Thursday, July 2, 2015

How Well Do You Know Your Sunscreen?

There are two big considerations when choosing your sunscreen: The sunscreen’s ingredients and the sunscreen’s purpose. These matters are more important than ever, given the stats:
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association says that one in five of us will get skin cancer in our lifetime.
  • Skin cancer kills more than 12,000 people a year, according to the American Cancer Society.


The right sunscreen for the right circumstance


When shopping for a sunscreen lotion, consider how you plan to use it. For example:
  • Heavy activities, such as swimming or running, can cause most sunscreens to quickly wash or sweat away.  Look for a water resistant or high performance sunscreen lotion that is designed to stay effective under intense conditions.
  • If you're looking for a child-friendly sunscreen, keep in mind that some sun blocking lotions designed for kids go on in a color that becomes clear as it dries. This feature that makes it easier to ensure that you don’t miss any spots. Another kid-friendly factor to look for is the absence of any potential hormone disruptors, oils, fragrances, or dyes.
  • The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a rating that indicates the degree of protection you can expect from the sun. A higher number generally means more or longer protection. The more sensitive your skin is, and the longer you plan to be out in the sun, the higher the SPF number you should seek.

Screening from the sun – cover up!


One of the best sunscreens is even more basic than using lotion – it’s screening yourself from exposure to the most dangerous sun rays. For example:
  • Use sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Wear clothing designed for sun protection.
  • Wear a wide–brimmed hat.
  • When swimming, wear a bathing cap and/or a wetsuit.
  • Avoid the hottest sunrays. Two hours in the sun between 6-8 a.m. is much safer than two hours of sun around noon.  
When your activity puts you unavoidably in the sun, sunscreen lotion becomes an important shield against damaging sun rays.

How sunscreen lotions work


Most sunscreen ingredients work in one of two ways:
  • Physically blocking the sun’s rays from your skin.
  • Chemically blocking or changing the way your skin reacts to sunlight.
Examples of the “blockers” include ingredients like zinc or titanium, which stay on top of your skin, between you and the sun. With chemical blockers, the primary ingredient often interacts with your skin on a cellular level.

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid


Research shows that some of the more common sunscreen ingredients may be harmful to your health. Even if it’s debatable whether or not these ingredients are more harmful than being unprotected from sunrays, consider choosing suns lotions that do not use these: 
  • Nanoparticles: If your sunscreen lotion contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, it often also has tiny nanoparticles.  Some recent studies suggest that some kinds of nanoparticles may be unsafe.
  • Retinyl palmitate:  retinyl palmitate is a type of vitamin A that may accelerate the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied in sunlight, according to this recent study.
  • Petroleum-based scents: You might like that sunscreen smell, but beware: many people are allergic to these often petroleum-based fragrances. In addition, studies show that these ingredients may introduce skin tumor risks.
  • Oxybenzone: A common sunscreen ingredient, oxybenzone can disrupt hormones.


Healthy alternatives to sunscreen lotions


Beyond the cover-up recommendations noted above, you can also protect yourself from the sun’s rays by eating a diet with lots of colorful veggies, fruits, and other superfoods, which are high in bioflavonoids and antioxidants

Antioxidants can help protect your skin in two ways: by helping your skin more quickly recover from sun damage and by helping your body to fight the cell-damaging effects of free radicals.  
For more on sunscreen safety, check out the 2014 Teen Sunscreen Guide.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Revamp your Medicine Cabinet

If it’s been years since you last sorted, cleaned, and restocked your medicine cabinet, you’re not alone. The medicine cabinet is one of the most overlooked areas of the home, even though its contents are extremely important to your family’s health. Read on for tips regarding the essentials you should have on hand, as well as ideas for natural remedies to common ailments.

Why revamp your medicine cabinet?

  1. It gives you a chance to clean out prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, creams, and   ointments that have expired.
  2. You'll know which essentials you are low on and need to replace.
  3. Consider natural alternatives for everyday use.

What essentials should you keep in your medicine cabinet?

Tools

  • Thermometer
  • A pill cutter
  • Tweezers and a magnifying glass

The basics

  • Aspirin (or an alternative)
  • Gauze and a variety of bandages
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Witch-hazel
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • First-aid cream or ointment

Note: Experts recommend storing any medications in a place other than the medicine cabinet, outside the bathroom. Heat and moisture can break down both prescription and over-the-counter medications, causing them to be less effective. In the case of prescription medications, store them in a safe, locked area, especially out of reach of children and teens.

Common ailments that can affect your family

According to eMedicineHealth, here are some of the most common ailments you should prepare for:

*Cuts, scrapes, sprains, and bruises
*Pain and fever
*Colds
*Cough
*Rashes, bug bites, and other skin ailments
*Stomachaches and digestive problems
*Sleep issues
*Allergies

How can you switch to a more natural medicine cabinet?

Here are some examples of natural products and their uses:

Arnica is good for arthritic pain as well as sprains, this natural alternative is available in both a cream and tablet form.

Magnesium can be used for headaches, especially migraines and those related to tension. Magnesium is available in tablet form and is also found in Epsom Salt. It may also with sleep.

Ginger is available as a powder, in pill form, or as a tea, ginger is a great remedy for stomach upsets and other digestive ailments.

Aloe Vera is effective for treating skin irritations such as minor burns, scrapes, and sunburn. Available in a bottle or you can keep a live plant in your home.

Check out Mother Earth Living for more ideas.

What are some ways to use natural remedies for common conditions?

For bruises, use arnica cream or gel after icing the bruised area to help alleviate pain and swelling.

For a natural remedy for diarrhea, drink ginger or chamomile tea to sooth your stomach and help replace lost fluids.

If you're suffering from sleep or anxiety, try any of the following natural remedies for relief:

  • Drink chamomile tea.
  • Use Epsom Salt foot soaks or baths.
  • Enjoy a lavender bath or place a drop of lavender on a tissue and inhale the aroma.

When should you clean your medicine cabinet?

When you do spring and fall cleaning each year, add your medicine cabinet to the list.  When cleaning, don’t forget to check the expiration dates on both over-the-counter and prescription medications. In addition, also check items like sunscreen and makeup; your toothbrushes should be changed regularly, too. Visit the American Osteopathic Association website for more guidelines.

Make cleaning, restocking, and revamping your medicine cabinet a priority at least twice each year, and help keep your family safe and healthy when illness or injury hits your home.

Live Healthy. Live Smart
-FamilyWize

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Health Benefits of Salt? Actually, Yes!

It may seem almost like sacrilege to suggest that salt could have health benefits. After all, in many articles and studies, sodium (a significant component of salt) has been named as the culprit in such crimes to our health as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, stomach cancer, and osteoporosis. But not all the research agrees on the health risks of salt:
  • A 2011 meta-analysis found no strong connection between reducing salt to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, not only among those with normal blood pressure, but also those with high blood pressure.
  • A 2014 meta-analysis determined that both low sodium intakes and high sodium intakes are associated with increased mortality.
  • A 2013 study found that those on a low-sodium diet were more likely to experience heart failure than those on a high-sodium diet.
  • A report from the Institute of Medicine found no evidence that a low sodium diet (below 2.300 grams) reduced the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
  • A 2014 study involving data from over 100,000 individuals found that those who consume below 3 grams of sodium daily had nearly a third higher risk of death, heart attack, or stroke compared to those who consumed between 3 and 6 grams.
In spite of most people believing that salt is bad for you, its primary element – sodium – is a mineral. Like many other minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium, salt can be beneficial for most of us. In the right amount, it's even fundamental to good health.

Often, the problem with salt consumption is not what salt is, but rather how much salt we consume, or, as some believe, what kind of salt we consume.

How much is too much salt?


Your maximum salt intake will depend on a number of variables, including your overall diet, health, family history, ethnicity, and the amount and type of exercise you get. 

For example, according to this medical report, potassium intake matters a great deal, as potassium can counteract the blood pressure risks of a high salt intake. A high potassium intake relaxes blood vessels, which helps your body excrete sodium and decrease blood pressure.

The problem is that the average American eats about 6 to 10 grams of salt daily, even as the recommendation (from such sources as World Health Organization, the American Heart Association, and many U.S. government agencies) for healthy adults is less than 2.3 mg of sodium per day.

Even as there may be disagreement in the medical research regarding whether or not low sodium diets are better for the average person, there is general agreement that a daily sodium consumption above 6-7 grams increases certain health risks.

Types of salt


Dietary salt, or table salt, is used in food to preserve and flavor it. Its primary component is sodium chloride – about 40 percent.

The most common forms of salt you can buy at your local supermarket include:
  • Regular table salt – Ordinary table salt, which is generally the most affordable kind of salt, is processed under heat and bleaching to remove all elements but its sodium chloride content and to make it white. The processing usually involves giving salt additives, such as iodine.
  • Sea salt – Sea salt is effectively evaporated seawater, minimally or not processed, and therefore will contain trace mineral levels (notably calcium, magnesium, and potassium) not present in regular table salt. Some sea salts have less sodium by volume because of their larger crystal size.
  • Himalayan pink salt – Pink in color, Himalayan pink salt is a rock salt, often preferred by health advocates because it is not as processed as table salt and, therefore, contains many other healthy substances, such as trace minerals. In a chemical analysis, Himalayan salt is shown to have more than 80 trace minerals and other elements.
Many health experts recommend that you get your salt from natural sources, in order to avoid additives and to benefit from salt’s other compounds that are often lost or removed in processing.

Sodium/Salt Health Risks


As with any dietary change, you are advised to speak with your physician or another qualified health provider who can answer questions and give advice based on the specifics of your medical condition.

Generally, consuming salt in moderation is safe. Those who should consume even less than the standard recommended amount include:
  • Individuals over 50 years of age
  • Those with high blood pressure
  • Individuals with diabetes or chronic kidney disease
  • African Americans
Those in these high risk groups are generally advised to consume less than 1,500 mg (1.5 grams) of sodium per day.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Four Simple Ways to Keep Your Family Fit and Healthy This Summer


The warm weather and off-school schedules of summertime offer unique opportunities for families to get fit and healthy together. And it needn’t be hard! Here are some easy ways to achieve family fitness and health this summer.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, most Americans do not exercise regularly, with the most sedentary offenders being the younger set – those between the ages of 12 and 21. In fact, the report shows that 14% of young people typically get no physical activity!

Scary stuff. But it can be fun and easy to get fit as a family: The Surgeon General’s Advisory Group recommends merely a moderate level of physical activity for just 30 minutes daily, or an intense activity for as little as 15-20 minutes, to stay fit. Doing either will benefit your family by:
  • Building and maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints;
  • Helping to control weight, build lean muscle, and reduce fat;
  • Preventing or delaying the development of high blood pressure, and helping to reduce blood pressure in some adolescents with hypertension.

Start easy!


If your family is sedentary today, you can “grease the skids” of physical activity by starting out with the simplest of activities, such as a walk around the neighborhood, checking out the nearest city park or school playground for some basketball free throws, or playing a round of disk golf. 

Four fun family fitness & health tips for summer

1. Hit the court!
Basketball courts in the U.S. are plentiful, and access is often free. Check your local city park, or see if any neighborhood public schools maintain summer access to the playground’s basketball court.
A round of full-on family basketball can be downright strenuous – great if your family’s up for that.  But even if you’re not fit enough for a high action game, there are many family-friendly basketball games, such as:
  • Around the World – This is a shooting game that progresses around the basketball hoop, with players taking turns in an arc pattern. Getting a basket from the first position lets you move to the next position, and so on, until a player reaches the final shot position.
  • Basketball “golf” – Paced like golf ( i.e., no sweat!), you win by getting the lowest score. You take turns shooting from the free-throw line.
  • H-O-R-S-E – Yet another take-turns basketball game, a player shoots from anywhere and in any style, with each subsequent player attempting to get a basket from the same spot in the same way.
See the rules for many family-friendly basketball games such as these, and many more.
2. Backyard badminton
Badminton is a sport that takes very little money to make a whole lot of fun. Because the equipment involved is very light compared to other sports, the game is much safer than other high-action games, and is easy for younger family members to learn. Find badminton rules here.

You can get an entire badminton set – complete with net, poles, ground stakes, four rackets, and two shuttlecocks for less than $30. It's fun for the whole family, for the cost of a pair of running shoes!
3. Take a hike!
Walking around the neighborhood can get a bit boring (unless you spice it up with fun games like I-spy). But take the family to a nearby trail and the view changes (from utility poles to trees), the terrain changes (from flat to varied), the sounds change (from traffic to chipmunks), and the smells change (from mowed grass to wildflowers).

Doing a trail hike is also more involving, with fewer distractions from the family time and fewer opportunities to shortcut back to the house.

To find trails in your area, check out Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, AllTrails.com, or Trails.com.
4. Refresh without refined sugar
When you or your kids need a cool drink on a hot day, you don’t need to load up on unhealthy sugars or risky sugar substitutes. Avoid canned sodas or sugar-laden lemonades with one of these tasty, refreshing substitutes:
  • Watermelon Mint Iced Tea – a refreshing fruit-based beverage.
  • Real 100% fruit juice – Though fruit juice can have as many calories and carbohydrates as many soft drinks, it has much more nutritional value. Make it fresh squeezed fruit juice, and you’ll also benefit from a big dose of phytonutrients and antioxidants.

A couple reminders: why family fitness is important

Need some extra health/fitness motivation?  We’ve mentioned the benefits above, but here are the risks of not getting physical enough:
  • Without a concerted effort, many kids will vegetate in front of the TV or iPhone. But check out these stats on why sitting can be bad for you.
  • The CDC cautions that childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate: doubling in children and tripling in adolescents in 30 years.
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Eating for the Seasons

Also known as eating seasonally, "eating for the seasons" is an idea that promotes eating and cooking foods that are harvested and available seasonally, rather than eating things that are available year-round. In addition, a special emphasis is placed on foods that are locally grown.

Need some ideas for seasonal eating and cooking? Read on.


Why is eating for the season important?

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is important to your health. Experts believe if you’re eating seasonally, you are more likely to be consuming your daily share of fruits and veggies.
Eating locally grown foods may offer you more nutrients, while supporting local farmers. It's a win-win!
 Eating seasonally supports your body’s changing seasonal needs. Ayurvedic medicine supports the idea that your body’s needs change seasonally. There’s a reason you’re drawn to lighter foods during the warmer months, while you crave heartier meals during colder months.
Eating seasonally can result in cost savings, too, if you grow your own produce.

What are some examples of eating for the season?

1. Fresh salads are popular during the warmer summer months when a variety of salad greens and vegetables are plentiful.
2. Root vegetables such as beets, turnips, and carrots are great for you during the transition from warmer to cooler weather. These veggies are harvested during the fall months.
3. Soups, chili, and stews are hearty meals that offer you the warmth and nutrients you need during the damp, chilly months.

How can you include seasonal foods in your family’s meals?

Check out your local farmers' market to see what’s in season.
Refer to food charts for help determining what food items are available when.
Find ways to add seasonal ingredients to basic recipes. For example, seasonal berries make a nice addition to a salad in the summer months, while apple slices and cranberries are a nice supplement in the fall.

Recipe ideas

Looking for some delicious recipes for seasonal favorites?  Check out these ideas:

Want to try a hearty pumpkin soup?

Interested in making a tasty kale salad?

Here are some interesting ways to use asparagus in your meals.

Find other unique ways to use veggies on our blog.

Where can I learn more?

Check out Sustainable Table, which allows you to find foods in season in your particular area. There are listings for local farmers, too.
Cookbooks offer recipes and ideas for cooking for each season.
Visit CUESA for seasonal recipes and ideas.

Eating and cooking seasonally can be a healthy way of eating for your family, great for the local economy, and a fun lifestyle to adopt.  Experiment with new foods, new recipes, and enjoy all that seasonal eating has to offer!

Do you have your own ideas or recipes for season eating and cooking? Feel free to share!

Live Healthy. Live Smart.
-FamilyWize

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Community Service Matters


Community service isn’t a new idea. People have been assisting elderly neighbors, holding charity events for those in need, and cleaning litter from vacant lots for decades. But the need for community service has been in the limelight recently. Why is community service important, and how can you and your family get involved?

What is community service?

Community service typically involves the volunteering of time, energy or effort on behalf of another individual, organization or event. From offering aid in times of disaster, to strengthening neighborhood programs on a regular basis, community service is integral to a better future.

Why does community service matter?

It creates a bond between the individual and their community.
It builds stronger neighborhoods and forms better relationships between residents.
It places emphasis on the importance of citizenship, service, and responsibility, and serves as an example to younger generations.

How can community service benefit me?

Health benefits (see this study).
Increased socialization.
Networking opportunities.
• The chance to learn new skills.

Who participates in community service?

1. Everyone! Individuals of any age, including adults, children and senior citizens, can all participate.
2. Organizations such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
3. Local and national businesses.

How can I get started?

Choose an activity or area that interests you, like animals, the environment or education.
Choose something you’d like to learn more about. For example: wildlife, history, or the arts.
Check out resources such as the Lehigh Valley Health Network for ways to volunteer your time while earning time back through an exchange of services.

Where can I find community service opportunities?

There are many opportunities available to get involved in community service. Here are some examples:

Become a reading tutor.
Put your building skills to work by helping to construct a home through Habitat for Humanity.
Like animals? Get involved at a local shelter or farm. You can work directly with the animals -- feeding, walking, and cuddling – or assist with fundraising, event coordination, or other administrative responsibilities. Check out www.aspca.org for opportunities.
Are you interested in the arts? Local festivals, theaters, and museums typically have plenty of volunteer opportunities.

Where can I find more information?

Check out sites such as AllForGood, which allows you to explore a number of options in your area, or click here for more information on community service.

Regardless of where you live or how you choose to get involved, community service matters to everyone. Get involved and reap the benefits!

Live Healthy. Live Smart.
-FamilyWize

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summer Heat and Cars: A Deadly Duo for Children

With the heat of summer upon us, heartbreaking stories abound of infants and children dying from auto-related heat stroke. None of us could ever imagine that we could be responsible for leaving one of our beloved children in a car to die of heat stroke. But it happens, and often; about 38 children die yearly from a heat-related death inside a car.  If you can stomach it, you’ll find almost two dozen eye-opening stories of children being rescued or of children dying of heat stroke inside cars here.

Heatstroke is a process than starts up when the body’s temperature goes to or above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature overwhelms the body's thermoregulatory functions and death can result.  Across the U.S., such heatstroke deaths occur usually from children either getting themselves stuck or being left in a car by the caretaker, whether on purpose or accidentally.

While the news often latches onto intentional vehicular heatstroke deaths, an estimated 8 of 10 heat-related auto deaths are deemed accidental, according to statistics from San Francisco State University's Department of Geosciences. Most often, these accidents happen when the child is left in the car by the parent or other caregiver, with about 30% occurring when the child was playing unattended and got trapped inside the vehicle’s passenger compartment or trunk.

Why does this happen so frequently? The fact is that caregivers are often distracted by responsibilities. Though there is nothing more important to a parent than their own child, the high-stress lives we lead, or a momentary high-stress event, can result in what ultimately proves to be a deadly distraction.

Our youngest children are the most common victims of heat stroke deaths in cars, because they are less able to get themselves out of danger. The interior of a closed car can skyrocket in temperature incredibly quickly. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, a car's internal temperature can rise on a 80 degree day to more than 125 degrees in just 30 minutes.

Add to this the fact that a younger child's body has not yet developed the ability to process heat as efficiently as older children and adults, and the risk of heat stroke is imminent. A child's body temperatures rises as much as five times faster than an adult's.

However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of heatstroke. By keeping these simple tips in mind, you can help ensure your child is safe.

Important tips for keeping your children safe this summer from a vehicular heatstroke death


Advice from Parents Central at SaferCar.gov and from KidsAndCars.org is worth going over and sharing with any other caregivers in your family:
  • Keep your car doors locked when you're home.
  • If your child is missing, make a beeline to your car – check the trunk too.
  • Always check the backseat before you lock your car.
  • When driving with your child in the back seat, put something you know you'll need when you get back out near your child, such as your purse, wallet, or cell phone.
  • Easy memory trick: Keep a large stuffed animal in your baby’s car seat when not being used. And then put that stuffed animal in the front seat beside you when your child is in the car seat – a visual reminder to look back when you get out.
If you see an unattended child in a hot vehicle, call 911 ASAP. If the child is already in distress from the heat, get the child out of the car immediately and cool him or her quickly.

When heatstroke happens, it's a tragedy - but it's almost always avoidable. By staying mindful and alert, you can make sure your children are well-protected.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer