Many of us start the year with resolutions to eat better and exercise more. But during the long winter months of January and February, it’s easy to let those goals slip. Maybe it’s a hibernation instinct or simply a lack of Vitamin D, but the short days and cold weather lead us straight to Netflix and comfort foods. Luckily, March is here! Let’s welcome the first signs of spring with a commitment to healthier food and exercise choices.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month in March each year. For 2017, their theme is “put your best fork forward”, reminding us that every bite counts. Eating better doesn’t have to mean a complete dietary overhaul; it’s ok to start small. Consider trading that soda for a sparkling water. Switch from refined flours to whole grains. Little shifts in your diet can pay off big for your health.
March into health with these simple nutrition tips:
- Emphasize Fruits & Veggies.
Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Fresh produce is full of nutrients, vitamins and fiber and it’s easy to incorporate into your diet.
- Keep portions under control.
How much food you eat is just as important as what you eat. Consider your age and weight to determine a healthy amount of daily calories to aim for. Be mindful of your portion sizes and keep track of just how many calories you’re consuming. Many foods provide more than you think!
- Limit salt and added sugars.
According to the CDC, about 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet! To cut back on salt, choose fresh foods, cook at home more often and minimize processed foods like cheese, cured meats and canned soups.
Added sugars are another huge contributor to our country’s obesity epidemic. Added sugars increase calories without providing any nutritional value! By reducing the amount of added sugars in your diet, you can improve your heart health and control your weight. The American Heart Association lists major sources of added sugars in American diets as: regular soft drinks, sugars, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks; dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk); and other grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles). Be aware of this and try to cut back on the sweets, eat fruit instead or make your own homemade version with less sugar.
We hope these tips help you lead a more nutritious lifestyle! Continue educating yourself on what makes a healthy diet and encourage those around you to do so as well.
Healthy Eating Resources
February is American Heart Month, and the perfect time to make your heart health a priority.
Did you know that heart disease accounts for a whopping 1 in 4 deaths in the United States? It’s currently the leading cause of death for both men and women. As a country, we must start taking heart health seriously.
No matter what your age, you can reduce your risk of heart disease through simple lifestyle changes and by managing existing medical conditions with appropriate treatment. For a healthy heart, follow the advice below:
Quit Smoking! (Or, if you don’t smoke, don’t start!)
Smoking causes real damage to your heart and blood vessels. To reduce your risk of developing and dying from heart disease, avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. No matter how much or how long you’ve smoked, quitting will benefit you and can even help reverse heart damage. Need help quitting? Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW quitline (1-800-784-8669) for free resources and assistance.
Keep your blood pressure under control.
Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to coronary artery disease, an enlarged left heart and heart failure. It is a leading cause of both heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can occur with no signs or symptoms so it’s a good idea to have your blood pressure checked annually. Follow these healthy lifestyle choices to help keep your blood pressure under control:
- Limit the amount of salt and alcohol in your diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Quit smoking.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage stress.
Depending on your overall health, your doctor may also recommend medication to lower blood pressure.
Know the symptoms of a heart attack.
According to the CDC, the five major symptoms of a heart attack are:
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
- Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
- Shortness of breath
If you are experiencing these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. The sooner emergency treatment begins, the higher your chances of survival.
Our new year’s resolutions often look inward and focus on personal improvement. Lose weight. Exercise more. Get organized. But what if this year, we looked outward instead? How can we, as individuals, positively impact our communities in 2017?
One simple way is to donate blood.
Every January, the American Red Cross celebrates National Blood Donor Month and this year, their mission is even more critical. Several cities across the country are facing emergency blood shortages. Complex therapies such as chemotherapy, heart surgeries and organ transplants require a large amount of blood and blood products. A shortage in our nation’s blood supply can delay urgent medical care for our community’s most vulnerable patients. Donating blood is a simple, life-saving act. It takes less than 1 hour and a single donation can help up to 3 people
If you’re able to donate blood, now is the time to do so. Below, we’ve outlined the blood donor eligibility requirements, tips to prepare for your appointment and how to find a blood drive near you.
Blood and Platelet Donors Must:
- Be in good general health and feeling well*
- Be at least 17-years-old in most states, or 16-years-old with parental consent if allowed by state law – see more information for 16-year-old donors »
- Weigh at least 110 lbs
Other aspects of your health history will be discussed prior to blood collection. Your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin are also measured beforehand. If you have specific questions about eligibility, the Red Cross offers in-depth information on donor Eligibility Criteria by Topic.
Tips to prepare for your appointment:
- Eat a healthy, low-fat meal
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Stay hydrated
- Bring your donor card, driver’s license or two other forms of identification
- Bring the names of any medications you are taking
- Wear clothing with sleeves that can be lifted above the elbow
During the holiday season, incidents of drunk and drugged driving occur more frequently and pose a threat to everyone on the road. To keep our streets safe this December, let’s educate ourselves on impaired driving prevention and hold ourselves — and those around us — accountable. Below, we’ve outlined basic tips and knowledge to help you avoid preventable tragedies.
Understand the many ways in which alcohol affects driving ability.
Consuming alcohol reduces a driver’s capacity to make sound and responsible decisions. It makes concentration difficult and impairs basic comprehension and coordination. On the road, a driver needs to quickly interpret signs, signals and situations in order to react safely. Under the influence of alcohol, this is simply not possible. In addition, alcohol reduces visual acuity and impairs the ability to judge distance and depth perception. Learn more about the effects of alcohol intoxication on driving from the CDC.
If you plan on drinking, also plan for a sober ride home. Designate a non-drinking driver when with a group, or consider calling a cab or ride-sharing app at the end of the night. It’s dangerous and irresponsible to get behind the wheel.
Help others get home safely.
Don’t let friends drive drunk. If you’re faced with a situation where someone who’s impaired tries to drive, MAAD offers these helpful tips to stop them:
- Be as non-confrontational as possible
- Suggest alternative ways they can get home, or that they sleep over
- Enlist a friend for moral support; it’s more difficult to say “no” to two (or three or four) people
- Talk slowly and explain that you don’t want them to drive because you care
- If possible, take the person’s keys
Today, 1 in 11 Americans has diabetes, and an estimated 86 million more are at risk of developing it. The disease can cause serious health complications and is currently the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. In an effort to raise awareness and understanding of this all-too-common disease, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recognizes November as American Diabetes Month. We’re joining in on the cause and focusing on how to prevent diabetes.
While there is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune disease usually diagnosed in children and young adults), there are lifestyle choices you can make to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes. Before we get into these prevention tips, let’s learn a bit more about Type 2 diabetes.
Understanding Type 2
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of cases in the United States, and is caused when the body does not produce or use insulin properly. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes and having diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes). Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose (sugar) with healthy eating and being active; others may require oral medications or insulin, especially as the disease progresses. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as older adults (American Diabetes Association).
You can prevent diabetes by…
- Getting enough exercise.
Exercise is key in preventing many diseases, and diabetes is no exception. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. An easy way to remember this is 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition to aerobic exercise, incorporate resistance training for strong bones and muscles. The combination of aerobics and strength training will help you lose weight, lower blood sugar and increase your sensitivity to insulin.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
If you are overweight or obese, you are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight can affect your body’s ability to produce and use insulin, as well as cause high blood pressure. Take the necessary steps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In addition to the exercise tips discussed above, try the following diet tips:
- Choose whole grains
- Limit red meat
- Avoid trans fats
- Skip sugary drinks
- Not smoking.
Need another reason to quit smoking? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “smokers are roughly 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, and heavy smokers have an even higher risk.”
We hope these tips help. Let’s all stay active and eat right to prevent diabetes.
Kids love the magic of halloween. But for parents, the holiday may raise some valid concern. Ill-fitting costumes and sharp props can cause injuries, candle-lit jack-o-lanterns pose a fire hazard and above all, there is an increased risk of car accidents. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on halloween, compared to other days of the year.” Let’s take the necessary precautions to avoid this scary statistic!
Review these helpful Halloween safety guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to ensure a fun and safe holiday.
Tips for a Safe Costume
- Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
- Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
- Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
- When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
- If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
- Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
- Review with children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they ever have an emergency or become lost.
On the Trick-or-Treat Trail
- A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
- Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
- If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
- Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
- Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or-Treaters:
- Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
- Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
- Carry a cellphone for quick communication.
- Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
- If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
- Never cut across yards or use alleys.
- Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
- Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
- Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.
For most of us, the flu is a mild, albeit miserable, respiratory illness that lasts a few days. The symptoms — fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches — are unpleasant, but we recover and get back to our daily routines. For those with compromised or weaker immune systems, however, the flu can cause severe, life-threatening complications. Young children, adults 65+, pregnant women and people with certain chronic illnesses are all at a higher risk of developing scary complications such as pneumonia, organ-failure, sepsis or worsening of an existing condition.
What can we do to protect those at risk? It’s simple: get a flu shot.
By doing so, you are not only protecting yourself, but also those around you. Flu is a contagious respiratory illness that spreads person to person through droplets when we cough, sneeze or talk. You can infect someone up to 6 feet away, and spread the virus without realizing you have it. According to the CDC, “most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick,” and children can spread the virus for even longer.
Flu is contagious and not all of us have the immune system to fight it. Do your part and protect the most vulnerable by getting vaccinated today. The more people who get vaccinated, the harder it is for the flu to spread.
It’s as easy as a flu shot to keep yourself and your community healthy.
Posted in OnPointers
September is Whole Grains Month! Learn why it’s important to choose whole grains.
Packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, whole grains offer amazing nutritional benefits. Studies show that a diet rich in whole grains can lower your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. A grain is considered whole when it contains bran, germ, and endosperm in its natural proportions. Some examples include:
- Brown Rice
- Bulgur (cracked wheat)
- Whole Wheat bread, pasta, or crackers
- Wild Rice
Refined grains — such as white rice, white flour and white bread — are milled, a process which removes the bran and germ to extend shelf life and improve texture. Unfortunately, this refining process also “strips away more than half of wheat’s B vitamins, 90 percent of the vitamin E, and virtually all of the fiber” (Harvard School of Public Health). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half the grains you eat are whole. So, how can you incorporate those healthy whole grains into your diet?
5 Easy Ways to Choose Whole Grains
- Start your day off with whole grains by eating oatmeal or buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.
- Add quinoa or wheat berries to your salads.
- Cook soups with barley or soba noodles.
- Snack on popcorn. It’s a whole grain and can be a healthy snack if you cut back on added salt and butter.
- Making a sandwich? Build it on a whole grain pita or slices of sprouted grain bread.
Your child’s back-to-school physical may seem like just another item on your To Do list, but it is so important! This annual check-in provides the chance to:
- Help you understand and track your child’s medical history.
- Access your child’s progress and general health.
- Address any underlying emotional, developmental, and/or social issues.
- Prepare your child to safely play sports.
Curious about what, exactly, a physical entails? First, the doctor will check your child’s eyes, ears, throat, lungs, and abdomen. They will also check in about injuries, nutrition, training, exercise, and attitudes toward school and exams, as well as ensure that all vaccines are up to date. When your child becomes a teenager, the doctor will discuss sex, drugs, alcohol, and unsafe activities.
But remember: the doctor should not be the only one asking questions! Make sure to check in about:
- How well you child is growing. Are they getting proper nutrition? The right amount of exercise?
- How to identify if your child has a learning disability.
- Upcoming issues or developmental milestones to watch out for.
If your child is interested in playing a sport, they will likely be required to get a sports physical. You, your child, and your child’s doctor need to discuss:
- The basics of the sport and how much energy it will require.
- What position your child will play.
- Your child’s size, and whether they can safely play the sport in question.
- Common injuries to be aware of.
- The required protective gear.
- How to safely play the chosen sport — and how to make the sport safer!
July 4th is fun, and the fireworks displays are beautiful, but this holiday sends thousands and thousands of people to the ER every year: In 2014 alone, emergency rooms reported:
- 10,500 injuries from fireworks.
- 7,000 injuries from fireworks in the 1-month period around July 4th.
- 11 deaths due to fireworks.
- That 1,200 of these injuries were to the eyes, and happened due to sparklers (1,400), firecrackers (1,400), and bottle rockets (100).
- That men comprised 74% of the injuries; women 26%.
- That 4% of the injuries happened to children under 15 years of age.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to let the pros do it. But if you can’t imagine July 4th without lighting a few fireworks at home, here are are the Dos and Nevers of fireworks safety:
- Point the fireworks away from people, places, and things.
- Keep water nearby in case anything happens, and put water on spent fireworks.
- Make sure whoever is lighting fireworks off is wearing safety glasses.
- Light one firework at a time.
- Use fireworks in wide areas, and on dirt or cement if possible.
- Point fireworks at a person, even as a joke.
- Relight a firework that didn’t go off.
- Drink while handling or lighting fireworks.
- Buy or use fireworks that come in brown bags, as they could be illegal or dangerous.
- Light fireworks in dry grass.
Another “Do” is to have a first aid kit on hand in case an accident does happen. You should have the following in your first aid kit:
- Sterile saline: For cleaning eyes and/or affected areas.
- Sterile wraps: For wrapping the the wound while on way to get care.
- Aloe vera: Helpful for treating and alleviating pain from minor burns.
- Blunt scissors: For cutting clothing off the affected area.
- Blanket: For smothering a fire.
Remember to always stay safe when using fireworks. Most importantly HAVE FUN!