Monday, August 03, 2015

 

To lose weight, weigh your food


It was hard not to laugh when my friend posted on her Facebook page: “I ate a Greek yogurt for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and then I came home and ate the whole kitchen.” Can’t we all relate to that? As someone who has struggled with overeating for most of my adult life, I sure can.

It all really boils down to portion control and balance. These are the keys to weight loss. Simple as that.

I asked my colleague, Backus Hospital Registered Dietitian Joan Sommers, for some guidelines to keep portions under control without feeling hungry all the time. Joan had some very interesting points to consider.

“If you are hungry, what are you missing from your meal plan? Incorporate more functional foods such as healthy carbohydrates — that’s right — carbohydrates are not bad foods! Carbohydrate foods provide us with fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and many non-starch vegetables can be used to fill us up. I have never in my life as a dietitian said, ‘Slow down on the vegetables.’ I really try to have my clients find delicious recipes incorporating 2-3 servings of non-starch vegetables with their meals. There is nothing wrong with adding a veggie for breakfast. Fiber is found naturally in fruits, grains, and vegetables. I usually prescribe between 25-30 grams per day. But don’t forget, as one increases fiber content, it’s also important to increase water intake.

"Another major nutrient that may be missing is protein. Protein helps keep us full; the need for protein is 1.0-1.2 grams per kilogram of ideal body weight.

Portions are very important and the only way one can identify what they are eating is to measure and weigh your food intake. We can focus on overeating but the reverse can be true. For example, we as health educators may identify a 3-ounce portion of chicken as a deck of cards. I never use this as an example because during my cooking demonstrations I would ask my participants to let me know when they thought I had 3 ounces of poached chicken on my scale. Not one person was able to identify 3 ounces; surprisingly, they all felt that 1-2 ounces of chicken was 3 ounces. So if they did not measure, but just estimated the amount of protein they ate, they may be hungry later during the day.”

Well, I certainly learned a lot from Joan’s guidelines. It’s all “food for thought.”

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.



Monday, July 27, 2015

 

Sharing some secrets to better health


One of my favorite pastimes is visiting bookstores, especially used bookstores. All sorts of literary gems are just waiting to be discovered. One treasure I found recently was entitled, "100 Simple Secrets of Healthy People." Author David Niven, Ph.D. is a psychologist and social scientist. He has amassed 100 essential ways that we can become healthier and happier, gleaned from research conducted on average Americans.

A few of the secrets really caught my eye. For example, No. 2 is "The quest for a perfect body is doomed." I couldn't agree more. Seeking a healthier lifestyle is inherently good, but trying to achieve the perfect body only sets us up for failure. Niven advises, "Seek a healthy body that functions, not a perfect body fit for a display case."

"Hostility hurts you" is No. 71. It seems obvious that positive connections between people contribute to mental and physical well-being, while negative feelings are a source of mental and physical strain. Philosophy professor Sam Keen suggests, “Maybe real men should eat quiche — they might live longer.” He argues for a male makeover that replaces violence, materialism, and power with peace, spirituality and cooperation. Brown Medical School researchers found that people with high levels of hostility were 6 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease. When I told my husband that statistic, he said, "Only 6 percent? I'll just stay hostile."

No. 98 is interesting: “Vegetables Will Taste Better in the Future.” Plants protect themselves from being eaten by secreting bitter-tasting toxins like phenols, flavonoids and isoflavones, which are good for us in small amounts. According to a University of Washington study, our taste buds change with age, including a declining sensitivity to bitterness, making many healthy foods more appealing as we get older. Eight in ten older people reported an increased preference for green vegetables, whole-grains, and bitter fruits like grapefruits and lemons.

That’s good news about aging as we all head in that direction.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, July 20, 2015

 

How to lose weight — and celebrate your success


It’s very hard work to lose weight, as many of us are well aware. Between Jazzercise and Thin’s In, in the past 6 months I have lost 35 pounds, with six more to lose to reach my goal weight.

This morning I found a pair of pants in the back of my closet that I have not been able to squeeze into until now. When I reached into the pocket, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a folded up and forgotten $20 bill. Bonanza! I took that as a reward for the hard work of weight loss.

That reminded me of Dianne Rubin, owner of Thin’s In weight loss program. Dianne has a few rules that everyone on the program must abide by for successful weight loss. One of them is not to reward yourself with food each time you reach a milestone. Celebrating with a big bowl of double chocolate ice cream is not the appropriate reward, no matter how delicious it would be. To some, buying a new pair of shoes would be a reward for reaching a milestone. Perhaps tickets to the latest movie or concert is a good reward for others.

Another rule is never to eat in front of the TV — all meals and snacks must be consumed sitting at the table — and not in front of the computer, either. This would result in mindless eating and subsequent over-eating. Sitting at the table encourages one to focus on the food, conversation with others, and making the dining experience more mindful and pleasant.

The key to good nutrition is balance and portion control. On June 2, 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack released the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate. It’s an easy to understand icon — a dinner plate — that emphasizes the balance of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy groups we all need to eat every day. My dietitian friends all agree: diets that eliminate an entire food group are foolish, like the current fad that eliminates all dairy and carbohydrates for 30 days. For a wealth of information about MyPlate, healthy eating on a budget, and more, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

Exercise is a crucial component for good health, regardless of weight. I enjoy the camaraderie of Jazzercise, where we all move and dance and sweat together for an hour. The fun we have is a bonus, and it keeps us coming back. Friends who do Zumba or attend Yoga classes say the same thing.

One tip I have learned is the value of teaming up with a friend or family member. Joining forces with a buddy is similar to a support group dynamic. More importantly, when your enthusiasm lags, you will summon the energy to honor your commitment to meet and exercise together because you won’t want to disappoint your buddy.

When I reach my next milestone I will have to check all of the pants in my closet to see if there are any more forgotten $20 bills in the pockets.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

 

Summer is the time to get schooled on sun safety


School may be out, but it’s time to brush up on your skin ABC's in sun safety summer school!

The American Academy of Dermatology reports that 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetimes. They recommend using the ABCDE's of melanoma to monitor for problems and catch skin cancer in the early stages when it can be more easily treated. If you have a mole or other skin lesion it is important to keep an eye on it over the summer.

A for Asymmetry: Is the mole the same on one side as it is on the other or is it uneven? Asymmetry can be a sign of a cancerous lesion.

B for Border: Does is have a well defined border or is the border fuzzy or unclear? Lack of a defined border can be indicative of a malignant condition.

C for Color: Is the mole or spot all one color or does it have numerous shades of brown, black, tan, red, or white? Cancerous lesions can be many different shades.

D for Diameter: How big is the mole or lesion? Malignant lesions are often 6 mm or bigger although they can also be smaller when diagnosed.

E for Evolving: Most importantly do you notice any changes in the lesion? This can include size, shape, color, bleeding, itching, and any other differences you may notice. Moles or lesions that change over time can be a sign of a problem.

If you do notice one or more of the signs above, or if you have concerns, it is important to make an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible. Many malignant skin conditions can be treated. However, treatment is typically easier the earlier the problem is detected.

Visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s website to print a user friendly body mole map that allows you to keep track of lesions and moles over time.

Prevention is key. The easiest way to prevent skin cancer is to practice smart sun safety. This means wearing sunscreen everyday and reapplying frequently, especially after swimming or sweating. Do not forget easy to miss places such as the top of your ears and your hands and feet. Bald men need to protect the scalp. In addition, wear a hat and sunglasses for added protection for your face and eyes.

Sun safety summer school is officially out of session —— you now have your homework to help you have a happy and healthy summer in the sunshine!

Katelyn Cusmano is a Backus Hospital Volunteer and a UConn Medical School MD Candidate for the class of 2018. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Cusmano or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, June 29, 2015

 

Staying hydrated is key to good health


W.C. Fields is credited with saying, “I never drink water. I’m afraid it will become habit-forming.” I realize he was only joking, but Fields didn’t look like the healthiest person from his pictures. Maybe he should have heeded the current medical advice that drinking water and staying well hydrated is one of the most important health habits we can practice.

A person can survive for a few miserable weeks without food, but only about 4-5 days without water.

Here are some interesting facts: Did you know that the human brain is about 75 percent water? Even our bones are almost 22 percent water, while our hearts are 79 percent water.

Every day, we lose 2-3 quarts of water through urination, sweating and breathing. That shows how important it is that we replace our fluids regularly to compensate for this loss.

Almost everyone has been told we need to drink more water. But how much is enough? The most common recommendation is six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Some people need more, some less, depending on their health status, how much they exercise, and how hot and dry the climate is. A physician once told me, “just pay attention to your mouth and lips – if they are dry, you’re thirsty and need more water.”

I hear complaints every day that “water is boring” or “I just have to force myself to drink water.” It’s a common complaint. Here are some tips to help drink more water:

• Flavor the water — squeeze a few drops of lemon or lime juice in water for a refreshing boost.

• Put a slice or two of cucumber in a reusable water bottle.

• Carry a reusable bottle everywhere and take sips all day long – it will add up.

Water is clean, refreshing and calorie-free. So, pour yourself a glass and drink to your health!

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, June 22, 2015

 

Laughter can be the best medicine


"There isn't much fun in medicine, but there's a heck of a lot of medicine in fun."
~Josh Billings

Every time a family member or friend has an encounter with the medical field, I learn something valuable that I can apply to my own personal or professional life. Last week my daughter had surgery on her hand and was a bit apprehensive, naturally. She lives in California so we waited for her to call us to let us know all went well. When she called, one of the first things she said was how the anesthesiologist made her laugh and what a calming effect it had on her.

My husband was scheduled for a cardiac catheterization and was a little anxious. Our friend Jeff called prior to the procedure and it was music to my ears to hear the two of them laughing and joking on the phone. Brian has a great sense of humor, and from what he said, he was more relaxed through the procedure because he joked and laughed with the health care team.

Don't we all feel much more relaxed after a good laugh? New evidence shows a good sense of humor not only enriches life, it also promotes physical and mental health. According to Paul McGhee, PhD, author of The Laughter Remedy, research has shown several therapeutic effects of laughter. This is just a short list of the benefits:

• Muscle relaxation
• Reduction of stress hormone
• Improved sleep
• Boosted immune function
• Enhanced oxygen intake
• Pain reduction.

Humor reduces pain sensation through triggering the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. Rheumatoid arthritis patients who report more chronic pain also say they look for humor more often in everyday life. They've learned that humor helps manage their pain.

Because of all of the good effects of laughter, some experts recommend everyone get 15 to 20 minutes of laughter a day, much like the advice to exercise regularly and eat five fruits and vegetables every day.

My husband and daughter are fine and healing well. Along with their medicine, frequent doses of laughter is definitely part of their prescription for healing.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.



Monday, June 15, 2015

 

Have you hugged a cow today?


June is known for many things; the start of summer picnics, graduation parties, Father’s Day celebrations, weddings.  But what’s a picnic without a freshly-grilled, juicy burger covered with melted cheddar?  Or a graduation party without a colorful array of fresh fruit alongside a tangy-sweet yogurt dip?  Or a slice of wedding cake without a scoop of cool, luscious ice cream?

As a Wisconsin native, Dairy Month holds a very special place in my heart.  Everyone knows that dairy foods are a great source of calcium, but there’s so much more to love about milk!
Yes, calcium is important, and dairy products are undoubtedly the most abundant sources of naturally-occurring calcium in the modern diet.  But did you know about all the other nutrients in milk that strengthen your bones, maintain muscle tissue and promote overall health?
Milk is one of the most nutrient-rich beverages you can drink.  In addition to all that bone-building calcium, it is a good source of phosphorus, another mineral necessary for bone health.  It definitely packs a powerful punch with eight grams of muscle-building protein per serving.  Milk also provides essential B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin and B12, which are needed for healthy red blood cells and the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat.  It is fortified with vitamins A and D, which serve many important functions to support eye, skin and bone health.  Many may be surprised to learn that dairy is a good source of potassium as well.  In fact, it is actually higher in electrolytes than most sports drinks.  Moooo-ve over Gatorade! 
And what’s more, this unique combination of nutrients all come together perfectly to maximize the absorption of calcium and bone mineralization in the body.  Because let’s face it—no matter how much calcium a food has, it does you no good if your body doesn’t absorb and use it.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three servings of dairy daily for most children and adults.  Because whole milk is naturally quite high in saturated fat, it is best to choose low-fat (1%) milk and dairy products. 
If you are lactose-intolerant, don’t despair!  Most can tolerate small amounts of milk with meals as well as cheese and yogurt since the lactose is either removed or broken down prior to consumption.  You could also choose to take enzymes or buy lactose-free milk, which is available at most grocers. 
There are so many ways to enjoy dairy foods.  So show a hard-working cow your gratitude and get your three servings today!
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, June 08, 2015

 

Grandparenting isn’t just fun and games


“God couldn’t be everywhere, so he made grandparents.” Most of us who are grandparents can appreciate this sentiment, but for some, it’s not so easy.

An increasing number of grandparents are raising their grandchildren. In 2011, 7.7 million children in the United States were living with a grandparent with nearly 3 million children being cared for primarily by grandparents, according to the 2005-2011 American Community Survey.

There are several possible reasons why parents are unable to care for their own children.   It could be due to incarceration, mental health issues, abandonment, divorce, death of one or both parents, substance abuse issues, or even military deployment of both parents.  Any of these issues can result in the need for a grandparent to step in to raise the children.


There can be many health challenges: Chronic health conditions may make parenting difficult.  Older folks don’t have the same stamina or energy level as younger parents.  For example, they may not be able to play ball with young kids, or run after an active toddler.  The constant attentiveness required to care for a toddler can be exhausting for any adult, but especially for someone age 60 or older.  Grandparent caregivers might feel anxious or depressed, and may be disappointed to see their child fail as a parent.  From the child’s viewpoint, after the loss of a parent, now the child may experience increased anxiety when seeing stressed-out, possibly frail older adults caring for them.


Financial resources may be limited, and grandparents may experience difficulty providing adequate housing, food, and clothing.  Grandparents stepping in to raise their children’s children can find the task mentally and physically exhausting.  So much has changed from the first time around raising children, that the caregiver may need respite.


Marion Donato is the coordinator of the local Family Caregiver Support Program, through Senior Resources in Norwich, and can offer assistance in securing support and services.  Her number is 860-887-3561, ext 124.  Marion says that each situation is different.  She urges grandparents to seek help if they feel unable to manage their stress, or if their grandchildren’s problems become overwhelming.   Family therapy and support groups are available to ease the burden of custodial grandparenting.


But it’s not all difficult and stress-filled days. The joys of grandparenting can be very rewarding regardless of the circumstances.   Even though the challenges are many, I know of one local custodial grandmother of three active children who often wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the saying, “Grandchildren make the world a little softer, a little kinder, a little warmer.”


Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System.
This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, June 01, 2015

 

Have a food-safe summer


For most Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer.  For me, it signals the beginning of a season I love even more — picnic and pool party season!

Nothing beats that first bite of a juicy burger fresh off the grill, the first refreshing dip into the pool on a hot day or playing yard games with family and friends after many months of being cooped up indoors.
We all love to get outside when the weather heats up, and we often take our food with us.  The trouble is, as we are out basking in the sunshine, we often forget that all the warmth we are enjoying is creating a breeding ground for bacteria in that potato salad we left on the picnic table.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in six Americans suffers from a foodborne illness every year, and a large proportion of these cases occur in the summer months.  You may be surprised to learn that on average, 128,000 Americans are hospitalized and 3,000 actually die each year as a result of food poisoning.  It’s no laughing matter.
The good news is that you can keep your family safe by following these very basic guidelines:
Clean — Always maintain proper hand hygiene and thoroughly wash all utensils, cutting boards and countertops with soap and hot water.  If you wish, you can also sanitize them by applying a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
Separate — Always keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs away from food that is ready-to-eat in your shopping cart, the refrigerator and while preparing food.  It is best to store any raw meats on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that juices will not drip onto other foods.  Be sure to use separate cutting boards and never place cooked food back onto the same plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs (I’m talking to you, grill masters!).
Cook — Always cook foods to the recommended temperature and use a food thermometer when grilling.  Fish, roasts, steaks, chops and other cuts of meat must be cooked to 145 degrees while poultry and ground meats must reach 165 degrees to assure safety.
Chill — Keep cold foods below 40 degrees and do not leave food at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees).  Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, microwave or in cold water.  Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter or in hot water.
Follow these simple rules, and I know you will have a fantastically fun and food-safe summer!  For more tips and resources, please visit www.foodsafety.gov.
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, May 25, 2015

 

More sleep can mean better health


It’s hard to think of any health issue more important to everyone than getting a good night’s sleep.  Almost everyone I talk to has some kind of sleep issues, whether the problem is waking up frequently during the night, insomnia, a snoring bed partner, sleep apnea or all of the above. 
According to Dr. Olimpia Radu, a member of the Backus Medical Staff and Director of the Norwich Sleep Center, 35 percent to 50 percent of the general population has complaints of insomnia. Many other people have leg movement disorders. Many children and some adults also suffer from parasomnias such as sleep walking, sleep talking, night terrors, and bed wetting. Sleep doctors are trained to help diagnose and treat all sorts of sleep problems besides the more common problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious but often undiagnosed condition. It is caused by reduced airflow to the lungs due to blockage of the throat during sleep. This causes snoring, low oxygen levels, high heart rate and blood pressure. The brain sleep waves are disrupted with each episode of apnea.
How do you know if you have sleep apnea?  Your bed partner may tell you that you snore, or you just feel that you have disrupted sleep and wake up suddenly, several times each night. Going to the bathroom frequently at night may also be linked with sleep apnea besides bladder or prostate issues. Feeling tired and sleepy during daytime, some mood irritability, and poor attention could all be seen patients with sleep apnea.
Patients with existing heart disease, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, emphysema, and congestive heart failure have a very high chance of having sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea may help better control these other disorders.
Not getting enough sleep is a major health problem in the United States. It is linked with obesity and a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. Smartphones in the bedroom, binge watching of TV shows, social media notifications, and 24-hour news channels all lead to disrupted and shortened sleep time.
Sleep studies are tests that record what happens to your body during sleep, and are usually done in a sleep lab or at home in selected cases. The studies are done to find out what is causing your sleep problems, whether it is excessive snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, or narcolepsy. 
Sleep apnea can be treated with weight loss, a machine with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask, or with an oral appliance therapy made by a sleep dentist. There are other options available as well such as throat surgery and a new muscle stimulator. Talk to your sleep doctor about these options.
Dr. Setu Vora is a board-certified sleep and lung doctor at the Pulmonary Physicians of Norwich and he is the Medical Director of Critical Care at Backus Hospital. Dr. Carina Vora is a general dentist in Norwich with special interest and training in sleep dentistry. She is board certified by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. She treats many patients with sleep apnea with FDA-approved custom made oral appliances.
In summary, Dr. Setu and Carina Vora recommend that we all have at least seven hours of uninterrupted, snore-free sleep at night. They recommend good sleep hygiene — use your bed only for sleep and sex. Avoid coffee, tea and soda in the afternoon, and don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Avoid food, TV, smartphones or laptops in the bedroom. And remember — better sleep can mean better health.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, May 18, 2015

 

We all need a healthy dose of kindess


"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”  

Even though this quote, attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato, was written around the year 390 B.C., it still holds true today.  We can all attest to the significant number of people around us that are struggling with issues, whether health challenges, financial stresses, or personal sorrows.

Did you ever have the experience of meeting someone, and your first impression was the person was distant, reserved and detached?   Then later you discovered that just before that meeting the person was diagnosed with breast cancer?  Or the seemingly irritable co-worker is caring at home for her husband with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease?  Or that the impatient young woman who cuts in line at the pharmacy is so worried about her two sick toddlers at home?  We don’t really know what struggles someone else is experiencing.
Two of the most kind and positive people I know are Lauren Rapp and Amy Hendry, Senior Director and Program Director, respectively, of the Ledyard Senior Center.  I asked them how they deal with the multitude of problems presented by the senior population day after day, yet seem to remain optimistic, patient and kind.
This is what they said.  “We love our jobs, and more importantly, the seniors we work for and serve.  For us, there is no other option than to be positive, hopeful, forgiving and honest.  And to practice that with respect. We build community. We are a safe place. No judgment.  Just come and ‘be.’”
Lauren said, “I practice ‘forward ever, backward never,’ a principle from my Dad that I was raised on.”
Sounds like a prescription for practicing kindness that we can all emulate.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, May 11, 2015

 

Take the pledge to stop distracted driving


They call it “DWI — Driving While Intexticated.”  Haven’t we all had the experience of seeing a car that seems to be drifting, and when you glance into the driver’s window, the driver is texting or gabbing on a hand-held cell phone?  It seems to be an increasing trend.  I saw it three times on my 13-mile commute to work the other day.  It was disturbing.
When I got to work, I talked about it with my friend Jill Schaff, RN, Backus Trauma Program Manager.  I asked if she saw many motor vehicle accidents that were attributed to distracted driving.  “Unfortunately, trauma cases come in to the ED all the time, and it’s readily apparent that the driver was distracted, either talking on a hand-held cell phone, or texting.”   She said it’s not hard to prove: the police can access your cell phone activity record if there is reasonable suspicion of an unlawful activity like texting and driving resulting in a motor vehicle accident.    
Many drivers assume they can handle texting while driving, but these statistics prove otherwise:
The National Safety Council reports that texting while driving causes 1.6 million accidents per year, which is nearly 25 percent of all car accidents. 
The Institute for Highway Safety Fatality reports that 11 teen deaths every day are attributed to texting while driving.
Texting while driving makes you 23 times more likely to crash and is the same as driving after drinking four beers, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
May is Trauma Awareness Month, and also includes National Emergency Medical Services Week, appropriate times to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.  Jill has purchased red rubber thumb rings that say “TXTG KLS.”   She plans to hand them out at Backus Safety Camp on Saturday, May 16, as a reminder that indeed, “Texting Kills” while driving. 
Hartford HealthCare has a campaign directed at people of all ages.  It’s called “Thumbs Up, Phones Down.”
Please take this pledge at www.thumbsupphonesdown.org. Then, ask your friends to do the same. Here is the pledge:
While driving, I will never, ever:
•  Text.
•  Take selfies.
•  Talk on the phone. (Unless it's hands-free)
•  Check social media.
•  Email.
•  Or do anything else with my mobile phone that could potentially hurt or kill me, my passengers, other drivers or pedestrians.
Let’s spread the word, take the pledge, and help keep our roads safer for all.  
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, May 04, 2015

 

Tips for a healthy food fiesta


If you’re hearing the faint echoes of mariachi melodies and feeling a sudden urge to go postal on a piñata, don’t worry.  You’re not going crazy, it’s just May 5!
Cinco de Mayo is an excellent opportunity to celebrate Mexican heritage and a wonderful reason to enjoy some fantastic south-of-the-border fare.  However, what most of us north of the border would consider “Mexican food” is actually an Americanized interpretation.  While I do love my country, when it comes to food we tend to think that if a little is good, then a lot has to be better.  And unfortunately, our version of Mexican food is no exception.
The good news is that you can have a perfectly healthy Cinco de Mayo fiesta with all the trimmings and still look great in that lithe little flamenco dress.  You just have to get back to the roots of good Mexican food!  As is the case with most ethnic fare, the closer you get to the origins of the cuisine the more you uncover a foundation of fresh, unprocessed foods.  That’s a tradition to which we should all strive to return.  Here are a few tips to help you do just that.
Choose whole grains.  Traditional Mexican food uses mostly whole grain corn tortillas and less that are made from white flour.  Grains were rarely refined many years ago, and corn was generally more plentiful than wheat.  Rice is actually not native to Mexico and was brought over by the Spanish in colonial times.  Whether this rice was traditionally refined or not, why not benefit from modern knowledge and choose brown rice for its extra fiber and nutrients?

Limit cheese and sour cream.  It may be surprising to learn that authentic Mexican food actually contains only small amounts of cheese and very little sour cream, especially since so many ethnic restaurants serve a majority of their menu items smothered in these dairy delights.  And who could blame them?  There aren’t too many foods out there that don’t taste better with cheese and sour cream.  But they are high in saturated fat, so you should consider using less as well as choosing the somewhat healthier reduced fat versions.  And above all, please:
No processed cheese!  You know what I’m talking about.  The stuff that melts into a liquid, drowning your poor unsuspecting nachos.  Velveeta.  Cheez Whiz.  American cheese slices (there’s that American thing again).  If you’ve ever read the label on these foods, you’ve probably wondered what all those ingredients are and pondered how much actual cheese is in that “cheese product.”  Those ingredients are mostly added preservatives, emulsifiers and stabilizers that give the “cheese” its liquid-like quality and extended shelf-life.  While these additives are approved for use and probably safe in moderation, we should really limit our exposure to these substances in favor of fresh foods which are definitely safe.  As for how much actual cheese is in them, I’m not sure anyone really knows…
Oh, and should you partake in this holiday’s traditional beverage (ahem), please do so responsibly.  ¡Olé mis amigos!
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, April 27, 2015

 

Spring vegetables — get them while you can


It’s hard not to smile when you see that first robin hopping about in the grass, hear the long-forgotten sound of chirping frogs at dusk or smell those first brave daffodils as they poke their way through the snow.  After a long winter, the signs of spring are so exciting to the senses!
And what better way to awaken your sleeping senses than to enjoy the vibrant flavors of the season?  One of the best things about the coming of spring is that it means more fresh produce is available and our steady diet of root vegetables is over — or at least not so steady. 
Spring is often a seemingly short season, with both winter and summer encroaching upon it on both sides.  So it follows naturally that many of the spring vegetables are only locally available for a short time.  All the more reason to appreciate the following delectable delicacies while you can!
Asparagus. If you have an asparagus patch, you know that you have a relatively short time in the spring to harvest your bounty before it goes to seed.  While modern advances have made asparagus available in grocery stores for much of the year now, the flavor of fresh-picked local asparagus just can’t be beat.  It’s excellent in stir fries as well as roasted, steamed or grilled (now that the grill is no longer under two feet of snow).
Fiddleheads. These curly tendrils are actually the new sprouts of certain fern plants and can be foraged (by experienced foragers only) or purchased in many natural foods stores and some large chain grocers.  They are absolutely scrumptious when lightly steamed or sautéed in olive oil and seasonings.  The beauty and tragedy of these charming veggies is that they are only available for a few short weeks each year, generally in April or May.
Greens. Many leafy greens are salad-ready in May and June.  And not just your run-of-the-mill lettuce and spinach, but arugula, mustard and even dandelion greens.  You can steam or sauté them of course, but I have to say, nothing beats the flavor explosion when you bite into that first colorful locally-grown green salad of the year!
Scapes. I was recently introduced to these tasty treats by a friend who is a garden-guru and now I am in love.  Sprouting from the bulbs, these green tendrils are the would-be flowers of garlic or onion plants, but gardeners remove them to encourage the growth of the root vegetable.  They can be used in any dish that calls for onions or garlic and have a slightly milder and more complex flavor.
Snow peas. As the name suggests, these pioneering little veggies are often one of the first to be available in springtime.  These peppy pods are superb steamed, in stir fries or simply munched raw with your favorite dip or dressing.
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, April 13, 2015

 

Nurturing empathy in all of us


Have you sometimes felt like nobody understands you?   And didn’t it feel great when you connected with somebody who was “in the same boat” as you?  This is a perfect example of empathy.  Roman Krznaric, PhD, founding faculty member of The School of Life in London describes empathy as “the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions.”   It is not to be confused with kindness or pity. 

Why is empathy important?  It’s vital for our society because it facilitates understanding and connection to those around us.  It’s the foundation for building a supportive and thriving community.
When I was a clinical instructor for nursing students at the University of Connecticut, I discovered early on that each student absorbed the information best through experiential learning.  Student nurses can learn all about acute back strain from medical books, but it’s difficult to truly understand how severe back pain can affect the ability to concentrate, work, sleep, etc. unless you’ve experienced it.
I had my students simulate symptoms of illnesses or medical treatments and therapies whenever possible. For instance, each student had to wear a colostomy bag for three days to experience what it was like for those patients they would be caring for post-operatively.  I had them jab their finger with a lancet to test their blood sugar, just as they would have to teach new diabetics to do four times a day.  And, I had them smear petroleum jelly on their glasses then try to navigate the hallways to simulate macular degeneration or low vision,
How can we nurture empathy in ourselves and our children?  For one, we have to listen without judgment.  Listen intently to what the other person is saying – without interruption.  Then, we have to practice it.  Put down the cell phone and look around at the other people wherever we are.  Imagine who they might be, and what they might be thinking and feeling.
Dr. Helen Riess is director of the Empathy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. She believes empathy is a crucial skill that can be learned, and through her program she is making strides to “change the world from the inside out.”  Sounds like a good goal for all of us.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, April 06, 2015

 

Walking every day can keep the doctor away


Last Wednesday was proclaimed “National Walking Day” by the American Heart Association.  It’s a day when we are all encouraged to lace up our sneakers, get up and walk for at least 30 minutes.
Walking is still considered the best exercise to maintain a healthier lifestyle.  Experts recommend 2½ hours per week of moderate exercise, and brisk walking counts. It can be in short bursts of 10 minutes at a time, adding up to a half hour in a day.   It’s free, easy, and readily available.  The only equipment required is a good pair of supportive sneakers.  After the brutal winter we have all experienced in New England, it’s liberating to get out and notice the emerging spring bulbs and buds on the trees.  Or look for the first real sign of spring – the robin.
If you have been a real couch potato lately, it’s good to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. 
•  Start slow by setting a short-term goal.  For example, walk for 5-10 minutes the first day, or 300 steps per day.   Then increase walking time by 5 minutes every other day.
•  Then set a long-term goal of 30 minutes a day, or 10,000 steps, 5 days a week.  10,000 steps is equivalent to about 5 miles.  
•  You can wear a pedometer to track your steps each day.
•  To stay motivated, find a walking partner, such as a family member, co-worker, or friend. If you schedule this daily walk, you are less likely to skip it, not wanting to disappoint your walking partner.  
•  Stay hydrated.  Keep a refillable bottle of water with you and take a few sips every few minutes.
And we don’t need to wait for next year’s proclamation:  Let’s make every day “National Walking Day.”  
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.



Monday, March 30, 2015

 

A lot to learn about Alzheimer’s Disease


In order to keep my knowledge current and updated about important medical issues, I am required to take professional continuing education courses.  But like many people, I am intrigued by online education modules and quizzes available on a variety of medical topics, especially those offered by WebMD.com.

Interestingly, I got a score of 93 percent on the quiz “”The Sweet Truth About Ice Cream.”  I guess I know a lot about sweet treats and brain freezes.
I was a little surprised that I only scored a 63 percent on the WebMD.com quiz, “Alzheimer’s Myths and Facts.” I thought I was more knowledgeable than that, correctly answering only five out of eight questions.
Here is a sample: Which is the number one risk factor for Alzheimer’s — aluminum cans, age, or flu shots?   I chose aluminum cans because for years I have heard the warnings to avoid deodorants containing aluminum or food that comes in aluminum cans.  It turns out that the correct answer is: Age. It’s the No. 1 risk factor. The older you are, the more likely you are to get Alzheimer's. The actual cause isn't fully known.  
The list of things that don’t cause dementia includes aluminum cans and cooking pots, flu shots, artificial sweeteners, and silver dental fillings.
Here’s another one: Who spends more on Alzheimer’s care — live-in caregivers, local caregivers, or long-distance caregivers?  I figured it was local caregivers.  The correct answer:  long-distance caregivers.   
Those who live more than two hours away from a loved one with Alzheimer's spend almost $10,000 per year on travel, phone, and paid helpers. That's almost twice as much as those who live locally. Local caregivers put in more hours, though, according to WebMD.
Kristine Johnson, of the Alzheimer’s Association chapter in Norwich, is very aware of the challenges that caregivers face when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. She teaches seminars for caregivers on a variety of appropriate topics, from “The 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s”  to “Connecting with the Unconnected World of Alzheimer’s” about how to communicate with a person who has lost language skills and cognitive ability.  Kristine says that early detection is key to getting the maximum benefit from medical treatments as well as help plan for the future.
After reading warning sign number 6, I was reassured that my occasional forgetfulness and fumbling for the right word is actually typical of aging and the frantic pace of our lives.  A sign of Alzheimer’s is when a person has trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue, or they may repeat themselves.  My husband reassures me that I never have trouble joining or following a conversation, but he will keep this warning sign in the back of his mind and reassess frequently. 
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Monday, March 23, 2015

 

Old books show us how far we've come in health care


For several years now my husband has been telling me that we have to downsize our book collection. We have accumulated over 1,000 books during the 40-plus years of our marriage. I always tell him that I just can’t part with any of them.

Last week, he put all of my nursing textbooks in a huge pile on the living room coffee table, so I was forced to go through them as it blocked my view of the TV. I had textbooks from nursing school 40 years ago, as well as textbooks from graduate school 25 years later, and then textbooks from my years as a clinical instructor of nursing students several years after that: 32 books in all.

I began the task by leafing through the three-inch thick nursing school textbook, “Lippincott Manual of Nursing Practice.” Memories flooded back while re-reading about the many archaic practices we learned back in 1972. For example, diabetes was controlled at home by producing a urine sample four times daily, dipping a reagent test strip into the urine, waiting 60 seconds, then comparing the strip to a color chart, all to determine how much glucose had spilled over into the urine. Insulin was injected using reusable glass syringes which had to be soaked in alcohol after each use, and boiled for 10 minutes on a weekly basis. Dull needles were just part of the daily hardship diabetics had to endure in those days. I just couldn’t part with a book that illustrated the basics of my nursing practice, no matter how outdated.

Then I looked up insulin self-injection in my instructor’s version of the 2005 textbook, “Fundamentals of Nursing.” People now control their diabetes at home using a hand-held meter that tests blood glucose levels from a simple finger-stick. No urine collection and testing needed. There are several insulin injection devices, none of which require boiling in water or soaking in alcohol. Needles and syringes are disposable after one use. An alternative is easy-to-use multi-dose insulin pens, but the needles are disposable after one use. Insulin pumps are in widespread use now, but were unheard of in 1974. It was fascinating to see how far we have advanced just in this one area of health care. I needed to keep this textbook because some of the information is timeless.

Poring through all of the books, I was able to part with five of which I had no sentimental attachment. I asked my husband to put the rest back on the bookshelf with the plaque, “There’s no such thing as too many books.”

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, March 16, 2015

 

Get your green(s) on!


Unless you like being pinched (and if so, I don’t want to know), odds are that you’re wearing something green today—a shirt, a belt, a tie, an undergarment (again, no need to specify).  Even if you’re not Irish, you probably celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in one way or another, and for most of us that means donning green.
While contemplating your attire for this lively holiday, why not dress up your table (and your insides) too?  As any leprechaun knows, green vegetables provide some pretty amazing health benefits.  In addition to being low in calories and a great source of fiber, green veggies also typically have a surprising amount of iron and in many cases, calcium.  With each passing year, we discover more and more reasons to eat our greens (and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in general), as study after study cites reductions in the risks of heart disease, cancer and diabetes in people who do so consistently.  That’s not just the luck o’ the Irish, that’s science, my friend.
But how can you squeeze those gorgeous greens into your holiday menu?
Well, you’ve probably heard that four-leaf clovers are lucky, but I know some “one-leaf clovers” that’ll make you feel like a million bucks (or should I say a pot o’ gold?) like spinach, kale, arugula, chard and other greens such as turnip or collards.  Why not serve a fresh and colorful mix of these next to your corned beef and cabbage?  Not only will you receive the wonderful benefits discussed above, but you will reduce the total sodium content of the meal since you will likely eat less of that admittedly-appetizing but super-salty corned beef!
And don’t forget your other greens, like broccoli, zucchini, green beans, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.  What better side dish for a hearty Irish stew?  Any of these emerald beauties are scrumptious steamed or roasted with a bit of olive oil and seasonings. 
Though it may seem a little cross-cultural, consider an appetizer that makes use of another green veggie — the avocado!  I know guacamole isn’t Irish, but it IS delicious and loaded with antioxidants and healthy fats.  Besides, you may as well perfect your recipe before Cinco de Mayo.
To reap all the benefits of these fortuitous super-foods, you should try to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors daily, including four or more servings of dark green leafy vegetables each week.
So this St. Patrick’s Day, avoid a pinch (and heart disease and diabetes and cancer) by getting your green(s) on.  Erin go bragh!
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


Monday, March 02, 2015

 

Anxious times call for relaxing measures


A certain amount of anxiety can be a good thing.  It can make us more alert and energized to deal with a stressful situation.   But if anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can take a real toll on our health.  That may be the time to seek professional help.  “Chillax” or chill and relax, is a funny buzzword we hear all the time.  It’s good advice, but easier said than done.  Here are seven ways to “chillax” and ease the anxiety we face every day.
1) Just say no to drugs.   This includes common legal drugs like caffeine, diet pills, decongestants, and the illegal stuff.  Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase anxiety.
2) Ask for help.  Know you are not alone.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. More than 18 percent of U.S. adults are affected.  So don’t be afraid to ask your primary care provider for help.
3) Write it down.  Whatever the stress is, writing it down puts it in perspective.   You can write a pro/con list of ways to cope with the stressor.  It’s a logical and calming technique to help you feel like you are gaining control.
4) Meditate. There are many forms of meditation; deep breathing, Yoga, Qi gong, Tai Chi, guided imagery, or mindful meditation.  Just taking fifteen minutes a day to sit quietly, in a comfortable position, with eyes closed and focusing on breathing can do wonders.
5) Adjust your attitude.  Think positively in each situation.  This can take some practice, especially if you are a self-proclaimed pessimist.  There is an upside to every situation, and sometimes we need to look a little harder to find it.
6) Exercise.  Take a walk, go to the gym, jog up and down the street, go up and down a flight of stairs two or three times.  Take a break and plan a fun activity.
7) Write down 10 things you’ve accomplished in your life, 10 skills and talents that you have, and 10 times when you’ve solved a problem or overcame adversity. This is the advice of Kaitlin Vogel, writing for Rewireme.com in an article called The Fear and Anxiety Solution.   She says if writing ten things in each category seems like too many, you’re probably being far too critical and harsh with yourself. Be as generous and open-minded with yourself as you would be with someone you love and care about.
I find it helps to ask myself, “Will this matter in five years?”   If it won’t make much difference, it’s easier to pause and pare down the anxiety to a manageable level.  Then it’s easier to deal with and come up with solutions.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.



Monday, February 23, 2015

 

Group support is key to quitting smoking


The tobacco companies may not like us, but we are on a mission to reach out to every smoker in our community and offer the opportunity to join our smoking cessation classes.

We have conducted these seven-week, eight-session American Lung Association “Freedom from Smoking” classes since January 2012 with very good success.  We want to spread the word:  of the 20 rounds of classes we have offered since that time, 43-57% of the participants report they quit smoking entirely by the end of the program.   That’s a very good quit rate.
The secret to our success is two-fold.  To ensure there is “skin in the game,” we charge $50 to join the program, payable at the first class, but we refund that money in its entirety if the participant attends all eight sessions. So the class is essentially free with full participation in the classes: it’s a monetary incentive that works.  People complain that $50 is a lot to put up front, but we remind them a pack of cigarettes averages $8.50 each, so a one-pack-per-day smoker will spend $59.50 in one week.  That usually ends the protest.
Second, the group support derived from gathering people together who are all in the same boat is undeniably helpful.  The program facilitators are all former smokers, so they fully understand the challenges you face when you try to quit smoking.
At the first class, everyone has a chance to speak up and tell their story — when they started smoking, how many times they have tried to quit, and what is the motivating factor that made them join the class.  It seems the average number of times people have previously tried to quit smoking is four.
Everyone supports the others in the group as all are well aware of how very difficult it is to quit smoking.  And it’s hard not to laugh when a man jokes he was coerced into joining the class because his wife threatened to shoot him if he didn’t quit smoking. 
So if you or someone you love really wants to quit smoking, find a “Freedom From Smoking” class offered near you and sign up today.  Your wallet, your lungs, and your loved ones will thank you.
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.


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