Tag Archives: health

zika mosquito

Zika: Not over yet

A few weeks ago, you couldn’t turn on the news without hearing a story on Zika Virus. While other newsworthy stories have started to take over the news cycle, many in the medical community are keeping their attention focused squarely on this infection. Here’s a short summary of why people shouldn’t be ready to stop talking about Zika quite yet:

  1. An infected person may not even know they’re infected. People very rarely die from Zika. In fact, according to the CDC website, most people don’t even get sick enough to go to the hospital and some won’t show any symptoms at all. This means that these infected people can unknowingly spread the virus.
  2. There is no vaccine. You can’t protect yourself from Zika the same way you would from the flu or chicken pox. The only way to ensure that you won’t get Zika is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito.
  3. It can spread through sexual contact. Zika virus can be spread from a man to his sexual partner. According to the CDC, this is because the virus is present longer in semen than in blood. From the cases of sexual transmission, doctors have learned that the virus can spread through semen before the man has symptoms, while he is displaying symptoms and after symptoms resolve.
  4. Zika affects unborn babies the most. The virus causes birth defects in newborns. The most frequent defect of children born to a mother with the virus is microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition where a newborn’s head is not as large as it should be because the brain is underdeveloped.
  5. This year’s summer Olympics are in Brazil. Zika spreads to people through the bite of an infected mosquito, and Brazil’s humidity and hot temperatures foster the kind of environment where mosquitos typically thrive.

Five Ways to Protect Your Skin at the Beach

With summer in full swing, it’s time to start prepping for your highly anticipated beach time. Hopefully you’ve already scheduled a week off work, booked an oceanfront room and stocked up on flip flops and bathing suits.

So, what’s next on your to-do list? One thing that may not stand out as a priority, but most definitely should be one, is arming yourself with the necessary tools to protect your skin from the blistering heat of the summer sun. Too much sun exposure could ruin your vacation with an unpleasant sun burn, and in more serious cases contribute to skin cancer. Here are five ways to protect your skin on your next beach vacation:

1.       Apply Sunscreen. The American Academy for Dermatology recommends using a SPF 30 or higher, and reapplying approximately every two hours. Don’t forget to apply it to your ears, hands and feet too.

2.       Check the UV index. Before heading out for a day at the beach, check the predicted UV index for the area. The UV index provides information on the strength of the sun’s UV rays. If it is too high, take extra precautions with a higher SPF or consider an inside activity that day.

3.       Bring an umbrella. An umbrella can provide some much needed refuge from the hot sun. Don’t rely on the umbrella for complete protection, though, and continue to apply sunscreen regularly.

4.       Cover up. Bring a tee-shirt or a trendy cover up to slip on when taking a walk on the beach or wading in the water. Just remember: Stay away from dark colors that will attract the sun’s rays.

5.       Wear a hat. A floppy hat is the perfect all-in-one beach accessory. You’ll look stylish while protecting your scalp, face and eyes from damaging UV rays.

It’s Time for a Snack Down

Office kitchens often provide the obstacles that knock a person off the “straight and narrow” of healthy snacking. Between company-provided snacks and the box of doughnuts your coworker was kind enough to bring in, these treats can make it tough to stick to your weight goals.

There are ways to stay on the right path, however! Here are some pointers to consider when trying to block the pesky office snack cycle:

Don’t eat the same lunches constantly.

  • If you have the same sandwich or salad daily, it might be playing a role in your snack bar addiction. Switch it up and you might find that you are more satisfied!

Distract yourself.

  • If you’re craving a snack, but aren’t actually hungry, try waiting it out. It can typically take 20-30 minutes for the desire to pass, so try to do something productive that will make passing the time easier.

Bring your own snacks.

  • If you can’t stop the snacking, you will be able to control what you will be snacking on. This could help you stay away from the cheese puffs and closer to the carrots.

Get to the root of the issue.

  • It is likely that your snacking problem has less to do with an addiction to food and more to do with your job. It could be boredom, stress, lack of stimulation or fatigue. Whatever the issue is, tackling it may help lead to a reduction in your snack attacks.

Allow balance.

  • It is okay to occasionally eat a cookie or two from the snack bar. Don’t beat yourself up about it, even if you did happen to skip the celery and peanut butter. This isn’t a war against snacks, so don’t act like a failed general when you give into their allure.

What to do when you have the flu?

If you’ve ever had the flu, you can attest that it’s a miserable experience. Your muscles and joints ache; you have pain and tiredness around your eyes; you have a sense of weakness or extreme fatigue; and any assortment of a headache, fever, dry cough, sore throat and a runny nose. It makes it sound like a common cold, but it’s much worse.

 It’s a good thing February has passed because that is the most common month to get the flu. However, that doesn’t mean we are in the clear just yet! The lingering sufferers are still able to pass germs to the healthy!

 If you’ve been unfortunate enough to turn into a virus incubator, don’t fret! There are a few things you can do to help promote viral eviction:

·         Get plenty of rest.

o This might be obvious, but the flu makes you extremely tired. Don’t fight your body. I know you have to work, but you won’t be able to get work done if you can’t pay attention.

·         Increase your fluid intake.

o   Another obvious solution, but you will need all the fluids you can get. Water, sports drinks, soup, etc.

·         Sweat.

o   Sweat as much as you can. You can use a sauna or a steam room. Sweat in whatever way you can, but don’t exercise. Exercise will only hurt you while you’re trying to heal.

·         If possible, within 24 hours, get an antiviral from your doctor.

o   This can help you feel better sooner and minimize symptoms. Continue to take it easy, though. You might feel better, but your body is still in battle.

·         Dip into some Oil of Oregano.

o   Oregano contains chemicals that might help reduce cough and spasms. Oregano also might help digestion by increasing bile flow and fighting against some bacteria, viruses, fungi, intestinal worms and other parasites.

o   One drop in 8 oz. of water every few hours might help.

Owning a healthy dog or cat

As any good paw-rent can tell you, being the keeper of a fur-baby isn’t always easy. You want to make sure they’re happy, well-fed and entertained. In a society where people are having less children, pets are taking their spots and it is much easier to spoil them. However, like children, pets are also at risk for obesity.

 It is estimated that 54 percent of pets in the US are obese. This puts them at a higher risk for medical related illnesses, such as:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
  • Kidney Disease
  • Many Forms of Cancer
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

Limiting your pet’s diet might be easier if it is a dog. Dogs are typically happy as long as someone’s there to play or cuddle. It’s cat owners that seem to struggle the most when addressing issues of obesity with their cat overlords. A recent New York Times article points out a number of fears that cat owners have when trying to correct their pet’s diet. Many owners fear it will lead to increased aggression, depression and vindictiveness.

According to the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, however, many owners reported that their cats were actually more affectionate after limiting their diets. So, take a deep breath and feel confident, knowing your dog or cat won’t hate you if their diet starts to tighten up a bit. They’ll thank you in the long run.

Diet Right

If you’re still hanging on and sticking with your New Year’s diet – first off, well done! You’ve made it farther than most. Secondly, there are a few pointers to help you ensure you’re going about dieting in the right way:

1.       Most individuals attempting to change their diets avoid snacking throughout the day. By the time dinner comes around, they are starving and more likely to indulge. Make sure you’re eating balanced meals throughout the day so you aren’t more tempted to quit your mission to a healthier lifestyle.

2.      “Don’t eat before bed or you’ll gain weight,” is a common myth. Eating before sleeping will not make you more likely to gain weight than any other time. The slowed digestion will not increase the likelihood of your body storing your meal as fat. It will likely lead to you not getting a comfortable night’s rest, though. If you can, make sure you eat a few hours before bed – you’ll likely feel better in the morning.

3.       It’s also important that if you’re eating late, you’re still eating smart. Eat foods that help make up for the vitamins, minerals and proteins used throughout the day.

4.      Going out to dinner while attempting to change your diet can be very difficult, especially if you’re trying to cut back on fats and oils. If you’re out to eat, try to ask for no sauce or dressing. They can easily turn your healthy meal into a “cheat-day” meal.

The fact that you’re making improvements to better yourself is important. If you fall off the wagon, it’s fine, as long as you are committed to getting back on. Try to keep these tips in mind as sticking to your diet starts to become more demanding!

Is Zika The New Ebola?

Headline after headline, today’s media is filled with Zika, Zika, Zika. People are treating it similarly to Ebola; however, the healthcare community is being more proactive this time. While the Zika virus poses a big risk to developing fetuses, it’s little more than a mild irritation to everyone else.

Here are the facts:

  • Zika has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, making it a threat to pregnant women.
    • Microcephaly occurs when a person has a brain or head size so small that it prevents proper development.
  • Typically spread through mosquitoes, but can be spread by people – and is sexually transmittable.
  • The symptoms are mild.
    • 80 percent of those infected have no symptoms.
    • If symptoms occur, they are usually a fever and a rash.
    • Other symptoms can be muscle & joint pain, pain behind eyes, headaches and conjunctivitis (pink-eye).
    • Usually lasts two to seven days.
    • Over-the-counter medicine can help relieve some of the symptoms.

A new disease spreading rampant around the world is terrifying, but this disease is essentially harmless to most. If you are pregnant and concerned about contracting the virus, make sure you are wearing a lot of insect repellant. If you’re pregnant, believe you’re at risk and sexually active, make sure your partner is also wearing insect repellent to ensure the pregnancy will go without any additional complications.

Zika isn’t the new Ebola, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be safe if you could be putting someone else at risk.

Not Your Mother’s Dietary Guidelines

Every five years, the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments update the federal dietary guidelines. Recently announced, the newest dietary guidelines contain several changes as well as a few surprises.

  1. Limit Your Sugar Intake. Not surprisingly, the guidelines recommend Americans cut back on sugar intake. The new rules suggest limiting added sugars to a mere 10 percent of daily calories.
  2. Eat Less…Protein? A major surprise in the updated guidelines is the finding that many teenage boys and men, in particular, are eating too much protein. While lean meat consumption is still part of a balanced diet, the guide recommends men substitute some consumption of protein for vegetables.
  3. Eat More…Cholesterol?  The dietary guideline previously limited the intake of cholesterol to 300 milligrams daily. The new guidelines no longer contain a limit to dietary cholesterol. This means cholesterol-rich foods are no longer considered a health concern. Egg and seafood-lovers rejoice!
  4. Focus on Patterns. While many of the updated guidelines focus on individual nutrients, the guidelines advise individuals to focus primarily on overall patterns of healthy eating. Note that this is the first time the guidelines recommend a focus on overall habits instead of specific nutrients.

The guidelines suggest three diets, including vegetarian and Mediterranean diets. Before adapting any new plan, speak with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to ensure you’re utilizing the best plan for your individual needs. However, these updated guidelines are a great starting point for a balanced, healthy diet.

How to Travel in Good Health

As a healthcare professional with a penchant for travel, I strongly believe in the health benefits of traveling. Vacationing is a great way to relax, reduce stress and enjoy time with loved ones.

However, Harvard Business Review recently listed several risks to those who travel for business, including an increased risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, a correlation to unhealthy lifestyles, higher stress levels and sleep problems.

With all these added risks, it is important for travelers to maintain healthy habits while away from home, as I’ve said before. Whether your travels are occupational or recreational, here are some tips for staying healthy while you travel:

  1. Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is an easy way to keep your immune system strong while traveling. While drinking lots of water is an obvious solution, limiting alcohol intake is equally important. Stay hydrated and swap that glass of wine on the plane for a bottle of water instead.
  1. Sleep is your friend. Sleep is usually at the back of our minds on a jam-packed trip. Among obvious health benefits of adequate sleep, a lack of sleep can lead to feeling hungry even if you aren’t. Get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly to avoid overeating!
  1. Don’t overindulge. Many people look at travel time as a chance to overindulge in food and alcohol. While it may seem appealing at first, overindulging often leaves us feeling guilty and our bodies bloated. Order smaller portion sizes to eliminate the temptation to overindulge.

Traveling is not an excuse to completely derail a diet plan or sleep schedule. While traveling does disrupt daily routines, use the tips above to stay healthy on your next trip. You’ll leave your vacation feeling refreshed – not like you need a vacation from your vacation.

Stay Safe on Vacation Rentals

In recent years, vacation rental sites such as Airbnb or TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals have grown in popularity among travelers seeking a budget-friendly, unique place to stay. While these sites do offer amazing deals and experiences, it is important to remember that there are some people out there simply looking to scam you (crazy, right?).

Fortunately, U.S. News & World Report has highlighted ways that you can stay safe when booking with vacation rental sites.

Firstly, never conduct business through an unsecure service. Make sure you are booking through the company’s official site, staying away from any hosts who suggest doing business off of the vacation rental site. If you’re asked to use an instant wire service or to send money through your bank, a red flag should definitely be raised!

If the host also has few to no reviews, you have another reason to be wary. This is when you need to do additional research. You should cross-search on other sites to ensure you are not being scammed. Some sites even offer “verified” accounts that have been checked for authenticity, offering you piece-of-mind.

In addition, it is important to review the listing’s contract agreements to identify the important terms – payment, security deposit, cancellation rules, and amenities. If contracts lack these terms, you may find yourself in a rental scam.

Lastly, if a listing has odd rules or regulations, you may want to pass. Different cities have different rental policies – some don’t even allow overnight rentals! It is up to you to do your homework to ensure the listing you are about to book is legal.

Don’t be one of the many with nightmarish tales about your unconventional vacation rental experience – instead, just be on high alert and take precautionary measures when booking. Prove to that unconvinced friend that these “sketchy” rental sites can actually offer awesome and unforgettable vacation experiences!