Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Stay safe when exercising this winter

For those of you who have New Year’s Resolutions for exercising this winter, here are some safety tips to remember when exercising in the cold:

Perform a warm up exercise. Before going outside to exercise, be sure to perform a gentle warm up exercise including stretching to help prevent injury once into the regular routine.

Dress properly. Wearing clothes that wick moisture away from your body is important to staying warm. Most sporting goods stores sell this type of clothing.

However, if you cannot afford to buy “moisture-wicking” clothes, dress in multiple, thinner, loose layers that can be easily removed and tied around your waist or tucked into a pocket once you’re your temperature rises. Loose layers will make sure to allow circulation and create a small insulating layer of air between.

If you are expecting to get wet from melting snow from sledding or skiing, you might want to wear a waterproof outer layer, but make it is “breathable.” A traditional raincoat would not be a good choice since it does not breathe well.

Depending on the temperature, wear a hat and gloves or mittens. A significant amount of heat can be lost through your head.

Since there is less light in the winter time, wear reflective clothing, carry a flashlight, or wear a head lamp.

When performing a winter sport, wear proper safety equipment including a helmet and goggles.

Stay hydrated: Although it is cold outside and you may feel like you’re not sweating (especially if you are wearing “moisture-wicking” material), you may still lose significant amounts of fluid from your body during winter exercise. Proper hydration is needed to regulate body temperature, which can help prevent frostbite, to warm the air you breathe making exercise easier on your lungs, and to help prevent cramping.

Be wary of wind chill: Strong winds or activities with speed increase chances of frostbite. Cover exposed skin. Plan ahead and exercise with the wind on your return trip since you may be sweatier towards the end of exercising and the wind will be at your back, which will help to preserve heat.

Avoid sunburn: Remember the sun reflects off snow and ice, which can cause sunburn. Wear sunscreen or sunglasses if sunny and/or cover exposed skin.

Know signs of frostbite/hypothermia: Cold, hard, pale skin may be frostbite. Get into a warm environment and slowly warm the affected skin. Don’t use hot water or rub the skin, as you may cause further damage. If symptoms do not change or you witness signs of hypothermia (severe shivering, loss of motor skills and speech, or fatigue), seek emergency help.

Cold weather exercise can be fun and help you get the results you want. But remember to be careful when you are dealing with changeable New England winter conditions.

Geoffrey Fabry is a physical therapist and Supervisor of Outpatient Rehabilitation at the Backus Outpatient Care Center in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Fabry and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org, or comment on their blog at backushospital.org.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Make your kids school lunches that pack more of a creative punch

The school year is in full swing and you may already be at a loss for creative lunch ideas for your child – peanut butter and jelly can only go so far.

The added challenge of a picky eater may make this task even more daunting.
But there are ways to ease your nighttime routine of packing lunch and even provide an opportunity for your child to try new foods.

If children are of school age, they are old enough to help in the lunch making routine. Getting children involved in meal preparation provides them an opportunity to make decisions around food choices. Give them two to three healthy options for meal or snack choices. Teach them to make a sandwich. If they play a role in preparing the food, they are more likely to eat it.

Start off on the right foot by choosing a lunch bag that is insulated, and use a freezer pack to keep the cold foods cold and an insulated food jar (like a Thermos) to keep the hot foods hot. Food safety is important, and keeping the foods at the right temperature can go a long way toward preventing a food born illness.

Consider the following suggestions when packing the next lunch:

 Whole grain breads, wraps and pitas. Consider whole grain white.
 Healthy protein sources such as tuna salad with light mayo, egg salad on whole grain, peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter with 100% fruit spread or sliced bananas or apples in a wrap.
 Sliced turkey, ham or chicken with mustard or light mayo and a slice of cheese.
 Vegetarian sources may include hummus (bean dip), cheese and hard boiled eggs.
 Sliced apples with peanut butter or almond butter.
 Fresh fruit or fruit salad with low fat vanilla yogurt as a dip.
 String cheese.
 Whole grain snack crackers or pretzels.
 Dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries or apples slices.
 Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews.
 Cold pasta salad.
 Baby carrots, sliced bell peppers and snap peas with low-fat dressing for dip.
 Edamame (soy bean in the pod). My kids love ‘em!
 Low fat yogurt.

Don’t rule out leftovers from dinner. Take out the thermos and give your child a break from sandwiches. Great meals for a hot lunch include chili, stir fry, pasta meals and soups.

Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes education in the Backus Hospital Diabetes Management Center. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Kane and all the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at healthydocs.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


A nutty addition to a healthy diet

Eating a handful of nuts is an enjoyment for most people. But the thought of fat in nuts keep some from savoring that pleasure.

Nuts, known as tree nuts, include almonds, brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. They are an easy way to add flavor and nutrition to any meal or snack.

While nuts are relatively high in fat, most of that fat is unsaturated. Saturated fats, found in mainly animal products, raise blood cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. But unsaturated fats, mono and polyunsaturated found in plants foods, have been shown to decrease low density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) levels.

Research studies have shown that many different kinds of nuts are helpful in reducing the risk of cancer and elevated blood pressure as well as reducing the risk of heart disease. What’s more, new research shows that eating plans that include nuts are satisfying, leading people to eat less and control their weight.

Though the unsaturated fats in nuts play a role in the prevention of heart disease, other nutrients may also be important. Nuts provide a power house line up of nutrients: protein, carbohydrate, fiber and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid, niacin, vitamin E, selenium, potassium and zinc.

Another less known essential nutrient, choline, which is found in nuts, has gotten recent media attention in regards to inadequate intakes in pregnant and breast feeding women. Choline plays a role in unborn and infant brain development, therefore, breastfeeding and pregnant women are recommended to increase their consumption of foods practically rich in choline.

In addition, a handful of nuts provide a wide variety of phytochemicals, or plant compounds, that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Aim for unsalted or non sugar coated nuts when purchasing. When buying whole, unshelled nuts, be sure to look for clean shells without cracks -- the exception is pistachios. Whole, raw shelled nuts should appear fairly uniform in color and size.

To keep nuts as fresh as possible, store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to six months or up to one year in the freezer.

Easy ways to incorporate nuts into your diet are:
• Sprinkle in hot or cold cereals
• Top yogurt with nuts and fruit
• Eat them as a snack mixed with dried fruit
• Try unshelled nuts to slow down eating time (can help with portion control)
• Instead of using meat, toss some nuts in your salad or pasta
• Experiment with different nuts in muffin or pancake recipes
• Add some ground nuts to bread crumb fish coating.

Nuts are delicious addition to just about any food. As tasty and versatile as they are, nuts can spruce up everyday recipes as well. Incorporating nuts into a healthy diet can have many health benefits although the total fat in nuts is high, so watch your portions… and go nuts!

Sarah Hospod is a registered dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Hospod and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at healthydocs.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Cut calories and spending

Whew! You survived the holidays. As you look ahead in 2009, those holiday bills are looming. These bills and the recession have caused many consumers to rethink how they spend their money.

It is often assumed that it costs more money to eat healthy. Truth be told, it can actually be affordable with a little menu planning and basic cooking skills. What we often pay for at the register is convenience. The more processing that has taken place, the more costly the item in most cases. The following list of suggestions will help you save money on your weekly groceries:

1. Plan ahead. Spend 15 minutes each week to plan three to four dinners. Use the weekly sales flyer to guide your menu. Make a list and stick to it.

2. Cut those coupons. Coupons can save you $10-20 on your grocery bill. Only cut the coupons for foods you normally buy.

3. Check unit pricing. The unit price tells you how much you spend per unit (such as per ounce or pound).

4. Buy only what you need or can store. This helps you to avoid throwing unused food away.

5. Never shop when hungry, you will be tempted to buy more food.

6. Cut back on the empty calorie foods, such as chips, sodas, cakes, cookies and candy. A large bag of potato chips is the same price as a bag of baby carrots. A gallon of skim milk is often cheaper than a 12-pack of soda. This is where you can save money and your waistline.

7. Use your leftovers. Plan a leftover night each week. You get a night off from cooking and you save a few dollars.

8. Avoid the individually packed snack foods (ie. the 100 calorie packs). While these are convenient, they are costly. Buy a big box of crackers and bag them individually. Plan ahead if you need snacks on the run, use travel cups for drinks and put snacks in plastic baggies.

9. Go vegetarian once or twice a week. Meat can be expensive, so periodically use beans or eggs for your protein at dinner. Think beans and rice, vegetarian fajitas or breakfast for dinner. Homemade soups are also a wonderful way to create an inexpensive meal.

10. Cut your own vegetables, buy frozen or low sodium canned, especially during the winter months when local produce is not available.

Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes education in the Backus Hospital Diabetes Management Center. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Kane and all the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog here.


Trusted medical information is available on the Internet

The internet is a wide-open, continuously updated library of everything -- including health information.

Unfortunately, because this library is open to unscrupulous and uninformed people, the information you find could be anything from accurate, to useless, and even harmful.

Dangerous drug and medical misinformation is out there, but there are also many trusted and highly regarded websites that offer accurate medical information.

Here are a few tips to help you decide for yourself which sites can be trusted and which ones to steer clear of as well as a few of my personnel favorites:

What is the purpose of the website? If the purpose of the website is to sell you a product, then be very careful. The internet has revived the practice of selling cure-all tonics and lotions from long ago. And just like back then, they are too good to be true. Beware of websites promoting any product promising a new medical “breakthrough,” “secret ingredient,” “ancient cure,” or cures many different conditions all at once.

Where does the website come from? You can tell a lot about the legitimacy of a website by the ending in it name. Those that end in “.gov” are sponsored by our government. Major medical schools and universities will use “.edu” at the end of their names. Non-profit organizations like the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association or The William W. Backus Hospital use “.org”. Other trusted sources include major chain drug stores.

Is the information based on medical evidence and reviewed by professionals before it is posted? Reputable websites will list the names, title, and professional affiliations of the authors and reviewers of the articles. Any facts, figures, or evidence discussed should have references to studies in medical journals. It is also important for authors to disclose if any information is merely their opinion, or widely accepted “evidence-based” medicine.

Here are four websites that I refer friends and family members to:

UpToDate is an independent medical information website that is available free on www.backushospital.org. The information is updated regularly and is written and reviewed by medical experts. Symptoms, diagnostic tests, prevention strategies, and treatment options are covered for over 7,400 health topics.

www.FDA.gov is the internet home of the US Food and Drug Administration. It is a reliable source for not only drug information, but for medication safety advice, side effect warnings, latest information on recalls, and information about generic alternatives.

www.safemedication.com is a website operated by the American Society of Health-system Pharmacists. Along with providing commercial-free drug information, this website has tools to help you mange your list of medications and many tricks and tips on proper medication administration and safety.

www.webmd.com is a commercial website that provides medical information to both professionals and the public. Its content is expertly written and independently reviewed. New articles are posted daily to keep you informed of the hottest topics in healthcare.

Information learned on the internet, even from the trusted sites above, should not replace the information you gain from your own physician or pharmacist. Only they will know your unique conditions and history.

The benefit of these websites is that they provide supplemental information to the advice you get from your healthcare providers and to help you stay on top of the latest news about your condition in between office visits.

Michael Smith is a pharmacist and Clinical Coordinator in the Department of Pharmacy Services at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, please comment here or e-mail Smith and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

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