Friday, December 21, 2012

Health Care and the Christmas Story

December the 25th has special meaning to millions of people, not only in America, but around the world. This date has historically marked the celebration of the birth of Christ, the Savior of the world--Emmanuel. God with us! Mankind was provided a special gift on that first Christmas day two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, the City of David. Now, in 2012, modern celebrations focus in a big way on the Holiday, more than the Reason for the Season.

In Roman times, life was hard. Life was short, and many people died young. The region where Jesus was born was known as a wasteland by those who lived there and did not want to be there, like Roman soldiers and slaves from all over the known conquered world.

Shortly before Jesus was born, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus decided that a census be taken throughout the Roman Empire, including the land of Israel. People were required to return to their ancestral homes for registration. For Joseph and Mary, that meant leaving Nazareth, which is a town in the northern district of Galilee, and traveling to Bethlehem, which is in the southern region called Judah or Judea. After they arrived in Bethlehem, Mary was ready to give birth to Jesus, according to AboutBibleProphecy.com.

So, Joseph and Mary went to a manger because they could not find other lodging. It was a manger, where animals are kept, that served as the humble place of birth for Jesus. Bethlehem is an important city for Messianic prophecy. King David, who ruled over Israel about 1,000 years before the time of Jesus, was born in Bethlehem. And the Hebrew prophet Micah, who lived about 700 years before Jesus, announced that Bethlehem would be the birthplace for the Messiah:

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." - Micah 5:2 (NIV translation). More information can be also found at this website: http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/loj1.htm .

Now, here is the Story of the first Christmas, according to the New International Version of Luke 2: 1-20: "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.' 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."

The historical events of that period had a profound influence on the thought and way of life of the Jews and consequently on the development of Jewish medical art as well. As a result of the Babylonian Exile, of Greek rule followed by the Hasmonean Wars, the rise of Christianity and the Exile after the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish community became wide open to influences from neighboring countries and to foreign philosophies, which had their effect on every walk of life, including medicine, according to The Jewish Virtual Library.

The sources for this period are the Apocryphal books, Greco-Roman writings of Jews and non-Jews, the Mishnah, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, the Midrashim, and, in part, the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. None of these sources is a medical book as such. Except for a few cases, medical matters are dealt with mainly to illustrate points of ritual, or civil and criminal law. The influence of Persian and Babylonian magic medicine is clear from references to amulets, the evil eye, demons, etc.

The Greek influence on Jewish medical thought was considerable, but we find that the scholars were not blind adherents of the humoral pathology, but rather followers of anatomic pathology. This was doubtless based on their experiments and observations of sick animals before and after slaughter, as well as on their studies of human bodies and corpses. One of the interpretations given to the name of the sect known as Essenes is "healers." Their medicine mainly influenced Christian medicine and medical thought. They studied and collected herbs and roots for healing purposes, though their chief remedies were prayer, mystic formulas, and amulets.

Abiding faith was all that was considered necessary for curing physical and mental diseases as well as chronic defects such as blindness, lameness, and deafness. The medicine mentioned in the New Testament is almost entirely of this type of miracle cure. By contrast, the attitude of Jewish scholars of the time, and later those of the Talmud, is generally a scientific one, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

The medicines mentioned in the Talmud include powders, medicated drinks, juices, balsams, bandages, compresses, and incense. Meat and eggs were considered to be the most nourishing foods; fried food or food containing fat was regarded as difficult to digest. The eating of vegetables throughout the year and the drinking of fresh water at every meal were recommended. Baths and mineral waters were regarded as general strengthening tonics and as therapeutics for certain skin diseases. Herbs were used for constipation; and purges were recommended in serious cases, except for pregnant women. The use of opium as an analgesic and hypnotic drug was known, and warning was given against overdosing. Anything useful for healing purposes was permitted at any time, even on the Sabbath.

Surgeons operated in special halls. "Sleeping drugs" were used as anesthetics. From descriptions of operations, knowledge has been learned of trepannings, amputations, and removal of the spleen. A cesarean was also performed, but it is not clear whether the operation was done on a living or on an already dead body. In general, the life of the mother had priority and therefore the killing of a fetus during a difficult birth was allowed. Wound edges were cut in order to ensure complete and clean healing. Surgeons wore special operation aprons . Much more detailed material about healthcare in Biblical days can be found at this website: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0013_0_13493.html .

Life was difficult, even hazardous, in those days. Jesus was born in a location that was dirty and definitely highly unsanitary, especially by today’s standard. Yet, He survived and lived a full life until He gave His life at the age of 33--crucified on a cross, and buried in a borrowed tomb. The Good News is that three days later God the Father raised Him from the dead, and Jesus overcame both death and the grave. For those who believe, it is the story of salvation and everlasting life. If you haven’t discovered it, the Christmas story is where it begins, but the end is still being told. Don’t overlook the Life that was given amid all the glitz of the Season. It would be a shame to receive presents, but miss the greatest Gift of all. Jesus is the Reason.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Health Care and Holiday Toy Safety

During the weeks leading up to Christmas and the Holidays, the malls, stores, and most all retail locations are packed with shoppers. And, the closer you get to December 25th, the more robust are the crowds. Even online shopping is setting new records for monies being spent for gifts. For children, this time of year presents a huge opportunity for their parents and other family and friends to spend money, especially for all kinds of toys. And there are thousands to choose from both the stores and online.

According to the American Research Group which has been tracking spending habits since 1985, Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $854 for gifts this holiday season, up from $646 last year according to the twenty-seventh annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc. In telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,100 adults nationwide conducted November 11 through 14, 2012, the average planned spending of $854 for 2012 is up over 32% from average planned spending in the 2011 survey and the planned spending matches planned spending of $859 in 2007. More details can be found at this site: http://americanresearchgroup.com/holiday/ .

Costs can rise for families, especially for parents with underage children, as reported by Yahoo Finance this month. According to an article released by MSN in December 2011, American parents planned to spend an average of $271 per child in Christmas gifts. One in 10 parents said the plan was to spend over $500 per child. While this is just an average, American families can definitely spend an astronomical amount of money on Christmas gifts. Larger families with several children may have to work even harder to avoid the holiday spending hangover. While this excess would be better placed elsewhere, such as parents creating strong financial futures for their families, these warnings often fall on deaf ears. Christmas spending has taken a dramatic increase in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. More details about average spending during this Season can be found at this site: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/average-cost-american-christmas-222932405.html .

According to eDocAmerica, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is a consumer-advocacy group whose stated mission is to "support parents' efforts to raise healthy families by limiting commercial access to children and ending the exploitive practice of child-targeted marketing." Each year, they announce their worst toy of the year, which has the dubious distinction of being given the TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young children) award. While in the past toys with potential for injury headed the list of worst toys, this year's TOADY award finalists were toys that involved cell phone technology, unhealthy foods, and what they consider to be inappropriate gender-marketing.

This year's worst toy was the Laugh & Learn Apptivity Monkey from Fisher-Price. This toy, a stuffed monkey that holds an Apple digital device, is marketed for children 6 to 36 months of age. Fisher-Price promotes the Apptivity Monkey as the "best of both worlds for baby—a soft, cuddly friend to hold and hug, plus fun interactive learning with your iPhone or iPod touch!" This is counter to a policy issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that discourages TV and other media use by children younger than 2 years.

Two other contenders for the TOADY award, TheO Ball and Put Me in the Story app also utilized cell phones or cell phone apps. With the questionable goal of promoting physical activity, TheO Ball was designed to "hold your phone within its cushioned grasp, allowing you to literally throw your phone around to play games without fear of damage." Put Me in the Story app, allows popular children's stories to become e-books starring their own child. Many voters felt that this placed too much emphasis on the "me" and was a poor substitute for interactive book reading involving parent and child.

Other top five contenders included LEGO's Butterfly Beauty Shop and the 7-11 Slurpee Machine. The Beauty Shop encourages girls to "get primped and pretty and have some serious salon fun". CCFC felt that this toy promoted condescending stereotypes. Concerns regarding the 7-11 Slurpee Machine centered on children creating sugary treats that could lead to obesity or diabetes.

On the other side of the coin were Good Housekeeping's Best Toy Awards 2012 and Parenting Magazine's Best New Toys of 2012. In selecting their toys, Good Housekeeping considered those that incorporated "creativity, skill-building, problem-solving, and strategy". One hundred thirty-five different toys were "tested" by 140 children in laboratory and home settings to determine the 24 toys that made their best list. Editors from Parenting Magazine selected their best toys after attending the American International Toy Fair in New York. Twenty-five toys made the cut as the "Best in Play" for 2012.

Toy safety is paramount, especially when you are spending hundreds of dollars during the Holidays. According to www.Gifts.com, this holiday season, don't grant your kids' wishes for the newest, coolest toys until you know they're safe. With new product recalls almost daily, choosing safe and healthy toys can be a daunting task. Before you buy, double check that the toy you're considering meets safe shopping guidelines. Here are some tips:

Is the toy age-appropriate? It's essential to adhere to the age guidelines indicated on toy packaging—because even a toy for a 3-year-old could have parts too small for a 2-year-old to handle properly.

Are there any small, loose parts that your child can swallow? If you're not sure, consider the toilet paper tube test—anything that can pass through the tube is too small to be given to a child under 3 years old. Marbles, coins and balls are common culprits. Also, make sure that any buttons, eyes and noses are tightly secured.

Could any part of the toy be bitten off and swallowed? Little kids love to chew their toys, so avoid any toys that have small pieces that can be easily gnawed off.

Does the toy have a string, ribbon, straps or cord longer than 7 inches? For young children, avoid these toys or remove the strings to prevent strangulation.

Is your toy non-toxic? Check to make sure the toy has a non-toxic, durable finish and check art supplies for the ACMI (Art and Creative Material Institute, Inc.) seal—this means its non-toxic.

Could any part cut small hands or fingers? Look for points, edges or breakable parts that could be sharp and avoid those toys for kids under eight. If you're considering a ride-on, is it sturdy and stable, and does the recipient have all the proper safety equipment (helmet, kneepads, etc.) required to use it?

Does the toy include magnets? Building sets, action figures, puzzles or dolls containing small, powerful magnets can be fatal is swallowed by children.

Could the toy be a fire hazard? Fabric toys should be labeled as flame retardant or flame resistant. And electrical toys with batteries or electric plugs pose a burn hazard so they should be avoided for kids under eight.

If you're considering a ride-on, is it sturdy and stable? And, does the recipient have all the proper safety equipment (helmet, kneepads, etc.) required to use it?

Does the toy include any throwing or shooting projectiles? It's best to avoid these toys because they can cause injuries, especially to the eyes.

Could the toy contain questionable chemicals? Phthalates have been banned in children's toys and children's care articles since February 2009, and stricter standards are in place for lead and other potentially toxic chemicals, too. But if you want to know about any trace amounts of these types of chemicals, look up levels for specific toys on www.HealthyStuff.org .

Has the product been recalled? Toys have been some of the largest category of recalled children's products. Always double check product recalls online at the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission before you wrap, especially if you purchased a toy months before the holiday.

More informational tips about this subject can be found at this site: http://www.gifts.com/christmas/holiday-toys-safety-guide.html .

Check your merchandise before you purchase, and make sure the store has a good return policy if you feel that the toy has some safety issues. If you find out that certain toys are hazardous, then by all means get your money back. Safety is critical to the health and wellbeing of your child. Use good resources such as internet sites that provide safety tips and health hazard warnings before you buy. Talk to store managers to see if they have had any problems with any toys. They want to make a sale, but they also are very keen on your repeat business. The last thing any business or store wants is a lawsuit over a toy, and they sure are keenly sensitive to bad media attention and disgruntled parents.

Shop safely, and have fun. Try to avoid stressful times if you can when you are looking for that perfect gift. Do your research before you go, and try to avoid impulse buys. Make a shopping game plan. Above all, use your common sense to spend money on toys that help kids, and not hurt them. The Holidays are a great time to experience the Joy of the Season. Don't ruin the fun by making bad choices, including your toys. Enjoy your family time by seeing the smiles and hearing the giggles of your children when they unwrap those perfect toys. Your kids will be excited, and you'll have peace of mind.

Until next time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Health Care and Holiday Travel

During December and early January every year, millions of people ramp up travel plans, especially for the Holidays. According to US News & World Report, chances are, you'll be traveling during the holiday season to reconnect with family and friends or take a much-needed vacation. While holiday travel can be great for your psyche, it can take a hefty toll on your health.

The journey itself can be filled with stress—traffic, flight delays and those new, more invasive airport security screenings—as well as causing a disruption in your sleep schedule and eating habits; all of these can lower your immune system's ability to fight off the flu and cold germs, making you more prone to getting sick. Once you arrive at your destination, you'll likely face large festive meals combined with a lot of sitting and schmoozing, not great for your waistline. If you have a smart action plan, though, you might be able to clear some of these hurdles to stay healthy and fit during the holiday season.

Here are 10 tips for dealing with holiday travel provided by leading fitness and travel experts, according to US News & World Report:

1. Plan meals in advance—“Pack your carry-on with healthy goodies so you have something on hand when hunger strikes," says vegan travel blogger Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, creator of the Healthy Voyager website and radio show. She recommends bringing a small bag of nuts, a few low-sugar energy bars or your favorite sandwich to eat during the flight. If you don't have time to pack some snacks, use an app like the free GateGuru to find out where you can get a healthy meal at the airport. If you're driving to your destination, avoid eating a heavy meal right before you hit the road to keep from getting drowsy; instead, eat a small low-fat meal and tote along some snacks to stay energized throughout your drive.

2. Get a full night's rest--Make sleep a top priority on the night before your trip. Get the packing and other preparations done early in the day, so you're not driving drowsy on the road or slugging through the airport with a fatigue headache. Research has shown skipping even a few hours of sleep can make you more susceptible to catching a cold the next day. And it can cause you to be a less alert driver, which is why the AAA recommends getting at least six hours of shut-eye before a long road trip. If you can't, get a designated driver to help you out. And, “if you're flying, make use of that in-flight pillow, blanket and eye mask on the airplane to help you recover those lost winks”, says Scott-Hamilton.

3. Stay active--Exercise will boost your energy and mood while traveling, says Mark Verstegen, a trainer and founder of Core Performance, who serves as the director of performance for the NFL Players Association. Wear comfortable shoes so you can walk around the airport terminal instead of sitting down to wait for boarding. And make a few trips up and down the aisle during your flight, even if you don't need the restroom. In the car, take breaks every two or three hours for a quick burst of fresh air and brisk walk around the service station. "Even ten minutes will do," Verstegen says.

4. Skip the in-flight cocktail, coffee and caffeinated beverages--Alcoholic beverages can have a stronger effect when you're imbibing at high altitudes and may enhance jet-lag symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, headaches or mental grogginess. And they can be very dehydrating. So, too, can coffee and other caffeinated beverages. Your best bet is to drink plenty of water. If you know you've got a long wait at the airport and want to avoid spending $5 on bottled water, tote along an empty bottle and fill it up at a water fountain after you pass through security, recommends Scott-Hamilton.

5. Prepare for unexpected delays--These can be stressful since they're largely out of your control, but preparing for them can help you deal better, says Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. Pack some movies and books that you've been dying to get through. Also, keep things in perspective. "Yes, it is a bummer to be stuck in the airport or in traffic, but it's not the end of the world," Lombardo says. Consider how lucky you are, she adds, that you are going to visit people you love or have the means to travel to a fun place.

6. Plan family activities around fitness--Skating, tobogganing or caroling are fun ideas, suggests Jill Houk, who co-owns Centered Chef Food Studios, a health-focused catering company. If the family would rather stay cozy by the fire, offer to walk the dog or jog to the store for the cranberry sauce. Plan your activity for early in the day because it's far tougher to get up and moving after dinner, points out Verstegen.

7. Bring your own breakfast--Save your calories for lunch or dinner, and skip those 1,000-calorie breakfasts of pancakes, bacon and French toast, Houk says. She suggests toting along some cereal bars, apples, dried fruit or instant unsweetened oatmeal, just in case dried cereal isn't a morning option where you're staying.

8. Plug in to stay on track--Fitness websites and mobile apps make it easy to work out at Mom's house, even if you don't have equipment. MyFitnessPal, which is available free online and for download to iPhones and Androids, lets you track your daily exercise and nutrition and determine how many calories you're burning, say, sledding with your nieces or how many you're consuming in that Samuel Adams Holiday Porter. Comprehensive programs like Adidas’ miCoach allow you to tap into your personalized workouts and coaching instructions, or you can easily plan out a running path in your area via MapMyFitness.com.

9. Follow an 80/20 rule at dinner--Yes, you can have your holiday favorites, if you limit the portion sizes. Load up your plate with 80 percent fresh or steamed vegetables and fruits and 20 percent everything else, says Houk.

10. Avoid the holiday splurge-and-starve cycle--When people eat a large meal or overindulge, "there's a tendency to say 'I overate at dinner last night, so I'll just skip breakfast and lunch.'" Steer clear of that downward spiral, he says. It’s much better to break the cycle right away by starting the next morning with a quick walk and light, nutritious breakfast, and fill up with a snack and a glass of water before you sit down to the next tempting meal.

Safety is also a primary concern. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, here are a few suggestions following these safety tips to avoid problems during your travels:

Personal Travel Plan: Think Before You Go:

• File a “travel plan.” Let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, when you plan to arrive and how to contact you. If you deviate from that plan, let someone know.
• Travel with friends. There is safety in numbers.

Driving: On the Road Again:

• Always lock your car doors. Keep valuables out of sight, preferably in the trunk of your car.
• Never pick up hitchhikers.
• Park in well-lighted areas and close to the building.

Travel Destination: Checking In:

• Store valuables in the room safe or in the facility’s main safe.
• Don’t tell strangers the name of your hotel, your room number, or other personal information.

Personal Safety: On the Town:

• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Take only the cash you need in your purse or wallet.
• Avoid going off with strangers, and always use the buddy system.
• Avoid using alcohol and other drugs. Impaired judgment can put you in potentially dangerous situations.

Much more information on additional safety tips can be found at the NCPC website: http://www.examiner.com/article/holiday-travel-safety-tips-from-the-national-crime-prevention-council .

Regardless if you are going to travel 100 miles, or 1,000 miles, or even 10,000 miles from home during this time of year, use common sense to find your way to your destination. Although a GPS navigator is great to get directions and to locate your final resting spot, it is not equipped to make judgment calls or get you out of hot water if you make mistakes. Use the tips noted in this blog to help with your health and happiness when you travel.

Until next time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Health Care and Snow

During the Winter Season, many parts of the US and the world experience snowfall. It can be a beautiful sight when the white flakes come drifting down and cover all the ground and vegetation. Picture post cards and Christmas cards are abundant with scenes of snow that paint a picture of a white blanket covering the countryside. And, for those romantics in the audience, snow is a reminder of simpler times when you were a child with memories of sledding and building snowmen. And, thousands of people go skiing when they are at resorts or in the mountains. But snow can also be a challenge in certain circumstances, and this frozen precipitation has some dangerous consequences at times.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, snow cover is a part of the cryosphere which traces its origins to the Greek word kryos for frost. Snow is precipitation in the form of ice crystals. It originates in clouds when temperatures are below the freezing point (0 degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit), when water vapor in the atmosphere condenses directly into ice without going through the liquid stage. Once an ice crystal has formed, it absorbs and freezes additional water vapor from the surrounding air, growing into a snow crystal or snow pellet, which then falls to Earth. Snow falls in several forms:

• Snowflakes are clusters of ice crystals that fall from a cloud.

• Snow pellets, or graupel, are opaque ice particles in the atmosphere. They form as ice crystals fall through supercooled cloud droplets, which are below freezing but remain a liquid. The cloud droplets then freeze to the crystals, forming a lumpy mass. Graupel tends to be soft and crumbly.

• Sleet is composed of drops of rain or drizzle that freeze into ice as they fall, and is sometimes called a wintery mix of rain and snow. These small, translucent balls of ice are usually smaller than 0.76 centimeters (0.30 inches) in diameter. Official weather observations may list sleet as ice pellets. In some parts of the United States, the term sleet can refer to a mixture of ice pellets and freezing rain.

More information can be found at this website: http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/snow/ .

According to Yahoo News, if you're dealing with ice and snow where you are, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1.) Car accidents: Slippery surfaces equal accidents waiting to happen!

Everybody knows that ice is slippery, but a lot of people still try to drive in inclement weather, anyway. In fact, yesterday morning, my husband was determined to drive to work, even though the roads were in terrible shape. He lasted just a few hours in the office before he was on his way home. The drive, which usually takes about 45 minutes, took him well over two hours, mainly because there were many car accidents.

There's a good reason why people are urged to stay home during severe weather. You may think your work is crucial, and it may very well be. But, unless your work literally makes the difference between someone's life or death, you really should consider staying home when the roads are icy. You may be the world's best driver, but you'll still have to deal with people who are driving too fast for the road conditions and you could still get in an accident. The choice to stay home or go to work is ultimately up to you, but if you think you're being a hero by trying to go to work when the weather is bad, think about how effective you'll be if you end up getting badly hurt or even killed in a car accident. And consider that if you do get hurt, one of your family members or friends may have to go out in the weather to take care of you. Please be safe and try not to drive when the roads are bad. And for heaven's sake, as tempting as it may be, try to resist the urge to go shopping on snow days... unless you can walk to the mall! And even then, be careful. You can hurt yourself slipping on the ice, too.

2.) Heart attacks, sore muscles, and dehydration: Shoveling snow may be risky for some people!

There's a huge pile of snow in your driveway. Your sidewalk is totally covered with the white stuff. You want to clear it away with your snow shovel. If your heart is healthy, shoveling snow may provide you with an excellent chance for some exercise. But did you know studies have shown that shoveling snow puts some people at risk for heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems?

It's true. Shoveling snow is hard work and people who have heart issues may not realize how much they're exerting themselves when they clear snow. The cold weather causes the coronary arteries to constrict. Even people in good physical shape with healthy hearts tend to overexert themselves while they are shoveling snow. Consider that each shovel full of snow can weigh as much as fifteen pounds. If, in one minute, you move ten to twelve loads of snow with your shovel, you will have moved several hundred pounds of the stuff. That's a lot of work, even for someone whose heart is in excellent shape.

Aside from your heart muscle, the muscles in the rest of your body might also take quite a beating during a session spent shoveling snow. If you're not used to getting regular exercise, you may end up very stiff and sore or even injured if you're not careful.

3.) Hypothermia and frostbite: When you get too cold.

Frostbite and hypothermia are two different conditions that can occur when the weather gets cold.

Hypothermia--When your body temperature dips below 96 degrees Fahrenheit, that's hypothermia, and it doesn't have to be freezing cold outside for you to be at risk. According to the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Omaha, Nebraska, you can get hypothermia even by being underdressed on a 60 degree day. Elderly people are especially at risk for hypothermia, since they tend to take more medications and have medical conditions that can affect their circulation and their ability to resist the cold. Some older people also have trouble shivering effectively, which is the body's way of warming you up.

When the weather gets cold, be sure to dress in layers to keep your body temperature from dropping too low. If you can afford it, set your thermostat between 68 and 70 degrees during cold weather. Keep your pantry stocked with nutritious food; eat hot foods and drink warm drinks on cold days. Wear a hat, gloves or mittens, boots, and a scarf if you must venture outside. If you or someone you're with starts to feel sluggish or has trouble thinking clearly, call your doctor or an ambulance. In the meantime, try to get warm by wrapping up in blankets. If you're with another person or a pet, consider huddling close together so you can share body heat.

Frostbite--When the weather gets extremely cold, your body does its best to protect your vital organs above all else. In order to do that, your body diverts blood flow that would ordinarily go to your extremities to your vital organs. If your hands, feet, ears, or nose are not properly protected in extremely cold weather, they can end up freezing.

To avoid frostbite, try to avoid going outside when it's extremely cold. If you must go outside, bundle up in layers. Be sure to protect the exposed areas of your skin and keep your skin dry. Stay out of the wind as much as possible and drink fluids to increase your blood's volume. Don't drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, since they tend to be dehydrating and constrict your blood vessels. Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes can also put you at risk, since they affect the way your body handles the cold.

If you start to experience frostbite, go indoors and warm up those cold extremities. Take a warm bath or use your armpits, a warm companion or pet, or warm clothes to get the blood flowing again. If your skin appears to be blue, swollen, very blistered, is very painful or feels hard and numb, get to a hospital. Frostbite that isn't promptly treated can lead to gangrene. More details can be found at this website: http://voices.yahoo.com/avoiding-three-common-ice-snow-health-hazards-7587394.html .

Yes, snow is beautiful to look at, but it can also be dangerous. Use common sense when working outside during the winter and in snowy conditions. Blizzards are dangerous and can be deadly, and so can thunderstorms that occur during the winter and create serious safety concerns. Be careful when walking and especially when driving in snow. The winter time can be fun, and snow can be a great source of beauty and recreation. Just be careful. You’ll want to stay around to enjoy it this time next year.

Until next time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Health Care and Holiday Plants

During the Holiday Season, with decorations taking on a more prominent visual affect, it's important to realize how much plants and certain greenery take on such an important role. Also, you should know what to expect when you have live plants or even cut vegetation and floral arrangements to arrange and manage during these winter months. Christmas especially is a time when the plants you use for decoration can create a stunning scene when arranged correctly and properly handled during this Season.

Plants play a big role in our holiday celebrations, according to Marie Ianotti with the Gardening Guide on About.com. Whether you're giving holiday plants or using them as decorations, indoors and out, certain plants have become an intrinsic holiday traditions. Beautiful as they are in the store, holiday plants don't always make an easy transition into your home. Here are some tips for choosing holiday plants and caring for them through the holidays and afterward:

1.) Poinsettias--Poinsettias are everywhere at Christmastime. Red flowers would seem an obvious choice for Christmas, but now poinsettias come in pastel shades of cream and pink and you’ll even find them dyed, painted and done up in glitter and bows. Now poinsettias can be used to celebrate multiple holidays and look right at home in any decor.

2.) Christmas Cactus--Who would have thought a cactus would become a symbol of Christmas? Cactus make excellent houseplants, if you can resist the temptation to fuss over them. And unlike the poinsettia, the Christmas cactus just seems to know that Christmas is the perfect time to bloom and let it all hang out.

3.) Cyclamen--There are many cyclamen species that are grown in the garden, butCyclamen persicum, or the Florist Cyclamen, is often grown as a house plant and is popular around Thanksgiving and Christmas because that’s when it tends to be in bloom. Cyclamen make a wonderful holiday plant because they adapt well as houseplants, blooming again for next year’s holidays.

4.) Maybe you don’t think of Christmas trees as holiday plants, but when you stop to think about it, a live Christmas tree is just that. It can be a tree you intend to plant outdoors, after the holidays, or a potted evergreen you want to keep as a houseplant or display on the patio. Take care in choosing which type of live evergreen you want for your Christmas tree, because it’s only going to get bigger.

5.) Amaryllis--Much like Poinsettias, Amaryllis plants have been popular at Christmas time partly because they come in so many shades of red. Also like Poinsettia, Amaryllis don’t necessarily bloom at Christmastime, when left to their own devices. The Amaryllis is a huge bulb that’s actually very easy to grow and care for. The bulbs are widely available in December, so they make a great gift. They may not bloom until later in the spring, but unlike Poinsettia, they are eager repeat bloomers.

According to the West Virginia University Extension Center, flowering plants provide beauty and are a traditional gift item. Most of these decorative plants are harmless, but some may be hazardous or even dangerous to children and pets if part of the plant is eaten or handled. Even plants that are not toxic do present choking hazards in children. Holiday plants with berries present the most common poison hazard. These include mistletoe, holly, bittersweet, and Jerusalem cherry. For example, Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant. It manufactures its own food, but must obtain water and minerals from the host plant. American mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum, grows in deciduous trees from New Jersey southward to Florida and Texas. Mistletoe sold during the holiday season is gathered in the wild. Most mistletoe is harvested in Oklahoma and Texas. Mistletoe has been used in the treatment of several ailments, including pleurisy, gout, epilepsy, rabies, and poisoning. However, its white berries, which appear in winter, are poisonous. For safety reasons, the live berries are often replaced with artificial, plastic berries.

To be on the safe side, keep holiday plants out of reach of children and pets. Remember to pick up and dispose of all leaves or berries that fall from your plant. Christmas trees are also a problem. The needles, even though they are not poisonous, are a choking hazard. Many plants contain toxic substances, and these substances cause a variety of symptoms from mild stomach ache, skin rash, swelling of the mouth and throat to involvement of the heart, kidneys, and other organs. The level of toxicity for a particular chemical substance is relative to the body mass, the amount ingested and/or the rate of ingestion. Some safety rules to follow in regard to plants include:

1. Never eat any part of an unknown plant.
2. Never chew on jewelry, etc., made from plant material or allow children to do so.
3. Never attempt to make your own "nature tea" unless you are positive of the plant you are using and the recipe.
4. Make sure the herbs you grow are edible and safe.
5. Never allow children to play around plants without supervision.
6. Store seeds, bulbs, tubers, etc., out of the reach of children.

In the event of poisoning or suspected poisoning, call the poison control center nearest you. More info on this topic can be found at this site: http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/hortcult/flowers/holiplts.htm .

According to the University of Vermont Extension Department of Science, for more details on toxic plants of all types, including common houseplants, consult the second edition of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants by doctors Nelson, Shih, and Balick. From Springer Publishing, it is one of the most authoritative, up-to-date, and affordable such references for human poisoning by plants, and is used in many poison control centers.

If you suspect poisoning, seek immediate professional help. Unless told to do so by such doctors, do NOT make the person vomit. Call your local poison control center, often at your local hospital. Or, you can call the toll-free National Poison Control Center hotline (800-222-1222) and talk with poison control experts. This national service is available anytime, and can answer any questions on poisoning even if not from plants and even if not an emergency.

Several of your favorite holiday plants should be kept from children and pets, yet often they pose no serious danger in small amounts. There are many other and more toxic substances to children in homes to be mindful of, especially cosmetics and personal care products. More info about holiday plant toxicity can be found at this website: http://perrysperennials.info/articles/toxic.html .

You may also suffer from airborne allergies that make it difficult to have live plants or greenery in your home during the Holiday Season, such as suffering reactions to evergreens and other types of plants and flowers. If that is the case, then don’t feel bad about decorating with manufactured trees and plants, especially if you are willing to pay more for realistic, higher grade decorations. If you have problems during the Holidays with any type of real vegetation, seek medical advice as quickly as possible. You sure don’t want to spend this time of year in the hospital or emergency room. Be careful with your kids and pets, and protect everyone in your home at all times when there are real, live plants and flowers to be used during your festive occasions.

Until next time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Health Care and Alcohol Poisoning During the Holidays

Drinking alcohol has significant consequences, especially if imbibing is done in excess. During the Holidays, many individuals push themselves to participate in as many parties and activities as possible. Also, during this Season is when most accidents occur due to alcoholic consumption, and the death rate also increases as a higher percentage of adults and teens are guilty of drinking and driving—definitely not smart. Plus, it’s against the law.

Another popular sport, particularly in the college age crowd, is binge drinking. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours. More info can be found at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm .

Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent. According to the CDC, national surveys show the following statistics about binge drinking:

• One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge.
• While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month.
• Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes.
• Approximately 92% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
• Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older.
• The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice the prevalence among women.
• Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
• About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
• More than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

According to Medical News Today, when somebody consumes an alcoholic drink, their liver has to filter out the alcohol, a toxin, from their blood. We absorb alcohol much more quickly than food - alcohol gets to our bloodstream much faster. However, the liver can only process a limited amount of alcohol; approximately one unit of alcohol every hour. If you drink two units in one hour, there will be an extra unit in your bloodstream. If during the next hour you drink another two units, you will have two units floating around in your bloodstream at the end of two hours after your drinking session. The faster you drink, the higher your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) becomes. If you drink too fast, your BAC can spike dangerously high.

Rapid drinking can bring your BAC so high that your mental and physical functions become negatively affected. Your breathing, heartbeat and gag reflex - which are controlled by types of nerves - might not work properly. You become breathless, you may choke, and your heart rhythm might become irregular. If your BAC is high enough, these physical functions can stop working, the patient stops breathing and passes out (loses consciousness). In the USA approximately 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported annually. About one patient dies each week in the USA from alcohol poisoning. Those at highest risk of suffering from alcohol poisoning are college students, chronic alcoholics, those taking medications that might clash with alcohol, and sometimes children who may drink because they wish to know what it is like, according to Medical News Today. A significant amount of additional info can be found at this website: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/215627.php .

Do you know the signs of acute alcohol poisoning? Do you know what to do if someone is suffering from its effects? Your friend who had way too much to drink, may not just be sleeping it off. If he or she is suffering from acute alcohol poisoning, as a result of drinking too much too quickly, they could die if you do not intervene. How do you tell the difference between being passed out and alcohol poisoning?

According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol poisoning symptoms include:

• Confusion, stupor
• Vomiting
• Seizures
• Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
• Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
• Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
• Low body temperature (hypothermia)
• Unconsciousness ("passing out"), and can't be roused

It's not necessary for all of these symptoms to be present before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can't be roused is at risk of dying. If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning — even if you don't see the classic signs and symptoms — seek immediate medical care. In an emergency, follow these suggestions:

• If the person is unconscious, breathing less than eight times a minute or has repeated, uncontrolled vomiting, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Keep in mind that even when someone is unconscious or has stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released into the bloodstream and the level of alcohol in the body continues to rise. Never assume that a person will "sleep off" alcohol poisoning.

• If the person is conscious, call 800-222-1222 (in the U.S.), and you'll automatically be routed to your local poison control center. The staff at the poison control center or emergency call center can instruct you as to whether you should take the person directly to a hospital. All calls to poison control centers are confidential.

• Be prepared to provide information. If you know, be sure to tell hospital or emergency personnel the kind and amount of alcohol the person drank, and when.

• Don't leave an unconscious person alone. While waiting for help, don't try to make the person vomit. Alcohol poisoning affects the way your gag reflex works. That means someone with alcohol poisoning may choke on his or her own vomit or accidentally inhale (aspirate) vomit into the lungs, which could cause a fatal lung injury.

• Much more information can be found at this site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcohol-poisoning/DS00861 .

Alcohol poisoning is a life threatening situation. During the Holidays, don’t let yourself or any friends or relatives over indulge with alcohol of any type. The festivities of the Season should not be tragically interrupted by someone who has not learned self control with alcohol. Do yourself and everyone around a favor when it comes to drinking. Slow down, or just don’t drink. And, in particular, if you are out in a crowd at a restaurant or home, have a designated driver or call a cab to take you home. You sure don’t want to be on the evening news as the next lead story of a traffic fatality.

Until next time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Health Care and Holiday Foods

It’s time once again to break out the stretchy pants. The holidays are upon you, and you’re thinking “Let the feasting begin!” Have you noticed that as the years go by, your waist line is an indicator of your appetite? Have you been feeding at the trough so many years during November and December that you don’t even notice that your clothes are getting tighter as the season progresses? What about all those calories that get consumed once the parties, buffets, and gift baskets start flowing? Are you guilty of surfing the wave of the holidays’ food tsunami?

For many, the holidays are the most wonderful — and least heart-healthy — time of the year. Grandma’s fudge is a sentimental favorite, and the neighbor’s cake balls are a decadent habit. Indulging a little won’t hurt — but planning ahead will make for merry meals that are healthy too. Do you decorate for the holidays with a lot of color? Treat your dinner plate the same way, according to the American Heart Association.

“Half of a meal should comprise fruits and vegetables that consist of a variety of colors,” said Vilma Andari, president and founder of Nutra Health Food and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. “The other two quarters should be whole grains and healthy proteins.” Make your holiday meals festive and healthy with a variety of richly colored fruits and vegetables — and don’t forget the herbs and spices. “Try to work fruits and veggies into everything from soups and stews to casseroles instead of just side dishes,” Andari said. See more details at this website: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Seasonal-Heart-Healthy-Holiday-Foods_UCM_433897_Article.jsp .

‘Tis the Season to be jolly—you pack on pounds that you promise to take off next year. According to Health.com, if you simply cannot resist a calorie-laden holiday treat, at least consume it in moderation. Here are 50 holiday diet hazards you and your family should avoid, along with healthy options that only taste indulgent, found at this website: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20440821,00.html .

Your tactic for avoiding temptation may be to steer clear of all the special treats and divert yourself with only healthy foods, according to EatingWell.com. Great in theory, but not so perfect in practice. Lots of foods that are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are also full of calories. And when you're mindlessly munching as you're mingling, those calories can add up fast.

Don't assume that just because something is healthy it is also low-cal. If you like the healthy treats that sometimes show up at holiday parties, that's great! Have them—in moderation. If you'd rather sample some of the special seasonal treats, just put two or three of the most delicious-looking hors d'oeuvres on your plate and enjoy. Before you head out to party, check out these surprisingly unhealthy holiday calorie bombs and better bets to choose instead. More information can be found at http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/healthy_holiday_food_to_avoid_and_healthier_foods_to_eat_instead .

According to Men’s Health magazine online, the average person consumes an extra 600 calories a day between Thanksgiving and New Year's, which translates to an extra six pounds of belly fat heading into January. Whether your weakness is mayo-spiked deviled eggs or rum-spiked eggnog, there are more than enough temptations to go around in these merry times. And while everybody is entitled to a bit of indulgence during the holidays, there's a fine line between festive and fattening. To help you better understand that line, Men’s Health has pinpointed the very worst of the season's eatings and suggested some satisfying alternatives that should make your New Year's resolution a little easier to attain. You can find more information at their website: http://eatthis.menshealth.com/slideshow/best-and-worst-holiday-foods .

Feeling like you want to skim some fat off your own thighs instead of the turkey's? Surprise! There are actually a lot of holiday foods that, if you prepare them in a healthful way and watch your portions, reap countless nutritional benefits and can even help you lose weight, according to FitnessMagazine.com. Find out what works best for you. There are healthy tips for preparing and eating good food located at http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/superfoods/healthy-holiday-superfoods/ .

However, if you are looking for really good holiday food treats that you just can’t resist, the Food Network has some great options at their site: http://www.foodnetwork.com/holidays-and-parties/index.html .

So, if you’re waiting for that jolly old elf to show up at your fireside hearth, at least try not to consume all the cookies on the plate your kids left for Santa. If you get tempted, remember to go fat free. At least that way you’ll be able to justify your sweet tooth. And speaking of your teeth, make sure you brush before you toddle off to bed over the next few weeks. You may be going into a food coma if you over indulge, but at least your oral hygiene is better off after you take care of your smile.

Until next time.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Health Care and Spit (Saliva)

When you are born, one amazing physical action starts immedicately so you can begin to swallow. Your body begins to create saliva in your mouth, and it is an essential body fluid created on a constant basis. When you are a child, you start calling that liquid spit. But it is technically known as saliva, which is part of your physical makeup and stays with you for the rest of your life.

Spit, or saliva, is a clear liquid that's made in your mouth 24 hours a day, every day. According to KidsHealth.org, spit is made up mostly of water, with a few other chemicals. The slippery stuff is produced by the salivary glands. These glands are found on the inside of each cheek, on the bottom of the mouth, and under the jaw at the very front of the mouth. They secrete, or ooze, about 2 to 4 pints (or about 1 to 2 liters) of spit into your mouth every day!

Spit is necessary, according to KidsHealth, for lots of reasons. Saliva wets food and makes it easier to swallow. Without saliva, a grilled cheese sandwich would be dry and difficult to gulp down. It also helps the tongue by allowing you to taste. A dry tongue can't tell how things taste — it needs saliva to keep it wet. Spit helps begin the process of digestion, too. Before food hits your stomach, saliva starts to break it down while the food's still in your mouth. It does this with the help of enzymes special chemicals found in the saliva. The combination of chewing food and coating it with saliva makes the tongue's job a bit easier — it can push wet, chewed food toward the throat more easily. Saliva also cleans the inside of your mouth and rinses your teeth to help keep them clean. (But remember that spit isn't enough to keep teeth in tip-top shape; you still need to brush and floss.) The enzymes in saliva also help to fight off infections in the mouth. More info can be found at this site: http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/yucky/spit.html .

Spit, or saliva, has historically been used in common cases to help reduce infection, and even Jesus is recorded in the Bible to have used His own saliva to heal blind people. Jews regarded spittle as medicinal to the eyes when diseased, according to Barne’s Commentary on the Bible. In the New Testament book of the Gospel of John 9:6, Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. When the man went to a nearby pool, and washed his eyes, he could see. A healing occurred that was recorded as a miracle.

According to ScienceDaily.com, the largest of the salivary glands -- the parotid -- secretes important proteins into the saliva. As with all salivary glands, it has multiple secretion pathways, therefore it must sort proteins destined for saliva into the correct pathway for secretion. This can be tricky as there are seven possible pathways. One pathway takes proteins to the salivary duct, other pathways carry different proteins to the 'back' side of the cell to be secreted into the blood or to form a supportive matrix for the cells. Transport along these pathways occurs by sorting the proteins into vesicles (hollow membrane sacs) that carry their "cargo" to the correct destination. More details on production of saliva and, especially treatment for people who suffer “dry mouth,” can be found at this website: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602143208.htm .

Many seniors and other individuals suffer from "dry mouth," which is a condition that is created when you are taking certain medications, including chemotherapy. Often, this results in bleeding and receding gums and significant oral hygiene problems. There is not enough saliva created dute to the body's inablility to produce it when too many medications are being taken that affect the glands' ability to generate spit. Called xerostomia, "dry mouth" is the feeling that there is not enough saliva in the mouth, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Everyone has a dry mouth once in a while--due to being nervous, upset, or experiencing stress. But, if you have dry mouth all the time, it can be uncomfortable and lead to more serious health problems. It can also be a sign of certain diseases and conditions, such as using certain drugs. Much more info can be found about this topic at this site: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/drymouth/drymouth.htm .

According to CNNHealth.com, since people have different eating habits in different places, you might think an American's saliva might look a lot different from, say, a South African's. But a new study published in the journal Genome Research finds that bacteria in saliva may not be as related to environment and diet as you might think. In fact, researchers found that the human salivary microbiome -- that is, the community of bacteria in saliva -- does not vary greatly between different geographic locations. That means your saliva is just as different from your neighbor's as someone's on the other side of the planet. Additional material about this research can be found at this site: http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-03/health/saliva.spit.survey_1_saliva-bacteria-dna?_s=PM:HEALTH .

According to ScienceNews.org, that frothy fluid in your mouth holds all kinds of clues to the body’s happenings. A significant amount of data can be found at this website: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/335816/title/A_Spitting_Image_of_Health . Here are six positive results from testing spit:

--Drug use: Saliva can reveal drug use, whether for therapy or recreation.
--Hormones: Commercial test kits gauge estrogen, testosterone and cortisol levels from saliva.
--HIV: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a test that looks in oral fluid for antibodies known to be present in people with HIV infections.
--Age: A recent study suggests that genetic clues in spit can pinpoint age to within five years.
--Cancer: Messenger RNA signatures for breast and pancreatic cancer have turned up in saliva.
--Heart disease: The protein troponin T in spit may pinpoint people having heart attacks.

The production of saliva in your mouth is critical for your overall health. Too little can result in significant dental and other medical issues. Too much is not good either. If you suffer from any health related problems relative to your salivary glands, dry mouth, or other issues, see your doctor. They can help prescribe treatment and offer suggestions for specialty care. Spit, you need it.

Until next time.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Health Care and Your Immune System

As the weather begins to cool down and the days get shorter, thoughts naturally turn to strengthening and protecting your immune system to prevent seasonal colds, flu and other illnesses. While nothing listed in this blog should be considered a substitute for the advice and care of a trained medical professional, the thirty blogs listed below with www.fulltimenanny.com do offer up plenty of food-for-thought information that can help you make the most of all your natural defenses this cold and flu season. Nor should they be seen as a substitute for advice from your doctor or medical personnel. According to this site, you can find a lot of material about this topic: http://www.fulltimenanny.com/blog/30-blogs-focused-on-boosting-your-immunity/ .

Your immune system is like a sentry on guard 24 hours a day, according to FC&A Publishing. Or a militia ready to stop any intruder that poses a threat to your health. But who guards the guards? Who protects the protection? You do. That's where a smart diet and healthy lifestyle come in. By knowing how your immune system works and what foods strengthen it, you can help your immune system run at maximum efficiency. Trouble can strike your body at any time. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites attack from the outside, while cancer cells attack from within. Any of these foreign substances, called antigens, stimulate the immune response. Your body counters with its army of white blood cells, including phagocytes, T-cells, and B-cells. They recognize the intruder, mobilize forces, and attack.

For example, according to FCA, T-cells recognize foreign invaders and kill them by breaking them apart. B-cells respond to infection by releasing antibodies, proteins that surround and immobilize the antigens. T-cells and B-cells also have great memories. Once they're exposed to an antigen, they remember it in case it comes back. That's how vaccines work. Of course, your immune system doesn't always work perfectly. It can overreact to a harmless substance, resulting in an allergic reaction, like hay fever or hives. Sometimes your immune system can even turn against your own body. That's what happens in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes. When you get sick, it's often because the antigen was able to do some damage before your immune system destroyed it. Or because your immune system wasn't strong enough to fight it off.

Help your body help you. A car needs more thn just fuel to run smoothly - it also needs some preventive maintenance. It’s the same with your immune system. Besides eating the right foods, you should also take care of your body in other ways. Here are a few tips according to FCA:

--Exercise. Regular, gentle exercise, like walking, helps fortify your immune system by stimulating natural killer cells that stop viruses and bacteria. Exercise is especially helpful for seniors. Women over 67 who walk or exercise regularly reportedly have fewer respiratory infections than others.

---Get enough sleep. Your body needs rest to stay in tip-top shape. When it's working to fight off a cold or the flu, sometimes rest is the best medicine.

--Relax. Find ways to reduce stress, which can weaken your immune system. Listen to music, do yoga or tai chi, go for a walk, practice deep breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques, or just talk to someone about your problems.

--Wash your hands. It's an easy and effective way to fight germs. When Navy recruits lathered up five times a day, they watched their rate of respiratory illness drop by 45 percent. Wash vigorously with regular soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds. When you eat right and take care of your body, your immune system will take care of you.

More information can be found at their site: http://www.fca.com/articles/6F280.html . And, according to CNNHealth, the bloodstream is the route along which infection-fighting cells travel throughout the body to where they're needed. When cold and flu season comes around, many people head to their medicine cabinets in search of relief. But a trip to the kitchen may be the smarter move. Given the complexity of the immune system, there isn't one specific food that will magically make you repel cold germs and flu viruses. Instead, eating a healthful, balanced diet is your best investment in immunity. A significant amount of material about healthy eating and how it affects your immune system can be found at this site: http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/diet.fitness/11/14/cl.best.defense/index.html .

If you’re one of the many thousands who get sick without fail every fall and winter, this article is for you. Because as you are probably aware, getting sick is NOT an inevitable part of the change in seasons. You surely know a handful of people who seemingly never get sick -- maybe they work in your office or even share your home. These people are able to avoid illness not because they aren’t exposed to germs, but because their immune system is able to keep them healthy, according to CNCA Health. There’s a common misconception that if you get the flu it’s because you were exposed to a flu virus, whereas if your officemate stays healthy it’s because he was not. But the truth is germs are literally everywhere, and while taking commonsense measures to avoid them, like washing your hands regularly, is smart, it’s na├»ve to think you can avoid them entirely.

But this isn’t really a big deal if you’re healthy, because your body is built to deal with these pathogen exposures and will keep you from getting sick as long as your immune system is strong. In fact, new research in PLoS Genetics revealed that when 17 healthy people were exposed to a flu virus, only half of them got sick. All of them had an active immune response, but the responses yielded different outcomes, with some avoiding illness and others manifesting symptoms like sniffles, sneezing and fever. The researchers therefore concluded that your immune system’s response to the flu virus is an important factor in whether or not you get sick, likely an even more important one than virus exposure. For some great tips on improving your immune system, see this site: http://www.cncahealth.com/health-info/general/natural-tips-healthy-immune-system.htm .

Naturally, there are some medical reasons why your immune system may be challenged, probably due to illness or other health related issues such as HIV/AIDS. For those special cases, your medical professional or primary care doctor is your best source for care. If you suffer from immune system deficiencies due to chemotherapy or other drug related situations, you should always consult your physicians and specialists on how best to treat your personal health and medical needs. This type of case is a significantly greater risk than your standard seasonal health issues and should be treated in like manner.

Until next time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Health Care and Children's Injuries

Children are very susceptible to injury, and each year many thousands of them suffer trauma due to being injured. Accidents happen, and children are also purposely injured by others, including both other adolescents and adults. Also, some of those injuries result in the death of the child.

According to www.DoctorsLounge.com, nationally, deaths attributed to unintentional injuries among persons aged 0–19 years number approximately 12,000 each year in the United States; another 9 million young persons are treated for nonfatal injuries in emergency departments. Quantifying years of potential life lost (YPLL) highlights causes of premature mortality and provides a simple method to identify important causes of early death and specific groups in need of intervention. Although recent declines have been observed in the unintentional injury–related crude mortality rate per 100,000 persons aged 0–19 years (from 15.46 in 2000 to 10.96 in 2009), unintentional injuries remain the number one killer among this population in the United States.

Car crashes, suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls are some of the most common ways children are hurt or killed, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The number of children dying from injury dropped nearly 30% over the last decade. However, injury is still the number 1 cause of death among children. More can be done, however, to keep children safe. Very interesting statistics on this topic can be found at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/childinjury/# .

Kids are susceptible to injuries, especially at a younger age. A high risk fact sheet about injuries to children can be found at this website: http://www.safekids.org/our-work/research/fact-sheets/high-risk-fact-safety.html .

According to Fox News, injuries to young children in the U.S. increased for the fourth straight year in 2011, continuing a reversal of a longer-term downward trend that some say may be linked to distracted parents in an age of smartphones.

Children age 4 and under received an estimated 2.5 million nonfatal, non-intentional injuries that landed them in an emergency room last year, according to an estimate released late Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is up from 2.46 million in 2010. There were roughly 12.4 injuries per 100 children of this age in 2011, compared with 12.2 injuries per 100 children in 2010. The number of injuries in this age group has increased each year since 2007, when there were 2.20 million, or 10.9 per 100 children. The numbers are an estimate based on a sampling of emergency rooms.

An article last month in The Wall Street Journal reported that a growing number of child-health experts and law-enforcement officials believe the increase in injuries since 2007 may be due in part to parents who are distracted by mobile devices like Smart phones and not adequately supervising their children. The number of Americans 13 and older who own a Smart phone increased to 114 million earlier this year from nine million in 2007, when Apple Inc. released the iPhone, according to research firm comScore. There aren't any studies that have explored the connection between parents' device use and injuries to children. Many doctors and public-safety experts say it is a subject that should be studied and point out that the uptick may be a statistical anomaly or have other causes.

According to DoctorsLounge.com, death due to unintentional injury was more common in a cluster of south central states and a cluster of mountain states. More than half the deaths were attributable to motor vehicle accidents. Measuring the burden of injuries with YPLL gives greater weight to the injuries that disproportionately affect younger persons. YPLL will help prioritize implementation of known and effective interventions, such as using safety belts, wearing bicycle and motorcycle helmets, reducing drinking and driving, strengthening graduated driver licensing laws, using safety equipment during sports participation, requiring four-sided residential pool fencing, and encouraging safe sleep practices for infants.

A true emergency is when you believe a severe injury or illness is threatening your child's life or may cause permanent harm. In these cases, a child needs emergency medical treatment immediately. Discuss with your child's pediatrician in advance what you should do in case of a true emergency, according to the American Academy of Pediatricians. For a very good list of injuries to children and how to respond, this is a great website: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/Pages/default.aspx . Choose from the list and the follow up page has a comprehensive overview of that particular injury and treatment options.

Also, gun injuries to children continue to be a big issue. Childhood gun and shooting accidents are not rare. They are one of the top ten leading causes of accidental death for all age groups outside of newborns and infants, according to pediatrician, Dr. Vincent Ianelli. Unfortunately, many parents don't store their guns safely, even when they have young kids in the home. In fact, one study showed that 85% of parents who owned guns did not practice safe gun storage. More info about gun safety for children can be found at this site: http://pediatrics.about.com/od/safety/a/gun-accidents.htm.

According to Dr. Ianelli, to protect children from gun and shooting accidents, the typical gun safety advice that you will get from your pediatrician includes that you:

--Keep your guns locked.
--Keep your guns unloaded.
--Keep your ammunition locked.
--Keep your ammunition in a separate area from your gun.

Remember also, in a true emergency situation with an injury to a child of any age, call 911. A first responder such as ambulance, EMT, or fire department or police, can assist you with urgent care on the scene, and then get you transported to a local urgent care facility if necessary. Many injuries can result in death, so the faster the response to urgent care, the better chance for survival. Some cases may not require hospitalization. However, it is always best to have trained medical personnel make that decision for you.

Children are fragile, and they need supervision and watch care, especially during the infant, toddler, and younger adolescent years. When they get older, even teens need some supervision. Accidents are going to happen, and that is a fact of life. Protecting children as much as possible is your role as a parent or guardian. Causing injury to a child is an even greater cause for alarm, and there are significant consequences as a result. If you need assistance or counseling for certain issues concerning the care of your children, seek professional help for any emotional, physical, or mental stress that you may be experiencing. There are many agencies and organizations who can assist you with those types of personal needs to help take care of both children and adolescents. Protect your kids as much as you can.

Until next time.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Health Care and Hydration

If you are an athlete, participate in any type of personal exercise program, or work in any kind of job that requires a lot of manual labor such as construction or physical exertion of any type, you need to stay hydrated--especially if you work outside. Making sure that you replenish liquids that you lose from sweating is key to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Drinking water or drinks that have various mineral supplements and electrolytes to replace what your body loses during physical activities are key to helping you survive.

According to Active.com, life is full of daily challenges. Staying hydrated shouldn't be one of them. If you struggle to make sense of the seemingly ever-changing advice on what, when and how much to drink, especially while on the run, join the club. But it's not impossible to sort the facts from fiction. Base your hydration habits on research-based guidelines--not these four common hydration myths as found on their website—and you'll stay fueled and stay strong. You can find that great information here: http://www.active.com/women/Articles/4-Common-Hydration-Myths.htm .

No matter what type of exercise or fitness program you are following, there is one important element you cannot forget: water! Your body lose a great deal of water due to perspiration. Staying hydrated during a workout will help you stay focused and more energized. Dehydration could result in serious consequences. Dizziness and nausea can both be symptoms of dehydration, according to www.MyDailyMoment.com .

Sports drinks are another good option for rehydrating. However, if you're watching your sodium intake, check the label first. Should you opt for water or a sports drink during your workout? It depends on your needs. For most people who work out for fitness regularly indoors, water is just fine for hydration. For athletes who work out at a high intensity for more than 60 minutes at a time, like marathoners and triathlon competitors, an electrolyte-replacing sports drink might be best. More details can be found at this website: http://www.mydailymoment.com/diet_and_fitness/all_diet_tips/hydration_counts_we_ve_got_the_proof.php .

The answer to successful and safe hydration is balance, according to Active.com by Jenny Hadfield, co-author of "Marathoning for Mortals" (Rodale, 2003.) She can also be found at www.jennyhadfield.com . Keep in mind, dehydration is still one of the biggest risks in endurance exercise, but the key to performing at your best is drinking smart, not gulping liquids. The best way to avoid drinking too much or too little is to take in about the same amount of fluid as you sweat out. Here's how to figure out your sweat rate:

1. Weigh yourself without shoes or clothes, and record it in your log, noting temperature and humidity.
2. Work out for one hour.
3. Dry off and weigh yourself, noting the weight lost. Also note any fluids you may have taken while running.
4. Use the following formula to determine your hydration needs: One pound lost = 16 oz. of fluid.

So, if you lost two pounds in that hour, you should replenish 32 ounces of fluid (about 8 ounces every 15 minutes) in the same temperature and humidity level, according to Jenny Hadfield. Do this test a few times in different conditions to get a sense of how your hydration needs change in varying temperatures and humidity levels, and intensity levels. Here are some good tips for smart hydration:

• Set your watch alarm to remind you when to drink.
• Aim to replenish 80 to 100 percent of fluids lost.
• Avoid gaining weight (a sign of over hydrating).
• Consume a sports drink with electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc.) during your training sessions and in races longer than 60 minutes. Plain water is fine for workouts shorter than 60 minutes, but longer sessions require a sports drink to replenish electrolytes and energy.
• Flavor your meals with salt right before long workouts and races to boost electrolyte levels.
• Avoid drinking more than usual during race week. This will dilute your blood sodium levels, putting you at higher risk of developing hyponatremia. Your fluid needs drop during this taper week. So, drink normal amounts of fluid and use the urine test to determine if you've had enough: If it runs pale yellow, you're well hydrated and ready to race.

There are many more articles related to this subject that can be found at this website: http://www.active.com/nutrition/Articles/Hydration_101.htm .

Don’t wait until you notice symptoms of dehydration to act. It can be hard to recognize when you’re dehydrated, especially as you age. Actively prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Symptoms of dehydration include:

• Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual
• Dry mouth
• Sleepiness or fatigue
• Extreme thirst
• Headache
• Confusion
• Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
• No tears when crying

According to www.FamilyDoctor.org, there are different recommendations for water intake each day. Most people have been told they should be drinking 6 to 8 8-ounce glasses of water each day, which is a reasonable goal. However, different people need different amounts of water to stay hydrated. Most healthy people can stay well hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty. For some people, fewer than 8 glasses may be enough. Other people may need more than 8 glasses each day. Some people are at higher risk of dehydration, including those who get a lot of exercise, have certain medical conditions, are sick, or are not able to get enough fluids during the course of the day. Older adults are also at higher risk. As you age, your brain may be unable to sense dehydration and send the signals for thirst.If you are concerned that you may not be drinking enough water, check your urine. If your urine is consistently colorless or light yellow, you are most likely staying well hydrated. Much more information can also be found at this site: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/food-nutrition/nutrients/hydration-why-its-so-important.html .

Staying hydrated for anyone regardless of age, sex, or job description and activity level is always a smart idea. If you are more physically active, make sure you maintain a level of hydration that compensates for your activities. Check with your doctor if you suspect you may be dehydrated. Losing sweat can be a good thing, but not if you lose too much.

Until next time.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Health Care and Gluten

Have you ever heard of people who have allergies to wheat or bread or pasta? Actually, the reaction is not about the grain, but about something in it called gluten. According to CNN, gluten allergy is caused by celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can appear at any age and is caused by an intolerance to gluten. A protein found in wheat, barley, and rye (and countless food products -- like bread and pasta -- that contain those grains), gluten gradually damages the intestines of people with celiac disease, preventing the absorption of vitamins and minerals and setting off a slew of related health problems, which can include fatigue and bad skin. While celiac disease affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population, experts estimate that as many as 10 percent have a related and poorly understood condition known as non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGI), or gluten sensitivity. More details can be found at this site: http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/04/12/gluten.free.diet.improve/index.html .

According to the Mayo Clinic, avoiding wheat can be challenging because wheat products go by numerous names. Consider the many types of wheat flour on supermarket shelves — bromated, enriched, phosphated, plain and self-rising. Here are other wheat products to avoid:

• Bulgur
• Durum flour
• Farina
• Graham flour
• Kamut
• Semolina
• Spelt

Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during growing and processing stages of production. For this reason, doctors and dietitians generally recommend avoiding oats unless they are specifically labeled gluten-free. You should also be alert for other products that you eat or that could come in contact with your mouth that may contain gluten, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include:

• Food additives, such as malt flavoring, modified food starch and others
• Medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent
• Play dough

People with celiac disease who eat a gluten-free diet experience fewer symptoms and complications of the disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. People with celiac disease must eat a strictly gluten-free diet and must remain on the diet for the remainder of their lives. In some severe cases, a gluten-free diet alone can't stop the symptoms and complications of celiac disease. In these cases, doctors might prescribe medications to suppress the immune system. People who follow a gluten-free diet may have low levels of certain vitamins and nutrients in their diets. Many grains are enriched with vitamins. Avoiding grains with a gluten-free diet may mean eating fewer of these enriched products. More details can be found at this site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gluten-free-diet/my01140 .

According to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Celiac disease occurs when the body’s natural defense system reacts to gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine. Without a healthy intestinal lining, the body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs. Delayed growth and nutrient deficiencies can result and may lead to conditions such as anemia and osteoporosis. Other serious health problems may include diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and intestinal cancers. Some people don’t get immediate symptoms, but when they do, they are typically gastrointestinal-related, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. In infants, there may be a lot of vomiting, and they don’t grow and thrive.” And some people do not have any symptoms at all, but still may have intestinal damage and risk for long-term complications. It is important for individuals with celiac disease, who may vary in their sensitivity to gluten, to discuss their dietary needs with their health care professional. Much more info can be found at this website: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm265212.htm .

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the only treatment is the lifelong adherence to the gluten-free diet. When gluten is removed from the diet, the small intestine will start to heal and overall health improves. Medication is not normally required. Consult your physician regarding specific nutritional supplementation to correct any deficiencies. The diagnosed celiac should have medical follow-up to monitor the clinical response to the gluten-free diet.

Adapting to the gluten-free diet requires some lifestyle changes. It is essential to read labels which are often imprecise, and to learn how to identify ingredients that may contain hidden gluten. Even small amounts of ingested gluten can affect those with CD and cause health problems. Dietary compliance increases the quality of life and decreases the likelihood of osteoporosis, intestinal lymphoma and other associated illnesses. Because osteoporosis is common and may be profound in patients with newly diagnosed CD, bone density should be measured at or shortly after diagnosis. Much more information about this topic can be found at their site: http://www.celiac.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=9 .

A dietitian can help you select gluten-free foods. A dietitian is an expert in food and healthy eating. You will learn how to check labels of foods and other items for gluten. A dietitian can help you learn what other foods you can and can’t eat on a gluten-free diet, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) conducts and supports research on celiac disease. Researchers are studying new options for diagnosing celiac disease, including capsule endoscopy, which involves patients swallowing a capsule containing a tiny video camera that records images of the small intestine. Several drug treatments for celiac disease are being studied. Researchers are also studying a combination of enzymes—proteins that aid chemical reactions in the body—that might change gluten in ways that prevent it from causing an immune reaction before it enters the small intestine. Much more detailed material is available at this site: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac_ez/ .

Scientists are also developing educational materials for standardized medical training to raise awareness among health care providers. The hope is that increased understanding and awareness will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease. Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research. For information about current studies, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov .

For people who suffer from gluten allergies, the best course of action is to talk with your doctor about treatment, and consider the need for a gluten free diet. It is a challenge to remain totally gluten free, but the issues surrounding celiac disease are too important to ignore, especially if you are very allergic to gluten. Talk with a dietician about how to best build a diet that is both nutritious and also able to provide options that do not include gluten.

Until next time.