Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Puzzle: Love Your Heart With Whole Grains

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February is American Heart Month. There are so many good things we can do to promote heart health—and some of them are delicious! According to the American Heart Association, eating at least three servings of whole grains each day can add years to your life by lowering the risk of not only heart disease, but also cancer, stroke, diabetes, obesity and other dangerous diseases and conditions.
What is a whole grain? The Whole Grains Council explains, “A grain is considered to be a whole grain as long as all three original parts—the bran, germ and endosperm—are still present in the same proportion as when the grain was growing in the fields.” (Learn more here.)
When some people think of “whole grains,” they think only of whole wheat. But that’s just the beginning. You have plenty of choices! For example, did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? Delicious! Just don’t spoil the nutritional boost with a bunch of added fat and salt.
To find some other yummy whole grains, and ways you might eat them, check out this month’s puzzle. Click here to download your copy.
Need a little help? Click here for the puzzle solution.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

After Visits, Family Wonder About Alzheimer’s Disease

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The holidays are over and everything is getting back to normal – except, in the back of your mind, linger some nagging worries concerning one of the elderly relatives you visited. You wonder if this loved one could be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Maybe you’ve shared your concerns with other family members, but no one’s quite sure what to do. They don’t want to offend the relative – and memory changes are normal as we age, aren’t they?
The Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) offered this list of signs that might be of concern, and how to tell them from memory changes that are considered normal:
Memory loss. Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later. What’s normal: Forgetting names or appointments occasionally.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks. People with dementia often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. They may lose track of the steps involved in preparing a meal, placing a telephone call or playing a game. What’s normal: Occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say.
Problems with language. People with Alzheimer’s disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. For example, they may be unable to find the toothbrush and instead ask for “that thing for my mouth.” What’s normal: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
Disorientation to time and place. People with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost in their own neighborhood, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home. What’s normal: Forgetting the day of the week, or walking into another room and forgetting why you went there.
Poor or decreased judgment. Those with Alzheimer’s may dress inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment, like giving away large sums of money. What’s normal: Making a questionable or debatable decision from time to time.
Problems with abstract thinking. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks; for example, they might forget what numbers are for or how they should be used. What’s normal: Finding it challenging to balance a checkbook.
Misplacing things. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places, such as an iron in the freezer or wristwatch in the sugar bowl. What’s normal: Misplacing keys or a wallet temporarily.
Changes in mood or behavior. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may show rapid mood swings—from calm to tears to anger—for no apparent reason. What’s normal: Occasionally feeling sad or moody.
Changes in personality. The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member. What’s normal: People’s personalities do change somewhat with age. They may become less flexible or reluctant to try new things; however, normal changes are not generally dramatic.
Loss of initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities. What’s normal: Sometimes feeling weary of work or social obligations.
If your loved one exhibited any of the above warning signs, it may be time to step in. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders causing dementia is an important step to getting appropriate treatment, care and support services.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The “Snake Oil Salesman” Is Alive and Well

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You’re probably familiar with the old “snake oil salesmen”—charlatans who traveled from town to town, peddling fancy bottles of “miracle potions” guaranteed to cure a wide variety of ailments. We now know that most of those “secret formulas” were no more than colored water mixed with other useless—or even dangerous—ingredients. Or perhaps the bottle was mostly full of alcohol, making it more attractive during the Prohibition era, and giving rise to jests such as “Grandma is a teetotaler but she sure gets a lot of good out of Dr. McGillicuddy’s Good Mood Elixir!”
The snake oil industry is alive and well today, but these disreputable companies no longer hawk their wares from the back of a wagon. Today, they tout their “miracle cures” on late-night TV infomercials, in magazine ads, on Facebook and in spam emails. They often target older adults. And while their sales pitches may be glitzier than in yesteryear, many of the fraudulent health claims they make have changed very little. They lead consumers to believe their products are scientifically tested and endorsed by reputable medical science.
Just as in the past, these scam artists keep moving to avoid persecution. Even though their claims may be illegal, it’s hard for officials to keep up with the proliferation. Said Gary Coody of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Health fraud is a pervasive problem, especially when scammers sell online. It’s difficult to track down the responsible parties. When we do find them and tell them their products are illegal, some will shut down their website. Unfortunately, however, these same products may reappear later on a different website, sometimes with a different name.”
This means that it’s up to consumers to educate themselves about fraudulent health products. Learn the facts, and share the information with senior loved ones. The FDA provides the following list of six “red flag” claims that should raise your suspicion:
  1. One product does it all. Be suspicious of products that claim to cure a wide range of diseases. For example, a New York firm claimed its products marketed as dietary supplements could treat or cure dementia, brain atrophy, atherosclerosis, kidney dysfunction, gangrene, depression, osteoarthritis, as well as lung, cervical and prostate cancer.
  2. Personal testimonials. Success stories such as, “It cured my diabetes” or “My tumors are gone,” are easy to make up and are not a substitute for scientific evidence.
  3. Quick fixes. Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, even with legitimate products. Beware of language such as “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days” or “eliminates skin cancer in days.”
  4. “All natural.” Some plants found in nature (such as poisonous mushrooms) can kill when consumed. Moreover, the FDA has found numerous products promoted as “all natural” that actually contain hidden and dangerously high doses of prescription drug ingredients or even untested active artificial ingredients.
  5. “Miracle cure.” Alarms should go off when you see this claim or others like it such as, “new discovery,” “scientific breakthrough” or “secret ingredient.” If a real cure for a serious disease were discovered, it would be widely reported through the media and prescribed by health professionals—not buried in print ads, TV infomercials or on Internet sites.
  6. Conspiracy theories. Claims like “The pharmaceutical industry and the government are working together to hide information about a miracle cure” are always untrue and unfounded. These statements are used to distract consumers from the obvious, common-sense questions about the so-called miracle cure.
Bottom line, says the FDA, if you are unsure about the safety and effectiveness of a health product, ask your doctor or another reputable healthcare professional first.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Give Your New Year’s Resolutions a Jump Start

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So here we are, almost two weeks into 2017. Did you make a list of healthy New Year’s resolutions? Are you still feeling enthusiastic about your goals of exercising more, eating right, quitting smoking, lowering your stress level – whatever good intentions made it onto your list?
To make it more likely that you’ll stick to it, check out these five ways to raise the chances of success:
  1. Re-evaluate your goals. In the excitement of the new year, we sometimes make resolutions that seem unattainable when day-to-day life sets back in. Take another look. Without completely abandoning a particular resolution, you can refine it to be less daunting. For example, if your goal was “Lose 20 pounds,” cross that out and replace with “Lose one pound a week until swimsuit weather.” If you resolved to bring a healthy salad for lunch to work instead of ducking into the pizza place for lunch, allow yourself a slice of pepperoni once a week.
  2. Translate ideals into specifics. If you resolved to “get more exercise,” it’s great to visualize yourself as being more fit, with more energy. Now, move your focus to the specific actions that will get you there, such as “Walk for 30 minutes five days a week after work.” Think about the process as much as the goals. Make list of things you want to do, and when you will do them. Make a checklist and put it on the fridge. One day at a time!
  3. Prioritize.  If we try to tackle too many big changes in our life at once, we can become discouraged and give up on all of them. Ask yourself which healthy living goals would benefit you the most. Eliminating truly dangerous habits like smoking or eating junk food would no doubt be near the top of the list. Yet studies show that stress reduction and getting more sleep can help those other changes fall into place. Talk to your doctor about the lifestyle changes that would be of greatest benefit to you.
  4. Don’t give up if you goof up. Few of us can make big life transformations without an occasional setback. Bad health habits that took years to be entrenched probably won’t be completely conquered by February. We all have days when it’s just a little harder to put on our running shoes or steam those veggies for dinner! And studies show that unrealistic expectations can actually boomerang—we might have a second cigarette because we’re angry at ourselves that we gave in and had the first one, or we might try to pick up our spirits with a hot fudge sundae if we gained a pound at our weekly weigh-in. Some experts even say that perfectionism raises the risk of alcohol abuse. Instead of losing hope, turn a momentary lapse into a learning experience. What circumstance caused the temporary derail, and how can you avoid that obstacle next time?
  5. Get help from an expert. When we resolve to quit smoking, give up junk food or cut back on alcohol consumption, we often find that it’s hard to go it alone. The buddy system, where we enlist family and friends to quit with us or help us stick to our goal, can be helpful. But sometimes, cohorts and cheerleaders aren’t enough. Brain chemistry, biology, genes and personality traits mesh to make certain habits notoriously hard to change. A smoking cessation, alcohol reduction or weight loss program may be the best way to turn your resolutions into real change. Talk to your doctor about a program that’s right for you. Some are free or almost free; your insurance may cover others.
There’s an old saying that nothing succeeds like success. Each small increment you achieve in keeping your resolutions for a healthier life will provide motivation for the next step forward.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Resolve to Save Energy—and Money—in 2017

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Was “save money” on your list of New Year’s resolutions this year? There are all sorts of ways to spend less that can that add up to big savings—and one of those things can benefit not only our wallet, but also the environment.
The U.S. Department of Energy offers 10 tips for saving money by conserving energy. Click on the links for details about these great ideas.
  1. Prevent heat from escaping or cold from entering your home – lowering your heating bills – by insulating and air sealing your home.
  2. Reduce your waste heat by using a programmable thermostat that can reduce the heat at a specific time when you’re away from the home and increase the heat before you get back home.
  3. Doors and windows are places where cold/warm air can easily come through, so by installing ENERGY STAR doors and windows, you can save energy and money with their better quality insulation.
  4. Heading out to the after-holiday sales to stock up on d├ęcor for next year? Look for light emitting diode (LED) holiday lights, which are at least 75% more efficient and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lights. By using LED holiday lights, you can be at ease knowing that you won’t be spending a bundle to keep those lights on.
  5. If you’re taking a winter vacation this year, you can save energy by making sure the lights are turned off.  Read more about when to turn off the lights.
  6. Save additional money on your electricity bill by using motion sensor and timer controls.
  7. One significant way to reduce energy consumption if you’re away on vacation is to simply lower the water heater temperature. If you’ll be gone three or more consecutive days, set the water heater to the lowest or “vacation” setting if there is one.
  8. When you are away, it’s also good to unplug those kitchen appliances, DVDs, TVs, and computers to save energy and money. These electronics, when plugged in, use up energy even when they are turned off.
  9. Use a power strip. If the idea of running around the home to unplug everything is a bit too much, use power strips to plug in multiple appliances, and then turn them all off with the flip of the power strip switch.
  10. Adjust the blinds and curtains. Close your curtains and shades at night to protect against cold drafts; open them during the day to let in warming sunlight.