Watermelon: A healthy, refreshing treat

WatermelonToday is National Watermelon Day! So here are some interesting facts about this healthy, delicious treat!

Watermelon is both a fruit AND a vegetable.

It is a fruit because it’s sweet and grows from a seed. But it’s also a vegetable because it is harvested and cleared from the field like other vegetables and is a member of the gourd family.

Watermelon helps relieve inflammation.

Watermelon contains more lycopene than tomatoes. One cup of watermelon has 1 ½ times the lycopene as a tomato. Lycopene is an inhibitor for inflammatory processes and works as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals.

Watermelon juice helps with muscle soreness.

Watermelon contains L-citrulline, an amino acid, which helps protect against muscle pain. Research shows that citrulline and arginine supplements derived from watermelon extract lead to significant improvements in blood pressure and cardiac stress.

Watermelon rind is edible.

Watermelon rind contains more of the amino acid citrulline than the pink flesh. Most people throw away the watermelon rind, but try putting it in a blender with some lime for a healthy, refreshing treat.

Watermelon is about 92 percent water.

Watermelon is an ideal health food because it doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol, is high in fiber and vitamins A & C and is a good source of potassium.

Watermelon is good for the brain.

Watermelon is a mind booster because of its richness in Vitamin B6 which has high influence for proper functioning of brain.

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Wellness Wednesday: Vaccinate to protect your family

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). The importance of vaccination has been debated back and forth over the last decade, with some parents deciding to forgo vaccinating their children. For some, it is concerns about side effects; others think since many of these diseases appear to be eradicated, why bother? Well, the reason we see less and less of these communicable diseases is because of vaccination.

Diseases are becoming rare due to vaccinations

VaccinesSome diseases (like polio and diphtheria) have become very rare in the U.S., largely because we have been vaccinating against them. However, this isn’t true everywhere in the world.

Only one disease—smallpox—has been totally erased from the planet. Polio no longer occurs in the U.S., but it is still paralyzing children in several African countries. More than 350,000 cases of measles were reported from around the world in 2011, with outbreaks in the Pacific, Asia, Africa and Europe. In that same year, 90% of measles cases in the U.S. were associated with cases imported from another country. Only the fact that most Americans are vaccinated prevented these clusters of cases from becoming epidemics.

Immunize until disease is eliminated

Even if there are only a few cases of disease today, if we take away the protection given by vaccination, diseases that are almost unknown would stage a comeback. Before long we would see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today and we will undo the progress we have made over the years.

How do vaccines work?

The-Importance-of-VaccinationVaccines contain the same antigens (or parts of antigens) that cause diseases. For example, a measles vaccine contains measles virus. But the antigens in vaccines are either killed, or weakened to the point that they don’t cause disease.

Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection, but this “imitation” infection does not cause illness. It does, however, cause the immune system to develop the same response as it does to a real infection so the body can recognize and fight the vaccine-preventable disease in the future.

In other words, a vaccine is a safer substitute for a child’s first exposure to a disease. The child gets protection without having to get sick. Through vaccination, children can develop immunity without suffering from the actual diseases that vaccines prevent.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


More Information:

2016 Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth Through 6 Years Old

2016 Recommended Immunizations for Children 7-18 Years Old

Parents’ Guide to Childhood Immunizations

Ensuring the Safety of Vaccines in the United States

Making the Vaccine Decision

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Little Ones Safe in the Sun

SunSafetyInfantsIt’s beach time! But when you bring your family to the beach, how do you protect your little ones? Sunscreens are recommended for children and adults. But what about babies?

According to Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., a pediatrician at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), infants under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun.

“Babies’ skin is less mature compared to adults, and infants have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults.” explains Sachs. “Both these factors mean that an infant’s exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens may be much greater, increasing the risk of side effects from the sunscreen.”

Sachs says the best protection is to keep your baby in the shade, if possible. And if there’s no natural shade, create your own with an umbrella or the canopy of the stroller.

“If there’s no way to keep an infant out of the sun, you should check with your pediatrician about what to do for your baby.” If your pediatrician agrees, you can apply a small amount of sunscreen—with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15—to small areas such as the cheeks and back of the hands. Sachs suggests testing your baby’s sensitivity to sunscreen by first trying a small amount on the inner wrist.

Cover Up

The best way to protect an infant in the sun is to keep skin from being exposed. As much as possible, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests dressing infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn. Use a hat with a brim that covers your baby’s neck and ears they don’t shade the neck and ears, sensitive areas for a baby.

Other Challenges

“Younger infants don’t sweat like we do,” Sachs says. “Sweat naturally cools the rest of us down when we’re hot, but babies haven’t yet fully developed that built-in heating-and-cooling system. So you want to make sure your baby doesn’t get overheated.”

“In the heat, babies are also at greater risk of becoming dehydrated. To make sure they’re adequately hydrated, offer them their usual feeding of breast milk or formula,” says Sachs. “The water content in both will help keep them well hydrated.

Sun Safety Tips for Infants

BabyTentHere are some things to keep in mind this summer when outside with infants:

  • Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible.
  • Consult your pediatrician before using any sunscreen on your baby. If you do use a small amount of sunscreen on your baby, don’t assume the child is well protected.
  • Make sure your child wears clothing that covers and protects sensitive skin. Use common sense; if you hold the fabric against your hand and it’s so sheer that you can see through it, it probably doesn’t offer enough protection.
  • Make sure your baby wears a hat that provides sufficient shade at all times.
  • Watch your baby carefully to make sure he or she doesn’t show warning signs of sunburn or dehydration. These include fussiness, redness and excessive crying.
  • Hydrate! Give your baby formula or breast milk if you’re out in the sun for more than a few minutes. Don’t forget to use a cooler to store the liquids.
  • Take note of how much your baby is urinating. If it’s less than usual, it may be a sign of dehydration, and that more fluids are needed until the flow is back to normal.
  • Avoid combination sunscreens containing insect repellants like DEET. Young children may lick their hands or put them in their mouths. According to the AAP, DEET should not be used on infants less than two months old.
  • If you do notice your baby is becoming sunburned, get out of the sun right away and apply cold compresses to the affected areas.

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM309579.pdf

Wellness Wednesday: Fireworks Safety

Independence dayWe’re coming up on the 4th of July. Hooray for long weekends, parties, good food and good times!

Of course, we should never forget why we are actually blessed with this 3-day weekend. So we celebrate the birthplace of our nation with cheer, American flags, ceremonies and (of course) fireworks.

Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when the emergency department sees a bit of an uptick in the number of abrasions, burns and more serious injuries stemming from these brightly burning festive sticks of fire. So, this is why we urge you to please, please leave the fireworks to the professionals!

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), eight people died and more than 11,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents in 2013. Additionally, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires in the U.S., including 1,400 structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 outside and other fires.

Safe Fireworks?

fireworksThere are no such thing as completely safe fireworks. But there are ways to keep you and your family safe during a fireworks celebration.

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

Sparklers

Many people think sparklers are the perfect way for a child to be part of a 4th of July celebration. They can wave them around, make swirls and letters and everyone has a good time.

Except when they don’t.

Sparklers can burn anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 degrees—hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet.

The CPSC reports that approximately 16 percent of all consumer fireworks injuries are caused by sparklers burning hands and legs. Young children account for the majority of sparkler injuries.

As disappointed as they may be, do not let children younger than 12 hold a sparkler. They often lack the physical coordination to handle sparklers safely and likely will not know what to do in an emergency. Close supervision of older children is necessary.

Pets and FireworksFourth of July kitten

No, we’re not going to tell you to not let your pet play with fireworks. We sincerely hope you already know that is a very, very bad idea! And if not, I guess this serves as us telling you.

It is important though to keep pets safe over the 4th of July holiday. And this does include keeping them away from fireworks but not just because of injury.

July 5 is the busiest day of the year for pet shelters. This is because so many animals become anxious and frightened by the loud noises of fireworks and escape their yards, homes and leashes.

We recommend you leave your pets at home when attending any celebration this weekend. And even at home, you should take precautions even if your pet has never ran away or escaped before.

And it’s not just dogs. Many people have barbecues and parties for the holiday. This means a lot of people going in and out of the house, including children, leaving the door open long enough for a quick escape.

So it’s probably best to make sure your pet is in a secure inside room with plenty of food and water and someplace to tuck into when the loud noises start.

It’s also a time when a lot of different foods are left out and are sometimes dropped on the floor. So there is a greater chance of your pet getting hold of a food that may not be very good for him. Also the ASPCA notes, that citronella-based repellants, oils, candles and insect coils are irritating toxins to pets.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and ASPCA recommend that you consider microchipping your pet, even if he spends all his time indoors. And you should be sure the information on the chip is kept up to date with your current phone and address or Veterinarian information.

Conclusion

We want this to be an enjoyable, festive and safe holiday weekend for you, and your family (including your pets). So please play it safe and Happy 4th of July!

Sources: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Council of Fireworks Safety, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association.


More information:

NFPA Fireworks Infographic

National Council on Fireworks Safety

CPSC Fireworks Information Center

AVMA: July 4th Safety

ASPCA: Fourth of July Safety Tips

 

Wellness Wednesday: Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

iStock_000069596201_FullWe’ve all forgotten something at one time or another. Where did I put my keys? What did I need to get at the store? Did I remember to lock the door? Why did I come into this room?

For most of us, the fast pace of life and how quick thoughts might go in and out of our heads is the likely culprit. If we slow down and try to remember the last time we had our keys, or retrace our steps from the room back to where we were, we can usually jog our memory (most of the time).

As we age, we find that some of these moments happen with a little more frequency. But what happens when it’s not just a routine bout of forgetfulness? And how can you tell if it’s something more serious?

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s Disease

Many of us probably know someone who has/had Alzheimer’s disease or who has been a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve all heard the term. Most of us know that it is generally an older person who has trouble with short-term memory loss.

But what really is Alzheimer’s? Is it the same as dementia?

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Memory loss is one symptom of dementia.

There are several different types of dementia. Each can be caused by different factors, such as stroke or thyroid issues. So, it is important to visit an expert to be sure you’re following the best treatment pathway.

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 60-80% of all dementia cases. However, the following conditions can also cause dementia: Parkinson’s diseaseCreutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington’s disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Vascular dementia can also be brought on after suffering a stroke.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alz-risksAlzheimer’s disease is a slow, progressive brain disease that currently has no cure. It can be treated with medications which may temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms for some.

The most common and obvious symptoms of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information, such as recent conversations, names or events; apathy and depression are also often early symptoms. Later symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

For many loved ones, the behavior caused by Alzheimer’s is the most challenging and distressing effect of the disease. Persons with Alzheimer’s have been known to ‘wander’ out of the house at all times of the day or night. They become confused or agitated easily and are more prone to outbursts. They may experience restlessness, and  you might find that their behavior becomes more repetitive, with them pacing and/or shredding paper or napkins with their hands. The chief cause of these behavioral symptoms is the progressive deterioration of brain cells.

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

10warningsigns-2Alzheimer’s symptoms are separated into stages; early-stage, middle-stage and late-stage. The duration of each stage is different for each individual and can last for years.

Read about each Stage here.

Early-Stage (Mild) Alzheimer’s

Many times, some of the early-stage symptoms go unnoticed, because the individual is still able to function independently. Few difficulties and behaviors may be noticed by some who close to the person, but might be shrugged off as part of normal aging.

Common difficulties include:

  • Problems coming up with the right word or name
  • Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
  • Having greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings
  • Forgetting material that one has just read
  • Losing or misplacing a valuable object
  • Increasing trouble with planning or organizing

Middle-Stage (Moderate) Alzheimer’s

The middle-stage is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. A person with middle-stage Alzheimer’s may begin confusing words and become frustrated, even combatant, and acting in unexpected or inappropriate ways.

At this point, symptoms will be noticeable to others and may include:

  • Forgetfulness of events or about one’s own personal history
  • Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
  • Confusion about where they are or what day it is
  • The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
  • Trouble controlling bladder and bowels in some individuals
  • An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost
  • Personality and behavioral changes, including compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding

Late-Stage (Severe) Alzheimer’s

In late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may need extensive help with daily activities, and have trouble communicating needs or pain.

At this stage, individuals may:

  • Require full-time, around-the-clock assistance with daily personal care
  • Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings
  • Require high levels of assistance with daily activities and personal care
  • Experience changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and, eventually, swallow
  • Have increasing difficulty communicating
  • Become vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia

Caregivers and Loved Ones

Often, the responsibilities and decision-making are placed on the closest loved ones. A spouse, who may be dealing with his or her own aging difficulties, and adult children of Alzheimer’s patients are often left to deal with a lot of information, appointments, stress, healthcare decisions and more. Caregivers may feel like they are alone. They may feel guilty for a variety of reasons including asking for help, needing a break, losing their temper or not being able to ‘do it all’.

No one can do it all alone. Caregivers need a strong support system. Caregivers have access to respite care, in-home care, adult day centers and more. There are also support groups for caregivers to get together with people who are in the same situation.

Alzheimers

Advance Directives

One way for caregivers to ensure that they know the wishes of their loved ones is to talk about and complete advance directives before they are thrust into a situation where the person is no longer able to make decisions for themselves. Whether it’s Alzheimer’s, another form of dementia, or any other condition that could potentially leave a person unable to express his/her wishes, having an advance directive, which includes a living will and durable power of attorney (POA) for healthcare is an important part of your medical file.

Without these documents, a loved one will not know what types of treatment or interventions you want. And if you are unmarried, no one is legally able to make those decisions if you have not declared a healthcare POA ahead of time.

What to Do?

If you suspect a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, your first step should be to visit his/her family doctor. He or she can direct you to a specialist who will look at the person’s full medical history, conduct tests and determine the best treatment options for your loved one. Complete this checklist and bring it with you to the doctor’s visit.

For additional information and caregiver support information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org.

For information about early onset (under 65) Alzheimer’s disease, visit http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_early_onset.asp


Source: Alzheimer’s Association

 

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Yourself Healthy

Two separate recent studies suggest that being married may improve the likelihood of surviving a heart attack and may also help you beat cancer.

iStock_000022455486_Medium

It is possible that the reason for this is that married folks have a significant other nagging … er, I mean strongly encouraging … them to go to the doctor on a regular basis and get a checkup.

Preventive care and early detection are key to maintaining and continuing a healthy lifestyle as you age. Finding cancers early, learning about diseases or conditions at an early stage, gives you a better chance of doing something about it.

The best way to proactively keep yourself healthy is to take care of your body. So whether you have a spouse to ‘encourage’ you or not, there are some steps you can take to get in shape and keep healthy.

Be physically active.

Walking briskly, mowing the lawn, playing team sports, and biking are just a few examples of how you can get moving. If you are not already physically active, start small and work up to 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity for most days of the week.

Eat a healthy diet.

Concept, food, meal.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products are healthy choices. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts are good, too. Try to eat foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars.

Stay at a healthy weight.

Try to balance the calories you take in with the calories you burn with your physical activities. As you age, eat fewer calories and increase your physical activity. This will prevent gradual weight gain over time.

Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.

MenhealthCurrent dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that if you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, you do not exceed 2 drinks per day for men (1 drink per day for women). Some people should not drink alcoholic beverages at all, including

  • Individuals who cannot restrict their drinking to moderate levels.
  • Individuals who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that requires attention, skill, or coordination.
  • Individuals taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • Individuals with specific medical conditions.
  • Persons recovering from alcoholism.

Don’t smoke.

For more information on quitting, visit Quit Smoking section.

Take aspirin to avoid a heart attack.

If you are at risk for a heart attack (you’re over 45, smoke, or have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of heart disease), check with your doctor and find out if taking aspirin is the right choice for you.

Sources: AHRQ, UC San Diego Health, British Cardiovascular Society


More information:

Man and Life: How Marriage, Race and Ethnicity and Birthplace Affect Cancer Survival

Marriage could improve heart attack survival and reduce hospital stay


Watch Mercy Dance to Support Men′s Health Month

Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Aging

Logos2May is Older Americans Month. People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many older adults live active and healthy lives. But there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. Though there are things you can do to stay healthy and active as you age, it is important to understand what to expect. Some changes may just be part of normal aging, while others may be a warning sign of a medical problem. It is important to know the difference, and to let your healthcare provider know if you have any concerns.

As you age, your heart rate becomes slightly slower, and your heart might become bigger.  Your blood vessels and your arteries also become stiffer, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. To promote heart health:

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Try walking, swimming or other activities you enjoy. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium. A healthy diet can help you keep your heart and arteries healthy.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking contributes to the hardening of your arteries and increases your blood pressure and heart rate. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit.
  • Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
  • Get enough sleep. Quality sleep plays an important role in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. People’s needs vary, but generally aim for 7 to 8 hours a night.

WalkingCouple

Memory might naturally become less efficient with age. It might take longer to learn new things or remember familiar words or names. To keep your memory sharp:

  • Stay mentally active. Mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape—and might keep memory loss at bay. Do crossword puzzles. Take alternate routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument.
  • Be social. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others.
  • Lower your blood pressure. Reducing high blood pressure might reduce vascular disease that might in turn reduce the risk for dementia. More research is needed to determine whether treating high blood pressure reduces the risk of dementia.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine and eat a healthy diet. 

If you’re concerned about memory loss, consult your doctor.

For more information about healthy aging, visit these websites:

http://nihseniorhealth.gov/category/healthyaging.html
https://www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/
https://www.cdc.gov/aging/index.html
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/seniorshealth.html

Sources: Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health