Tuesday, May 5, 2015

F.A.S.T. The Key to Quick Stroke Responsiveness

Every year strokes affect over one million Americans, often resulting in either death or disability. Do you know the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke? The key to effectively treating a stroke is acting F.A.S.T.

What does F.A.S.T. stand for?

According to the American Stroke Association, F.A.S.T. stands for:

1. Facial drooping. One side of a person’s face may droop during a stroke.

Test: Ask the person to smile. Is his/her face sagging?  Call 9-1-1.

2. Arm weakness.  An individual having a stroke may experience weakness and/or numbness in one or both arms.

Test: Ask the individual to raise both arms. Do you notice a difference in how he/she is raising the arms? Call 9-1-1.

3. Speech difficulties. Slurred speech or difficulty speaking may be signs of a stroke.

Test: Have the person repeat a simple sentence. If he/she can’t, or is having difficulty, call 9-1-1.

4. Time. It’s important to get help as soon as you recognize any signs or symptoms of a stroke. Also, record the time symptoms first appeared so you can tell medical personnel.

Why is time so important in responding to a stroke?

Like all organs, your brain relies on blood flow and oxygen to survive and work well. A stroke blocks the blood flow to the brain. The longer the brain is without blood flow and oxygen, the more likely an individual may suffer disability or death as a result of a stroke.

Important facts about strokes:

Stoke is a leading cause of death in adults in the U.S.
Stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults in the U.S.
Females are more likely to die from a stroke than males.
While a stroke is more common in older adults, it can affect younger people, too.

Types of strokes:

1. Ischemic Stroke: Caused by a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain.
2. Hemorrhagic Stroke: Caused by a blood vessel rupturing, which prevents blood flow to the brain.
3. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Also called a “mini-stroke,” a TIA is caused by a miniature clot that blocks blood flow to the brain.

How do you know if you’re at risk for a stroke?

According to experts, a stroke may occur as a result of:

Hereditary factors (risks you get from family members)
The natural aging process
An individual’s lifestyle

In many cases, a stroke is the result of a combination of all three.

Where can you learn more?

Visit sites such as the American Stroke Association or the National Stroke Association for valuable information on strokes.

Remember F.A.S.T. when it comes to stroke responsiveness, and take the time to teach the acronym to your family and friends. Acting F.A.S.T. can mean the difference between life and death.

Live Healthy. Live Smart

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Healing House: Remedies From Your Own Home

Note: Always consult with your doctor before trying any home remedy.

Whether they’re age-old or brand new, home remedies are popular, inexpensive, and convenient solutions to health maladies and more. From treatments to products, here are some great ideas and uses for items you’ll find right in your own home.

Oil Pulling

What is oil pulling? Oil pulling is recognized for removing bacteria from the mouth, preventing infection, and cleaning and brightening teeth.  Check out this site for additional information on this home treatment.

How does oil pulling work?

1. Use approximately 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil (liquified, but cool).
2. Swish the oil around your mouth like you would with mouthwash.
3. Experts suggest keeping the oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes, 4-5 times per week.
4. When done, spit the oil out into the trash. Do not swallow the oil or flush it down the drain.
5. Rinse your mouth when finished.

For more information on the effectiveness of oil pulling, check out this study.

Are there other uses for coconut oil? Yes, plenty.  Examples of how to use coconut oil include:

Deep conditioning treatment for hair.
Combined with castor oil, coconut oil makes an excellent deep cleanser for the face.
Furniture polish.
When added to baking soda and peppermint oil, coconut oil quickly and easily becomes a natural do-it-yourself toothpaste.

Bleach Bath

Used for treating skin conditions such as eczema, MRSA, and staph infections, for instance, a bleach bath can be very effective, according to this site. Here’s how a bleach bath works:

Add ½ cup water to 40 gallons of water, which is the size of your typical bathtub.
Soak for approximately 10 minutes.
Do not submerge your head and be careful not to get the solution in your eyes. If your skin condition or rash appears on the face, apply compresses of solution mixture directly to your face.
Dry completely and follow with a light moisturizer.
Take bleach baths no more than twice per week, as bleach can dry out skin.

*Always consult with your physician or healthcare provider before starting any treatment for a skin condition.


Baking Soda

Baking soda can be used for everything from toothpaste and laundry freshener, to a carpet deodorizer and dry hair shampoo.


Uses for honey include:

Skin exfoliator, smoother, and tightener.
Blemish reducer.
Sore throat soother, taken by the spoonful. Also, added to hot water, a squirt of lemon, and a dash of cayenne pepper, honey enhances a warm drink.

Check out the book “Honey Crafting,” by Leann Coleman and Jayne Barnes, for more ideas regarding uses for honey.


In addition to being used as a stomach soother and a brain booster, check out this great idea for using cinnamon to naturally freshen your home.

DIY Cinnamon Diffuser:

Mix ¼ cup almond or olive oil with 20-25 drops cinnamon essential oil.
Place in a glass container with a narrow opening.
Add 4-5 reed diffuser sticks to glass.
Flip sticks as needed.

There are many wonderfully innovative uses for products you have in your own home. While professional medical help is always recommended, home remedies can provide quick, cost-effective relief for many illnesses and conditions.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Top 5 Health Benefits of Beets

That bright red root isn’t just a looker.  It’s hard to beat a beet for providing certain health benefits too. There are many, but we’ll focus here on the top 5 beet benefits, and provide a few beetroot recipes that will make it easy to regularly get this super-healthy root into your diet.

Beet benefit #1 – Reduces inflammation
Do you struggle with health issues like chronic pain, obesity, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, migraines, thyroid issues, or dental problems?

These and many other health ailments can be caused or triggered by inflammation – your body’s effort to protect itself from something it perceives as harmful.  If this sounds like you, then it's time to seriously think about adding a beet boost to your diet.

Beets are packed with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, such vulgaxanthin, betanin, and isobetanin. The phytonutrients inhibit the enzymes that notify cells to “flame up” – which is normally a healthy and protective action. However, when dealing with chronic inflammation, this "flaming up" exacerbates issues and causes pain.

Beets are also high in betaine – a key nutrient formed from choline. Choline regulates inflammation in your cardiovascular system.
Beet benefit #2 – Nature’s multivitamin/mineral supplement
Beets and beet greens are loaded with life-giving minerals, including magnesium (which has lots of benefits, including Alzheimer’s prevention), potassium (which aids heart, kidneys, muscle, nerve, and digestive functions), copper, iron, and phosphorus, an essential mineral aiding cell function throughout the body – and it's good for bones and teeth, too. Beets are also a great source of Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as healthy fiber.  
Beet benefit #3 – An antioxidant powerhouse
The part of beets that gives it its dark red color is beta-cyanine. Beta-cyanine is a powerful antioxidant that's important in fighting disease. This includes cancer prevention, especially colon cancers.

Beta-carotene –a powerful antioxidant phytonutrient – is also prevalent in the peel and flesh of beets.  In fact, beets are on the top-10 list of beta carotene-rich foods.
Beet benefit #4 – Lowering blood pressure
Beets are a prime source of phyto-nitrates. Do not confuse these plant-based nitrates with sodium nitrate, a carcinogenic chemical preservative found in many processed foods. 

Phyto-nitrates are great for your health, helping your body to naturally lower and maintain a healthy blood pressure level. In your body, these healthy nitrites morph into nitric oxide – a compound that open up your vessels, which improves blood flow, lowering the pressure.

To get the full benefits of beets' phyto-nitrates, juice not just the beet, but the beet greens and even the beet root, as all three parts are rich in phyto-nitrates.
Beet benefit #5 – Boost your sports performance
The same plant-based nitrates that lower blood pressure also give your workout a shot in the arm.
The body’s natural conversion of nitrates into nitric oxide is the key. Many athletes boost their abilities with nitric oxide supplementation – a good thing, but they are missing out on many other healthy beet benefits by getting their supply of nitrites from a supplement tablet or powder.

Beets’ nitrates and resulting nitric oxide helps your body recuperate from intense physical activity.  Even during performance, the nitric oxide generation bolsters sports stamina and endurance, as shown in this England study, which showed big improvement in high-intensity training when tested on sports rowing crew athletes.  This 1985 study backs up these results, testing beetroot juice during exercise, showing that beet root boosted cardiovascular health and exercise performance in its young adult test subjects.

Creative ways to get beets into your family’s diet

Did you know that you can eat beets raw? In fact, consuming them raw, such as an added smoothie ingredient or by juicing them, gives you the highest level of nutrients.
Yes, there is nutrition in cooked beets, but raw beetroots and beetroot juice gives you the most bang per beet, health-wise.
To make a smoothie with raw beets:
Use about a fourth of a beet (if it’s a large beet – or use the whole thing if it’s small) and add it to your regular smoothie recipe.  It will thicken up the smoothie, so you may need to add a bit more water than you normally would.
Juice with beets
Juicing vegetables concentrates their nutrients, which are mostly in the juiciest parts of the vegetable.  If you have a juicer, try beet juice straight up – it’s sweeter than you might think! – or add it to the juice of an apple to reduce the intensity of its flavor. 
A raw food twist on Borscht – a Ukrainian classic beet recipe
Though borscht is traditionally made with cooked beets, it’s entirely unnecessary, especially since it’s served cold.  Why not make it raw and retain the highest nutritional value and its antioxidants?
This is one of the simplest borscht recipes you’ll find -- Victoria Boutenko's Raw Borscht.
Cooked beet recipes
Here are several good resources for creatively adding beets into your diet:
If you’ve got a killer beets recipe, please share it below!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Emergency Room: No Place for Children

Growing up involves getting hurt sometimes. Children play hard, sometimes bumping into things or falling. Unfortunately, serious preventable injuries also occur – some that result in trips to the ER, resulting in disabilities or even death.  Consider these real-life examples:
  • On Halloween 2012, 15-year-old Christina Morris-Ward, dressed in dark clothes and wearing headphones, crossed the street while looking down at her phone. She was struck and killed by an oncoming car.
  • In July of 2003, the Beaudette family was heading home from a family vacation. En route, the mother briefly unbuckled their 9-month-old daughter, Nora, to remove some clothing layers. Nora was only unbuckled for a few seconds – exactly when they were involved in a crash. Nora died as the emergency vehicle reached the hospital.
If you have the stomach for it, SafeKids.org has more than a dozen such sobering stories of preventable childhood accidents with tragic outcomes, useful for sharing with others to emphasize specific childhood accident risks.

The fact is that preventable injuries remains the leading cause of childhood deaths in the U.S.  according to the World Health Organization, with preventable injuries killing about 2,000 children every day. The statistics are overwhelming:
  • According to the CDC, almost 9 million children each year are seen in emergency departments for injuries, and more than 9,000 children die from these injuries.
  • Safe Kids Worldwide stats show that an average of eight minutes does not go by without a younger child going to the emergency room due to medicine poisoning, and that poison control centers receive about one call every minute for help with a medicine poisoning a child under age six. 
  • More from the CDC:
    • Rates of traffic-related injuries are highest for children aged 5–19 years.
    • Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries.
    • Death rates for drowning exceed those from falls, fires, pedal cycle injuries, pedestrian injuries, and poisoning combined.
The sad truth is that about one million families each year will lose a child to such preventable injuries. Can they be prevented? Maybe not entirely, but the intent of Safe Kids Day is to reduce the overwhelming volume of preventable child injuries. 

April is the month of Safe Kids Day, a day in which child advocacy organizations worldwide publicly highlight the need to protect our kids from preventable injuries – statistically the highest cause of death in the U.S.

Is the Safe Kids Day goal realistic? Since the percentages vary from country to country, it appears absolutely possible to create a safer world for our children.  If the U.S. child injury rates were as low as Sweden’s, for instance, about 4,700 U.S. children's lives would be saved each year.

The holistic approach to childhood injury prevention is to identify how and where children are injured – whether at home, at play, or on the way – and then taking steps through awareness programs and legislation to improve the safety statistics.

Some of the more common sources of serious injuries to our youngest include accidents related to batteries (swallowing etc.), bicycles, falls, fires, driveway incidents, guns, heatstroke, medicines, playgrounds, boating, burns and scalds, carbon monoxide poisoning, choking and strangulationHalloween and other holidays, and more.  

Steps to avoiding serious childhood accidents

Here are some practical steps you can take to keep your children out of the ER:
  • Regularly check to ensure that your child’s car seat seatbelt attachment has less than one inch of movement.
  • Make sure pot handles are turned inward while cooking.
  • Use safety plugs in unused wall sockets.
  • Don't mow the lawn when children are playing anywhere nearby.
  • Put gates at the top of stairways when you have young children.
  • Keep baby crib sides fastened.
  • When bathing a baby, always check bath water temperature before putting your child in.
  • Avoid using pillows with your sleeping baby.
  • Choose high chairs with a broad base to prevent tipping.
  • Be careful when using plastic bags, especially dry-cleaner bags.
  • Secure all stores of chemical and cleaning products, like drain clog cleaners, oven cleaners, furniture polish, and other toxic substances.
  • Use safety latches for cabinets.
  • Secure tip-able furniture and appliances.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly and replace batteries annually.
  • Make sure all medicines in your home are out of reach of children – don’t forget about vitamins or medications in purses or left on counters!
  • Remove small swallowable objects from your child’s living areas. Coin-sized watch batteries look like candy to a toddler, and are often swallowed with disastrous result.
Get more child safety tips at the CDC’s Child Safety site. Or learn more about Safe Kids Day 2015 at SafeKidsDay.org.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Does Garcinia Cambogia Really Work?

You can buy garcinia cambogia in any health food store or even most big-box stores. That's no surprise, given its fame as a weight-loss and weight-control supplement. But what exactly is garcinia cambogia? Does it work? Is it safe to use?

What is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia cambogia is an orange-sized fruit that grows in parts of India and Indonesia. It’s a popular ingredient in curries and chutneys, as well as an acid indigestion reliever.
But its sudden rise in popularity has to do primarily with its reputation as a dietary weight control supplement and appetite suppressant. Some research also shows garcinia cambogia is effective at controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Garcinia cambogia’s “active” ingredient – the one associated with its weight loss/control characteristics – is hydroxycitric acid, also known as HCA, which is found in the fruit's rind.

What is HCA?

HCA, the element responsible for garcinia cambogia's weight loss and weight control characteristics, has been shown in some scientific research to block certain enzymes that generate body fat, while also raising serotonin levels, which can reduce your appetite.

Studies on Garcinia Cambogia and Weight Loss

Garcinia cambogia might work to lose weight, but the research is conflicted. First, let’s take a look at  research that supports its efficacy or safety, and then get a handle on its potential problems or failures.
The case for garcinia cambogia:
Some studies support garcinia cambogia's weight management value and safety:
  • This research on the garcinia cambogia's HCA extract showed it to be safe when used in normal dosages.
  • Research on several HCA studies concluded that garcinia extract showed a small but statistically significant amount of weight loss.
  • This 2009 study showed that garcinia cambogia’s hydroxycitric acid and flavonoids can decrease lipid composition levels in blood and reduce fat deposition in the aorta of high cholesterol diet animals.
  • Another study showed that high doses of garcinia cambogia suppressed fat accumulation in obese rats.
  • This 1988 research on HCA showed that its inclusion in the diet significantly reduced food intake, body weight, and body fat in tested animals.
  • Guinea pigs on a high cholesterol diet who were given the Garcinia species (atriviridis) had a tendency to decrease lipid composition levels and fat deposition in the aorta.
  • One 1970 study with rats showed that HCA inhibit fat producing enzymes, making it more harder for the body to turn carbs into fat.
  • Is it safe? Garcinia cambogia’s HCA, researched in this toxicity study using pregnant rats, showed no maternal toxicity and no external, skeletal, or soft tissue fetus abnormalities.
The case against garcinia cambogia:
It's important to note that much of the research on garcinia cambogia or HCA was not performed on human subjects. While the above data is promising, some studies say that it does not work; or, if it does work, may not be safe. For instance:
  • An NYU medical report concluded that it “remains unclear whether HCA offers any weight-loss benefits.”
  • In this study, HCA showed efficacy in terms of body fat accumulation suppression, but that the HCA also “caused potent testicular atrophy and toxicity.”
  • The FDA issued a 2009 safety warning in response to a multitude of severe negative health reactions (ranging from jaundice and potential liver damage) to the supplement Hydroxycut, believed to be related to its garcinia cambogia extract (which has since been removed from Hydroxycut).
  • Dr. Oz advises not to use garcinia cambogia if you have Alzheimer's or dementia, or if it’s in your family tree, as some studies show that garcinia cambogia can worsen it.
  • This study, reported in JAMA, showed garcinia cambogia did not produce significant weight loss or fat mass loss. It found that the study group lost less weight than the placebo group.
  • In a garcinia cambogia study involving overweight women, the study group lost more weight than the placebo group, but found no appetite curbing effect.
Conclusion? Given the variety of research results, sometimes conflicting, it really is up to you and the advice of your doctor to determine whether or not garcinia cambogia is right - and safe - for you.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What is Minority Health Month and how can you participate?

This April marks the 30th year of Minority Health Month. The goal of Minority Health Month is to raise awareness regarding the health and healthcare issues that affect racial and ethnic minorities.  What do you need to know about minority health and healthcare? Find out how you can get involved, which events are being held near you, and what information can be helpful to you and your family.

How did Minority Health Month get started?

Based on the findings of the Heckler Report, the Office of Minority Health (OHM) was established in 1986, with its Resource Center being established the following year.  The OHM Resource Center is responsible for the Affordable Care Act, Disparities Action Plan, and other important initiatives that focus on minority health.

What are the components of Minority Health Month?

Minority Health Month has four goals:

1. Raise awareness
2. Provide education
3. Continue research
4. Recognize the different needs of racial and ethnic minorities

What are the racial and ethnic categories for Minority Health Month?

Black/African American
American Indian/Alaska Native
Asian American
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander

Why is Minority Health Month important?

The individuals who fall into the previous categories make up approximately 37% of our society, according to the latest census numbers. In addition, it is projected that in five years, more than half of all children in the United States will be from a minority background. It's important to understand the unique health issues and challenges facing minority families and individuals in order to create a healthcare system that better benefits us as a nation.

What types of issues affect minorities?

While minorities may face the same health and wellness issues as any other group, some issues can be of particular concern. For example:

Tobacco use
Vaccines and immunizations
Injury and violence prevention and control

How can you participate in Minority Health Month?

Host an event
Take part in an event
Encourage others to participate in one of the many events being held throughout the month
Share the information discovered

A week-by-week look at Minority Health Month:

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has named this Minority Health Month “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity.” Below is a weekly breakdown of topics that will be covered.

1. Kick off week
2. Transforming Health
3. Strengthen the Nation’s Health and Human Services Workforce
4. Advance the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of the American People
5. Advance Scientific Knowledge and innovation

Where can you find events?

Check out this site for a calendar of events in your area. From health screenings and wellness fairs, to conferences and workshops, there's something for everyone to take part in, regardless of your age or background.

Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of your family. So take part in Minority Health Month, and take advantage of the information, research, and programs available during this time!

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Help Your Children Excel in School!

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational reform that instituted high, common standards for all students at each grade level, raising expectations for school systems across the country. While that’s a good move in the long term, adapting to new standards and helping your children keep up can be challenging. Here's what you should know about Common Core so you can help in the effort to raise more successful students.

What are Common Core Standards?

The Common Core Standards were designed to make sure every student is prepared for success after high school.  The standards apply to English and language arts as well as mathematics. Visit the Common Core site to learn more.

What are STEM classes and how do they relate to Common Core?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There's been an increased focus on STEM classes in today’s classroom. Experts believe STEM classes provide better preparation for higher learning. In addition, there are more jobs related to these fields and STEM education produces a better quality student overall.

What role do the arts play in today’s classroom?

A number of recent studies have demonstrated the need for arts education in addition to the STEM curriculum, leading to proposals to change the name to “STEAM.” Visual and performing arts are noted for:

  • Increasing the overall quality of the student
  • Boosting the student's aptitude for problem solving, which supports the STEM curriculum
  • Improving critical thinking skills

What do you need to know about effective learning?

Students learn in a variety of ways, including:

  • Reading new information
  • Writing notes regarding what’s discussed
  • Seeing the information, such as on a board or computer screen, or in a book
  • Hearing the information recited by a teacher or instructor

Studies show the most successful students understand how they best learn new information. With the help of teachers and parents, students can find the tools that make learning most effective and enjoyable.

How can you help with your child’s learning?

  • Encourage problem solving and critical thinking at home through games, mind teasers, and exercises.
  • Support activities such as art, dance, theater, and other endeavors that encourage creativity.
  • Demonstrate the importance of ongoing education yourself by reading, researching, and pursuing other educational endeavors. Children learn best by example.
  • Don’t forget to exercise! A recent Swedish study showed that an increase in physical activity led to an improvement in school performance.
What are some STEM programs and activities?

There are many exciting STEM initiatives right now:

  • Virtual Environment Interactions (VEnvl): Students control the movement of virtual characters in a video-like setting, blending choreography and computational skills in a learning environment. Check out this study for more information.
  • The Children’s Museum of Houston has developed an afterschool program named A'STEAM that provides students with activity kits designed to build Common Core skills. The program has expanded to operate in 16 sites throughout the greater Houston area. You can read more about the program here.
  • The Girl Scouts of America conducts the Girls in STEM program, and are helping to promote the STEM curriculum through various badges and activities.
Even if you’ve been out of the classroom for years, you can still help your child be successful in their scholastic career. By staying informed regarding curriculum changes, and getting involved in the educational process, you can play a vital role in building successful students.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.