The Limestone County Council on Aging (COA) is a department of the Limestone County Commission. Its services are also supported by Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments (TARCOG), the Area Agency on Aging, the City of Athens, and other local agencies. The COA is located at 912 West Pryor Street in Athens. The COA was designed to help seniors stay in their homes and be independent as long as they can. Through the COA, seniors are provided with services such as transportation, Meals on Wheels, homemaker services, SeniorX, SHIP (Medicare Part D. counseling), and legal assistance. Our services are offered at no charge to those 60 or older, although donations are always welcome.

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There are seven senior centers throughout the county; Athens, East Limestone, Ardmore, Elkmont, Good Springs, Owens, and Tanner. All centers, except for Ardmore and Good Springs, serve a nutritionally balanced lunch five days per week. Each center offers daily activities for seniors such as exercise classes, music entertainment, games, etc. The centers also take fun trips throughout the year, and have done such things as attend picnics, musicals, visit the Amish community, and other community events. Just recently, they went on a trip to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens, which is an especially popular outing.

Transportation is provided to each center if needed. The COA also transports seniors to doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping, and errand routes are offered as well. Meals on Wheels are available for those 60 or older who are homebound and cannot prepare meals for themselves. Currently COA provides 14,000 meals a month to seniors of Limestone County! In-home services are offered to those who cannot perform daily housekeeping duties. The SeniorX Program assists those 55 or older, who meet the requirements for free or reduced prescription drugs. The COA also offers legal assistance to the seniors. The attorney assists with a variety of legal needs, such as powers of attorney, wills, consumer issues, and long term care. Medicare Part D/ SHIP counseling is available year round. We can help with Medicare questions, enrollment, and help for those who qualify.

Medicare Part D Open Enrollment begins October 15th, and will last until December 7th, 2016. The Limestone County Council on Aging provides free counseling sessions during this period, and usually averages seeing 400 or more clients. It is very important to remember that with the Medicare Open Enrollment campaign there are unfortunately a lot of scams that are run which are designed to part seniors from their money. Remember, no one from Medicare will come to your door, and they will not contact you by phone or email. Medicare always sends their correspondence the old fashioned way, by letter. DO NOT give ANYONE any of your financial information, Social Security number, or bank account numbers. If you have any questions, you need to make an appointment to see the trained counselors who know how to protect and defend seniors! All sessions, whether they are regarding Medicare in general, or possible scams, are by appointment only. Call (256) 233-6412 to set up your appointment as soon as possible.

The counselors are briefed each year on the latest changes and developments and can offer you updated information about changes in premiums, deductibles, etc. Call the COA at (256) 233-6412 for more information about various activities and programs. COA is always looking for volunteers to help with Meals on Wheels, educational and recreational programs, classes and special events. Any volunteers are appreciated.
By: Madison Curnutt

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9-16-2016-11-15-27-amHigh blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects 30% of Americans, and the older one gets, the higher the chances are of developing this condition. It has been called the “silent killer” as it is responsible for a significant number of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease. However, a lot of patients are unaware that they have the disease (up to 8%) or do not have any symptoms from it. The risk factors for developing high blood pressure include advancing age, family history, obesity or weight gain, race (more common in African-Americans), high salt intake, excessive alcohol consumption, and being physically inactive. Looking at this list, it is obvious that while one cannot change their age, race or family history, the other factors can be modified by key lifestyle changes. Let’s talk about those.

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Salt
Sodium has been associated with a higher risk of developing hypertension, and certain individuals are “salt-sensitive,” where the blood pressure becomes more elevated with a certain level of salt intake compared to non-salt sensitive persons. In patients who have high blood pressure, a high salt intake can make their medications become less effective. Most medical organizations and societies recommend a sodium intake of 2.3 grams (2300 mg) or less per day. Food labels provide the sodium content per serving, and gives a general idea of whether you are getting your entire day’s worth of salt per serving or if it is truly “low sodium.” For my patients who don’t want to bother with adding up sodium throughout the day, the general rule of thumb I tell them is to avoid processed or canned food, as well as fast food, as these tend to be very high in sodium.

Salt substitutes typically contain potassium instead of sodium, which may be fine for some people, but in those with kidney issues, an excess of potassium in their diet can be problematic. If you would like to use salt substitutes, ask your physician if this is something that you can do safely. Likewise, experiment with using non-salt options to flavor food – herbs and spices can be used to make food tasty without using salt.

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Reducing alcohol consumption
Moderate alcohol consumption has been defined as no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day in women. If you consume alcohol only while watching the football game on Saturdays and didn’t drink at all during the week, this does not mean that if you are a male, you can consume 14 drinks on that day (2 drinks per day x 7 days should be 14 drinks, right?). No. Anything above the recommended daily amount mentioned above will count as “excessive.” This blood pressure-lowering benefit of moderating alcohol intake has been shown for people who drink excessively, and if you already do not consume alcohol, this does not mean that you should start.

Weight gain and obesity
The presence of obesity at 18 years of age and at midlife has been associated with the development of hypertension. Weight gain of 10-20 lbs. has also been shown to increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, and this risk is even higher with greater weight gain. Excess weight also makes blood pressure medications less effective. On the other hand, for every 2-lb weight loss achieved, the blood pressure is lowered by 1 point. A sustained weight loss of more than 12 lbs. reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure by as much as 26%. Weight loss also has a number of benefits on overall health. Always discuss with your physician regarding which weight loss strategy will be safe for you.

Increased physical activity
Being physically inactive (extended sitting time at work, watching television for long periods, etc.) increases your risk of developing hypertension (and other diseases like diabetes, certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease) and also your risk of early death. The simple act of replacing an hour of one’s day with non-exercise activity (such as performing household chores, yard work, or walking) in persons who are physically inactive has been shown to decrease mortality significantly. For most people, 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity (such as walking for 30 minutes, 5 days a week) is recommended, and it is important to ease into an exercise regimen slowly, in order to let your body adjust. People with known heart, kidney, or lung disease and older folks should discuss exercise options with their physician prior to starting.
By: Sasha Acelajado, MD

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Your eyes are an important part of your health. There are many things you can do to keep them healthy and make sure you are seeing your best. Follow these simple steps for maintaining healthy eyes well into your golden years.

Have a comprehensive eye exam. You might think your vision is fine or that your eyes are healthy, but visiting your eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to really be sure. When it comes to common vision problems, some people don’t realize they could see better with glasses or contact lenses. In addition, many common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration often have no warning signs. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages.

During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, your eye care professional places drops in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil to allow more light to enter the eye the same way an open door lets more
light into a dark room. This enables your eye care professional to get a good look at the back of the eyes and examine them for any signs of damage or disease. Your eye care professional is the only one who can determine if your eyes are healthy and if you’re seeing your best. New technology is also used today to provide a comprehensive retinal examination. The OptoMap retinal exam allows your eye doctor to see retina in a way it has never been viewed before. It is important to have a retinal exam every year.

Know your family’s eye health history. Talk to your family members about their eye health history. It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with a disease or condition since many are hereditary. This will help to determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease or condition. Eat right to protect your sight. You’ve heard carrots are good for your eyes. But
eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens is important for keeping your eyes healthy, too.iResearch has also shown there are eye health benefits from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and other systemic conditions, which can lead to vision loss, such as diabetic eye disease or glaucoma. If you are having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, talk to your doctor. Wear protective eyewear. Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home. Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specially designed to provide the correct protection for a certain activity. Most protective eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate, which is 10 times stronger than other plastics. Many eye care providers sell protective eyewear, as do some sporting goods stores.

Quit smoking or never start. Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness. Be cool and wear your shades. Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, but their most important job is to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing on any one thing, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued.

Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This can help reduce eyestrain. Clean your hands and your contact lenses— properly. To avoid the risk of infection, always wash your hands thoroughly before putting in or taking out your contact lenses. Make sure to disinfect contact lenses as instructed and replace them as appropriate.

Practice workplace eye safety. Employers are required to provide a safe work environment. When protective eyewear is required as a part of your job, make a habit of wearing the appropriate type at all times and encourage your coworkers to do the same.
By: Chad Davis OD

8-19-2016 10-15-04 AMLet’s face it; cancer is an unfortunate fact of life. The American Cancer Society predicts that over 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with a form of cancer in 2016, and almost 600,000 will die from the disease. Fortunately, we are learning more about who is most at risk for cancer and ways to help detect cancer at earlier stages, or prevent it altogether.

Most cancers develop by chance, and are influenced by a combination of factors including behavior/lifestyle (examples: smoking, lack of physical activity), environmental exposures (examples: asbestos, sunlight), and normal genetic variations which may make some people more at risk for certain cancers than others.

In approximately 1 out of 20 people who develop cancer, the disease is caused by an abnormal gene change, or mutation that was inherited from one or both parents. This type of cancer, known as hereditary cancer, has been linked to multiple genes in the body.

Mutations in genes associated with hereditary cancer may dramatically increase the risk for cancer in specific organs, including the breast, colon, pancreas, prostate, kidney, and more. Examples of hereditary cancer genes include BRCA1 and BRCA2 (hereditary breast and ovarian cancer), MLH1 and MSH2 (Lynch syndrome/hereditary colon cancer), and CDKN2A (hereditary melanoma).

You should suspect possible hereditary cancer in your family if three or more relatives have been diagnosed with the same cancer; cancer has been diagnosed at an earlier age than usual in your family (less than age 50 for breast and colon cancer); multiple unrelated cancers have been diagnosed in the same person; cancer has occurred in the sex not usually affected (breast cancer in a man); or you belong to a higher risk racial/ethnic group (example: breast cancer in Ashkenazi Jews).

Advances in gene discovery and genetic testing have made it possible to test for mutations in multiple hereditary cancer genes with a simple blood test. Most insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, now cover genetic testing for hereditary cancer if you meet certain criteria.

If your personal or family history is suggestive of hereditary cancer, then genetic testing may help you understand your risk for cancer and make decisions about your health. Genetic testing may also provide information to relatives who may be at risk, such as your children.

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A positive result may lead your health care provider to recommend that you have cancer-screening tests earlier or more frequently. If you do develop cancer, finding it early (when the cancer is small) often means that treatment is more likely to be helpful. You may undergo screening tests that are used only for people known to have an increased cancer risk (example: breast MRI for hereditary breast cancer). Also, there may be options to help reduce the risk of cancer, such as drugs or surgery.

You should notify your doctor of all cancer diagnoses in your family and discuss whether genetic counseling and testing is appropriate for you.
By: Dr. Shanna Ndong

8-5-2016 12-26-32 PMMindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a technique gaining ground as an adjunct or alternative treatment to various medical problems. The technique was developed in 1979 by Dr. Jon Kabatt-Zin, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His studies of yoga and meditation, and relationships with various teachers in those respective fields led him to integrate those teachings with science and medicine. According to the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at U Mass, the programs “central focus” is intensively training “mindfulness meditation,” and ways to incorporate the practice into everyday living, especially as challenges arise.

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Over the last 35 years, MBSR has been shown to help with anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, sleep issues, eating disturbances and disorders, cancer, and heart disease (to name a few). MBSR programs typically last 8 weeks, and the changes can last for years after the initial program. There are special training programs available for healthcare practitioners to attend so that they can integrate MBSR into their practices. The training classes are not intended to create “clones” or “cookie cutter” replicas; instead they teach the basic underlying principles of the practice that you can customize to fit your needs and those of your clients.

The principles are as follows:

• Experience is a challenge not a chore: turns “observing life mindfully” into an adventure and not just another “healthy fad.”
• Stressing need for your own achievements and motives, in addition to daily practice, regardless of whether you want to or not
• Immediate lifestyle change with serious commitment, especially in the area of time
• “Making each moment count” and being aware of things in real time
• Education vs therapy mindset which allows for larger classes and provides a social and emotional support.
• Allows for wide range of people with various diagnoses to be in the same class without being separated by diagnosis. It focuses on the commonality rather than differences between people. However, it can be done in specialized groups when necessary as well.

Though the training was originally developed through Kabatt-Zin’s study of Buddhism, the principles are universal and can be adapted to any religious belief system. It is compatible with other therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy.

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Treatment programs consist of daily 1-2 hour sessions for 8 weeks, and a day long “retreat” between weeks 6 and 7. It also requires daily homework. Instruction is in 3 areas: mindfulness meditation, body scanning, and simple yoga. Kabatt-Zin says it is “moment to moment, nonjudgmental awareness.”

The program doesn’t cure the disease, but it does help deal with the repercussions of disease, increasing quality of life in participants. Outcomes of this therapy have been studied in multiple populations with randomized clinical trials showing its effectiveness, especially in such disease process as anxiety and depression.

For more information on this technique, visit http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/stress-reduction/.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

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The science and medicine of chiropractic is based on the central nervous system and its control over the function of every cell, muscletendon, organ, and system of your body. Your
nervous system consists of your brain, spinal cord, and the millions of nerves that run throughout your body. Even though your brain is protected by your skull, your spine is composed of not one, but of twenty four moving bones or vertebrae. Many everyday activities can cause these twenty four bones to shift and lose their normal position. When this occurs, the nervous system begins to experience dysfunction such as pain, swelling, and ultimately this causes ill health. The chiropractic approach is to find the problem and then help the nervous system prevent dysfunction that damages, and thus promote healthy living.

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Disc Decompression
One of the largest issues chiropractors and orthopedic doctors face today is the compression of discs in the spine, also known as disc compression. Chiropractors and others combat this issue with non-surgical Disc Decompression Therapy. This therapy is the world’s most advanced non-surgical treatment for low back conditions.

The Disc Ease Therapy targets lumbar level discs by creating a negative pressure or vacuum effect in the disc, allowing the center of the disc to return to its proper position, unherniating the disc.

7-16-2016 10-48-35 AMNon-Surgical Disc Decompression Therapy is a valued therapy over surgery offered by chiropractors and orthopedic doctors alike. Lately surgery, physical therapy, and medication have been the chosen regimen for patients who suffer from a compressed disc. Spinal surgeries, however, come with inherent dangers. Patients can suffer from permanent debilitating conditions, and medications
make it difficult to carry on with day to day living. Most importantly, spinal surgery only treats the pain, not the cause of the problem.

Non-surgical Disc Decompression Therapy has been proven to be a successful treatment for low back pain due to disc herniations, degenerative disc disease, sciatica, arthritis, and posterior facet syndrome. It is even a more preferable treatment for the health and well being of the elderly.

Why Hazel Green Chiropractic?
Hazel Green Chiropractic serves a wide base of patients from Franklin, TN to Decatur, AL to Athens AL, and anyone in the Tennessee Valley Area. Hazel Green Chiropractic is the premiere place to receive health care because we believe that it takes a team approach to provide all the up to date service for a wellness program customized to your needs. We have six decompression tables for therapy, and a no waiting policy. Both Doctors John Boyle and Jerry Steckler use their years of expertise to help you succeed in living a fuller, richer, and healthier life. After taking a complete case history to review the immediate instance and overall state of your health, a thorough examination will be conducted by our highly skilled professionals. In the examination we check your posture, reflexes, muscle strength, and possibly conduct other tests to gain the necessary knowledge so that we can help you. Based on the findings of the examination, X-rays images, or other types of tests and imaging, the doctor can then guide you by creating a health care program based on your needs and spinal condition. The purpose of Hazel Green Chiropractic is to educate
and serve as many families as possible, helping them to move toward a healthy life through natural chiropractic care.
By: Dr. John Boyle, D.C.

7-1-2016 3-26-01 PMIt’s time for another 3-day summer weekend! Independence day is now upon us, and many of us have plans for how we will spend our extra time off work. For many people, it is a time to get together with friends; to eat, drink, and be merry, hang out by the pool or beach, and watch fireworks shows.

Increasingly, more people are doing their own displays rather than travel and deal with crowds and traffic. However, it is imperative that we remember to be safe as we enjoy our holiday. Each year, people wind up in hospitals due to injuries from fireworks and other summer activities.

Here are some tips to enjoy your holiday weekend plans, yet stay safe while doing so.

Fireworks
According to the Red Cross, the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a show put on by professionals. If you choose to go this route, stay at least 500 feet from the area where fireworks are being ignited. If you choose to shoot your own fireworks at home, be aware of your state’s law regarding which fireworks you can legally enjoy in your own back yard. Some states outlaw various types of fireworks, while others do not.

If you choose to shoot off your own fireworks:
• Never give fireworks to small children.
• Adult supervision is required at all times, even with teens and older children.
• Keep water nearby in case it is needed.
• Wear eye protection when lighting.
• Light only firework at a time, and NEVER re-light a dud.
• Store in a cool, dry place away from children and pets. Also, do not store in direct sunlight as this could ignite firework.
• Never throw or point at people, vehicles, homes or other buildings, or flammable materials.
• Never mix fireworks and alcohol. Save the alcohol for after.

Never stay in an area where unsafe practices are used. In addition to being dangerous, it could also be illegal.

Grilling
Grilling injuries are common, especially during the summer months when more people are enjoying backyard barbeques.

A few safety tips specifically pertaining to the grill:
• Never leave grill unattended.
• Always use grills outdoors.
• Keep children, pets, and any unnecessary people away from the grill while in use.
• Grill in an open area away from tents, trees, houses, decks, or anything else that could be flammable.
• Use tools made for grills that have long handles so as to avoid burns.
• Never add additional starter fluids to charcoal bricks that have already been ignited as this could cause a flare up, and burn the user.
• Follow manufacturer’s recommendations while using the grill.

A few food safety tips:
• Thoroughly cook meats; consuming raw or undercooked meats could increase your chance of food borne illnesses, especially with chicken or pork.
• Don’t re-use platters or utensils for after cooking due to potential for contamination.
• Make sure items requiring refrigeration are cooled appropriately. Do not leave these foods sitting out for extended periods of time. Bacteria replicate more rapidly in heat.
• Use hand sanitizer frequently when hands are not visibly soiled. Wash with soap and water when handling raw meats, or when hands are visibly soiled.

Beach/Water Safety
If you are planning a trip to the beach that will include swimming in the ocean, make sure you and anyone you are with is able to swim. Never swim in an area without a lifeguard present. Always follow posted regulations.

Other tips include:
• Stay alert to weather conditions. Watch for flags and other postings regarding safety.
• Avoid alcohol while swimming in open water.
• Swim with a buddy.
• If you have young children or inexperienced swimmers, utilize life jackets in open water or other floatation devices if in a pool.
• Protect your neck and back. Don’t dive into shallow waters, especially headfirst.
• Adult supervision is necessary when children are around water. It is easy to fall and drown, especially with small children.
• Be aware of known and potential plants and animals in the water. Some may be dangerous. Others can wrap around limbs causing injury or death.
• Be aware of current patterns and potential for rip currents. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you get out of the current, then swim toward shore. If unable to swim, float or treat water until out of the current, then head for shore.
• Stay away from piers and jetties as rip currents often exist in these areas.

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Sun Protection
Sun exposure can be hazardous. Not only is it linked to skin cancer, it can wreak havoc even in the short term and lead to illness, injury, or even death.

Some tips for soaking up some sun safely include:
• Limit exposure between peak hours of 10am and 4pm.
• Wear at least SPF 15 sunscreen, and reapply at least every 2-3 hours.
• Drink plenty of water, and often, even if you don’t feel thirsty in order to avoid dehydration.
• Avoid caffeinated drinks as they can further dehydrate. Instead choose water, coconut water, or electrolyte infused drinks without excess sugar.
• Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
• Wear shoes to avoid burning your feet on hot surfaces.

If outside for extended periods, especially in the very young or elderly populations, monitor for symptoms of a heat stroke which include red, hot skin, changes in consciousness or confusion, rapid, weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing. If you or someone else has these symptoms, call 911 and move them to a cooler place if possible without injuring yourself or them. Begin to cool them with slowly by misting with cool water or placing cool cloths or towels on exposed skin. Keep them lying down and watch for issues with breathing.

Stay safe this holiday weekend, and all summer. Happy Independence Day; may we never forget what others sacrificed to make this country great, and what this day is all about.
By: Rachel Clark, RN BSN

6-18-2016 12-18-05 PMIt’s that time of year again! School is out, warm weather abounds, and families flock to various vacation spots. Many families choose the beach or a cruise, while others go on road trips, to Disney World, or other attractions. One thing that often suffers during these trips is nutrition and fitness. We become tempted to think that because we are on vacation, we can neglect our normally healthy diet, exercise, hydration, and sleep patterns. These 4 core principles are essential to maintaining our health throughout the summer months and beyond.

Nutrition

If you are taking a trip this summer, pack healthy snacks to go along rather than junk foods that are full of processed sugars and fats. In addition to being better for you, they will help save you and your family money.

Some good examples of healthy snacks include:
• Dried fruits and vegetables
• Fresh fruits and vegetables
• Raw or roasted nuts
• Homemade trail mix
• Granola

If you are going to be staying in a rental home or condo, go grocery shopping once you arrive so that you can prepare your own meals rather than eat out every meal. This will also save you money, as well as build your health while having fun. If you are taking previously prepared food with you when you leave your rental property, make sure you are able to keep it cool so that it doesn’t spoil. Food poisoning is a sure fire way to ruin any vacation. If you do go out for meals, choose healthier options such as lean meats/fish/poultry, steamed veggies, and rice.

Exercise

Just because you will be out of town, that doesn’t give you a pass on moving your body. One of the laws of physics states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion while an object at rest tends to stay at rest, including the human body. Taking a week or two off from exercise makes it extremely hard to begin again once you return home and to your normal activities. You don’t have to do your normal routine, especially if you use specific equipment. However, getting in physical activity can be a fun part of the experience. Rather than drive, walk or bike short distances. Go hiking if you are in a location where this is feasible. Swim. Take a walk on the beach. Anything you can think of to get and keep your body moving. Additionally, if you are driving long distances, make sure to get out of the car and stretch your muscles and walk at least every 90 minutes to 2 hours. Driving or sitting in a car for long periods puts stress on the muscles and joints due to immobility.

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Hydration
This is also important to staying healthy. It is easy to get so wrapped up in activities that you forget to drink water, especially if you are swimming or playing in/around water. Heat combined with exercise can leave you dehydrated, which you may not notice when you are in and out of water because you do not realize that you are sweating. The best thing to drink is water, or coconut water, rather than sugary drinks or alcohol, which can dehydrate you further.

Symptoms of dehydration include:
• Thirst
• Headache
• Dry, sticky mouth
• Decreased urinary output
• Dark, concentrated urine
• Fatigue
• Dizziness/lightheadedness

Minor dehydration can be remedied by drinking water. More severe dehydration requires evaluation and treatment by a healthcare professional. Symptoms of severe dehydration include rapid heart rate, inability to produce sweat or tears, weakness, fainting, breathing rapidly, or confusion. If you or a family member experience these symptoms, call 911 immediately, as this is a medical emergency.

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Sleep
You may be tempted to skip sleep while on vacation in order to take full advantage of all the activities you want to do. However, sleep is important to regenerate. During sleep your body releases human growth hormone, which helps to restore and repair our bodies. In children, it helps them grow and mature. In adults, it helps maintain healthy cells and tissues. Also, sticking to a similar sleep schedule on vacation will make it easier to readjust to normal activities when you return home.

So, enjoy your summer vacations, make a lot memories, and stay healthy while you do!
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

6-6-2016 12-40-29 PMObesity has become an epidemic in the U.S., but not in the traditional sense of the word. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define an epidemic as “an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.” Usually, it refers to an infectious disease of some sort, but the term is now being redefined to include such chronic diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity as well as infectious diseases.

6-6-2016 12-40-38 PMAccording to the America Heart Association, 78 million adults and 13 million children deal with the health and emotional effects of obesity. Part of the problem is that our bodies aren’t getting the cues that trigger hunger and fullness. Another issue is the reward system in our brains promote eating, such as the olfactory and optic systems which prompt us to eat, whether we are hungry or not because we smell or see something pleasant. Yet another is the lack of healthy dining options for people and families on the go. We all lead busy lives, and it is so easy to drive through the pickup window of your local fast food chain. Other issues include larger portion sizes, sweet/sugary drinks, unhealthy fats, and refined grains.

Given that the average American spends at least 40 hours per week at work, the workplace can either be a catalyst to healthy living or a derailment of a healthy lifestyle. I know that for me, there are all kinds of temptations at work, including copious amounts of caffeine, soda, donuts, and candy of all sorts. Another major temptation is to work straight through my 12 hour days without a lunch break, or worse, eating quickly so I can get back to work.

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Below you’ll find some tips for healthy meals at work, and ways to stay active in jobs that require a lot of sedentary activities.

Healthy Meals and Snacks
1. Pack a lunch the night before. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. A turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with cheese, lettuce, and tomato (on the side so the bread doesn’t get soggy) is a great way to get protein, dairy, and veggies in. Another creative option is a salad in a jar. Pack it so that dressing is on the bottom, along with diced peppers, celery, cucumbers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. You can also add in grilled chicken or other protein sources. The, add your greens to the top. When you dump it on a plate a lunch time, your salad is still as fresh as when you packed it. This is a great way to make several pre-made lunches for the week that you can grab and go without having to think about it. Another easy and time saving solution is leftovers from a healthy dinner you had the night before.

2. Take a protein shake for breakfast. This is the most important part of my day. The night before every work day, I use my Vitamix to make two shakes for the following day; one for breakfast in the morning and another for a healthy snack later on. I use almond milk and/or coconut water, berries of some kind, greens, an avocado or banana, and Juice Plus Complete (a plant-based protein powder that is gluten and dairy free, low glycemic, vegan, and rich in fiber).

3. Pack a snack (or more than one if you need to). I often pack a granola bar of some kind (usually one of my favorites from the Juice Plus Company, either Tart Cherry and Honey or Dark Chocolate and Fig), nuts, cheese sticks, grapes, clementines, apples, or other fruit. This will often curb my craving for something sweet, without all the unnecessary calories that come with candy and other sweet treats. It is also important that snacks be balanced. In addition to your fruit, eat protein. So if you have grapes, have a cheese stick as well. If you have apples, dip them in peanut (or almond, or other nut) butter. Have some nuts with your clementine.

Staying Active
1. Park at the farthest end of the parking lot, and walk.
2. Skip the elevator, and take the stairs instead.
3. Walk around your office during conference calls. Use your wireless device to capitalize on the opportunity to get out of your chair.
4. Stand up at least every 60-90 minutes and stretch your muscles. Sitting for long periods puts stress on muscles and joints. You could also set up a workstation where you can stand rather than sit.
5. Take your lunch break outside. Use at least 5 minutes of it to walk around, soaking up the vitamin D, breathing fresh air, and stretching your legs.

Get creative with ways to improve your health at work. Form a group that takes daily walking breaks together. Encourage each other. But most importantly, take control of your own health. You’ll be glad you did, and you might even inspire the same in someone else.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

5-20-2016 3-07-58 PMI heard about homeopathy a couple years ago from a friend. At first, the only thing I tried was Arnica, which is typically used for bruising. I’d banged up my knee, and she gave me the remedy and told me to take it, and see what it did. The bruise never did reach the skin surface. From then on, every time I banged up a part of my body (which I do regularly as a nurse), I took Arnica, and haven’t had problems with bruising.

In January, I had a traumatic event in my life, and the same friend began searching her books of homeopathic remedies. She found one matching my symptoms, so we tried it. Within 30 minutes, my symptoms had subsided and I was no longer in a panic attack and flashing back to the event. Since then, I’ve kept Aconite in my bag so that it was on hand for any potential issues.

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Then, I decided to take a leap of faith: I made an appointment with a homeopathic doctor for a chronic issue, and saw him six weeks later. As timing would have it, when I went to see him, I was battling a terrible cough, which I was pretty sure was pneumonia. I felt terrible, but I kept the appointment to see him. Turns out, I was right. And the pneumonia wasn’t the only thing I was battling. I spent 3 hours in his office, experienced an unusually high level of individualized patient care, and came away with three different homeopathic remedies.

So what is homeopathy? It is a complementary and alternative treatment focusing on on stimulating the individual’s own ability to heal using treatments from specific symptoms. It is based on the principle that “like cures like,” meaning that the appropriate remedy is selected, and initiates the body’s own healing response. This similar “medicine” acts to stimulate a response, thus giving the body the information it needs to heal itself. Another principle in homeopathic treatment is “minimum dose.” This means that you give only the amount needed to stimulate an initial response, which the body will carry on itself.

The practice of homeopathy has been around for over 200 years, and is extremely popular in Europe, India, and South America. It was developed by Samuel Hahnemann, who was born in Germany 250 years ago. Homeopathy practice is based upon science, but its application is an art, just like any other of the healing arts. It treats the individual, rather than collection of disease labels. More and more people are looking for something more than modern medicine has to offer, and are finding that the traditional disciplines like homeopathy are exactly what they are looking for.

According to a physician and researcher at the Royal London Hospital for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Peter Fisher, homeopathy is safe, and reduces the need for antibiotics. He also said in the British Medical Journal that alternative therapies are often misunderstood, and pointed out studies showing that integrating homeopathy with conventional medicines improve clinical outcomes, without increasing costs. It also reduced the use of potentially hazardous drugs.

I’m willing to test out homeopathy for myself, and see if it is too good to be true. But I’m looking forward to being pleasantly surprised, yet again, by the healing power of the human body. Given that the option is good enough for even the Queen of England and her family, I figure it’s worth a try for myself.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN