nurses’ health study. Retrieved from Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital website:

Obama, B.H. (2016), State of the Union Address, Retrieved from The White House Website:

Roussell, M. A., Hill, A. M., Gaugler, T. L., West, S. G., Vanden Heuvel, J. P., Alaupovic, P., Gillies, P. J. (2011). Beef in an optimal lean diet study: effects on lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.016261

Organic vs Conventional – better or just expensive?

Most people are interested in having better health and a healthier diet.  Whether vegetables come fresh from the garden or off the shelf in the local grocery store’s produce aisle, the first step to preparing food is washing it. It is repulsive to take a spoonful of food and feel the grit of dirt because the produce was not washed well. Eating dirt cannot be healthy. Most people would agree that eating clean food is healthy. That is the premise of the organic food movement; eating the cleanest food possible is the healthiest way to consume food. Washing the dirt off of produce may be a simplified illustration. However that is where the concept of organic food begins. Organic produce is a clean piece of fruit or a vegetable with no additives or enhancements.

At the turn of the century, millions of War Gardens were all over America (Pack 1919, p. 15). When in season, many Americans grew gardens, and it was commonplace to walk out to the garden and pick the fruits or vegetables for a meal. Those days are long gone, and people have to rely on the food supply system of the country’s grocery stores. To keep that supply system functioning, farmers and grocery stores must be profitable to remain in business. Scientist helps keep the supply system going by creating pesticides to control parasites and develop fertilizers to help crops grow. Scientist can also safely change the crops’ genetic makeup to enhance its growth and resistance to parasites. These enhancements allow the crops to grow faster, larger and more resistant to parasites.  Produce that relies on the scientific advances available has become so productive and common that it is now referred to as conventional produce.

Farming methods used to grow conventional produce are safe and productive. In analyzing the inferiority of organic crops, Stanford University Professor Henry I. Miller stated:

An often-cited meta-analysis published in the prestigious Journal Nature in 2012 confirmed that “overall, organic yields are typically lower than conventional yield,” and that under circumstances “when the conventional and organic systems are most comparable,” yields are 34% lower (Miller, 2015, p. 2).

In supplying greater yields, farming methods that grow conventional produce can supply Americans with a healthy supply of fruits and vegetables.

To maintain a healthy body, it is important to eat fruits and vegetables. To promote a healthy population, the United States Department of Agriculture studies American dietary habits and makes recommendations to help Americans live healthier lives. In their 2010 dietary guideline report, the USDA stated, “Very few Americans consume the amounts of vegetables recommended as part of healthy eating patterns” (Dietary Guidelines, 2010, p.36) One of the best ways to encourage people to eat more produce is to make it economical. Farming methods used to grow conventional produce provides the most economical fruits and vegetables available.

In a study done between November 4, 2015, and November 11, 2015, the prices of in-season organic fruits and vegetables at Sprouts and Kroger grocery stores in Northwest Houston were shown to be 71% higher in price on average (V. Richards, personal communication, November 11, 2015).  Undoubtedly, the more economical way to get more fruits and vegetables into diets is by buying produce that is grown with conventional farming methods.

Advocates of organic farming and those who advocate conventional farming can agree on one thing: Americans need to eat more produce. The disagreement that arises is which is more important, the quantity of the produce or the quality and what constitutes quality? Quality produce is fruits and vegetables that are grown in the most natural circumstances possible; that is organic produce.

This does not mean that organic produce does not use pesticides. The pesticides that are used in organic farming are all natural. There are no artificial pesticides used. The conventional farming advocates do not deny that there are residual pesticides in food. In a study done of young children living in low-income families in urban California, “an organic diet was significantly associated with reduced […] insecticide […] and[ …] herbicide” (Bradman, 2015, p. 1086). An important fact that is overlooked by the conventional farming advocate community is how much residual pesticide is healthy. Dr. Andrew Weil has encouraged a greater awareness of crop pesticides for many years. In 1997, he stated, “standards for acceptable levels of toxic agrichemicals in food are based on risks of acute toxicity” (Weil, 1997, p.85). Young children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems may be more susceptible to lower levels of pesticides. Additionally, there is a great deal that is not known about the long-term exposure to pesticides, especially those that are artificially created.

The danger that artificially created pesticides pose could be huge. In nature, the word organic relates to anything that is associated with the element carbon. Carbon is one of the most stable naturally occurring elements on Earth. Compounds that are made up of carbon do not have much risk of creating unknown compounds. Unknown compounds that develop in our environment create a greater risk to human health because it is indefinite what effect those mysterious compounds will have on the human body. Artificially created pesticides usually have elements that will readily bond with other compounds. The fact that these artificially created pesticides will bond so willingly means that the compounds that make them up have an abundance of active electrons that are referred to as free radicals. The free radicals are looking to bond with almost anything. The long-term effects are just not known. When free radicals bond with elements or compounds in the human body, there is a better chance for the development of cell mutations or cancer.

There is no doubt that conventionally grown produce is less expensive than organically grown fruits and vegetables. There is no clear determination that organically grown produce is any healthier. In a study of more than half a million women in England, there was only a “21% lower risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in women who reported usually or always eating organic food” (Bradbury, 2014, p.2325).   There is also no conclusive evidence that organic food is more nutritious than food grown with conventional farming methods. However, there is strong evidence that “consummation of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria (Smith-Spangler, 2012, p.348). In a world of probabilities, it is the unknown that is most feared. Farming technology can add a great deal to an ever growing world. It is important not to lose sight of the balance that should be considered between large quantities of cheap produce and natural produce grown through organic farming.

The agriculture industry does have a responsibility to provide consumers with safe food products. However, it is easy to see how consumers could find the choices confusing. Between the media, academia, business interest groups, and government consumers are inundated with information about which produce farming method is the best. After being given many choices, it is up to consumers to decide what produce will be best for them and their family. Dr. Andrew Weil and health coach/author Terry Walters suggest a compromise developed by the Environmental Working Group, “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15” (Weil, 1997, p. 84;Walters, 2009, p.23). The Environmental Working Group or the EWG is a non-partisan research and educational group offering information on health and environmental issues.

The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables that have a higher level of residual pesticides. For example, strawberries are one of the fruits on this list. Dr. Weil states, “I do not eat conventional strawberries because they contain methyl bromide, a known cancer-causing pesticide, applied to the soil, taken up by the plant, and impossible to wash off the fruit” (Weil & Daley, 2002, p.107).  The Clean 15 are fruits and vegetables that retain lower levels of residual agrichemicals. Ms. Walters list these as the Dirty Dozen: apples, bell peppers, domestic blueberries, celery, grapes, kale/collard greens, lettuce, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach and strawberries. She lists the Clean 15 as asparagus, avocados, cabbage, domestic cantaloupe, non-GMO sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, peas, pineapples, sweet potatoes, and watermelon (Walters, 2009, p. 23).   “The group (EWG) says you can cut your exposure by 50 percent simply by reducing your consumption of the Dirty Dozen” (Weil, 1997, p. 84).

Organic produce – clean fruit or vegetables with no additives or enhancements is a food source with the least concerns about its adverse effects on the human body. Organic produce have lower pesticide residues, no genetic alterations, and no artificial ingredients. Advocates of conventional farming cite probabilities and statistics to back their claims of inconsequential exposure to these manmade influences. Consumers are seeing beyond the hype of science and moving toward more organic food purchases. The evidence is shown by the efforts of mega-retailers such as Wal-Mart entering the organic foods market. “At Wal-Mart, internal company research found that 91 percent of customers said they would buy affordable organic products if they were available” (Harris, 2014). With public sentiment moving toward the desire to have organic foods, advocates of conventional farming methods could gain a bigger market share if they would diversify their crops and add organic farming methods to their business. Price conscious consumers who want to buy more affordable organic foods can shop Wal-Mart for value priced organic foods. Plus they can get the best value on the cleanest organic produce options by purchasing organic options of the Dirty Dozen produce. By following this shopping approach of the in-season produce at Sprouts and Kroger in Northwest Houston, the premium for purchasing produce dropped from 71% to 26% (V. Richards, personal communication, November 11, 2015). More affordable organic food options will give people the opportunity to live healthier lives.


Bradbury, K. E., Balkwill, A., Spencer, E. A., Roddam, A. W., Reeves, G. K., Green, J., & Pirie, K. (2014). Organic food consumption and the incidence of cancer in a large prospective study of women in the United Kingdom. British Journal of Cancer110(9), 2321-2326 6p. doi:10.1038/bjc.2014.148

Bradman A, Quirós-Alcalá L, Castorina R, Aguilar Schall R, Camacho J, Holland NT, Barr DB, Eskenazi B. 2015. Effect of organic diet intervention on pesticide exposures in young children living in low-income urban and agricultural communities. Environmental Health Perspectives 123:1086–1093;

Harris, E. A., & Strom, S. (2014, April 10). Wal-Mart to sell organic food, undercutting big brands. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Miller, H. I. (2015). The dirty truth about “organic”. Hoover Institution Journal. Retrieved from

Pack, C. L. (1919). War garden victorious.  Retrieved from–JiajJAhVDRCYKHSaoCLQQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=War%20garden%20victorious&f=false

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