Thursday, December 18, 2014

Inactivity – It's a Killer

New Research Names lack of exercise as Mortality Risk Raiser For Older Women.

The verdict, according to recent research: Get moving or risk coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and early death.

As reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the new study, focused on older women, showed that a sedentary lifestyle – spending too much of the day lying down or sitting – increased the risk of heart disease and death.

Researchers studied the five-year lifestyle and mortality statistics of more than 92,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years of age, data that included an assessment of how many sedentary hours each woman spent daily.

Some of the key findings from the study:
  • Of the women researched, the average amount of daily inactivity was 8.5 hours.
  • Researchers concluded that women who remain sedentary for a cumulative 11 hours a day or more were at the greatest risk.
  • The highest amount of sedentary time was reported by women who were White, smoked, have a college degree, and have a higher body mass index, or BMI: a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
  • Women who were more sedentary were more likely to have reported falling within the past year.
  • Not surprisingly, the women who reported higher degrees of daily inactivity also tended to have higher rates of fair to poor health.
Researchers were quick to point out that these statistics, though gathered from older women, apply to people of both sexes and all ages. What surely is no surprise to most or all adults in this day and age is the fact that exercise is good for us and that inactivity is not good for us.  But these new statistics should serve as a warning siren to the risks of inadequate physical activity.  If you have any doubt, take note of this supporting data:
  • The US Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General reported scientific evidence in 1996 that linked regular physical activity to improved cardiovascular health.
  • According to the online journal BMJ, sitting too long (three or more hours/day) results in a reduction in life expectancy.
  • As reported in this article by Frank Claps, M. ED., CSCS, those who exercise regularly have a decreased risk of having hypertension and a lowered mortality potential.
  • Statistics from the American Heart Association indicate that a quarter million deaths each year in the United States can be attributed to a lack of regular physical activity.
  • A 2014 report from UT Southwestern Medical Center confirms that that sedentary behavior can lower cardiorespiratory fitness levels.
To reduce health risks and increase your chances for a long and healthy life, health professionals assert that any regular improvement in levels of exercise can show benefits.  Here are super-easy tips to help you start making positive health improvements through modest physical activity:
  • If you work at a desk, set an egg timer to ding every half hour or so, and use that ding as a reminder to stand up, even briefly, and take a short walk through your workplace hallways.
  • Likewise, if you are at home watching TV, keep an egg timer by your chair, set to remind you to get up and move about every half hour or hour.
  • Make a shared commitment with one or two friends to meet a couple of times a week to go for walks together. Start slow – perhaps just around the block – and eventually increase your distance or the amount of time you plan to walk together.
  • Try to incorporate moderate weightlifting into your day. This can be as simple as keeping handy a couple of one-gallon water jugs, which you can start working with at just a quarter full, eventually increasing the volume of water. Doing simple arm curls or lifting from the shoulders can help you retain muscle mass while burning calories.
  • If you work on the second or third floor at your office, consider regularly taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
One note: Even though the American Heart Association states that about nine out of 10 heart attacks occur while in a resting state – not during physical activity as many assume to be the case – there can be risks inherent to any increase in exercise, depending on your current health. So, before undertaking any new exercise program, first get the thumbs-up from your physician.

Have you made positive changes in reducing the amount of inactive time you spend daily? How did you make those changes? Please share your tips and success stories using our comments field below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Going Gluten Free: The Controversy Continues

It’s a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Often known as the ingredient that provides elasticity in baked goods, gluten has the potential to cause a myriad of symptoms in individuals with a gluten allergy, intolerance, sensitivity or celiac disease.  And it’s a hot topic at the moment. But, while a gluten-free diet is essential for individuals with a diagnosed gluten issue, is there really any benefit to going gluten free for anyone else?

Types of gluten-free diets:

  • An elimination diet
  • A replacement diet

Elimination, as the name suggests, requires removing any gluten from the diet. In many cases, an elimination diet resembles a low-carbohydrate diet, where items containing gluten, such as breads, pasta and baked goods, are no longer consumed on a regular basis.  However, to completely eliminate gluten from the diet, individuals need to be conscious of all the food items that might contain the protein, such as soups, sauces and gravies, for example. A typical meal with an elimination diet includes a portion of protein, vegetables and a gluten-free starch; dessert on a diet eliminating gluten can be fruit.

A replacement diet, however, requires finding items to substitute for those containing gluten. Those who follow a gluten-free replacement diet often look to include breads, baked goods and pasta in their meals in moderate amounts.  These replacement food items are made with a variety of gluten-free flours.

Some otherwise healthy individuals claim going gluten free has helped them:
Lose weight
Boost energy levels
Alleviate gastrointestinal distress

Yet, experts warn against these claims.

According to Dr. Daniel A. Leffler, director of clinical research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, there is no significant benefit to going gluten free for the average person.

In fact, Dr. Leffler claims the practice is a “waste of money” because gluten-free products are expensive. To be clear, Dr. Leffler is referring to a gluten-free replacement diet.

Drawbacks of going gluten free (for those not suffering from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, sensitivity or allergy):

Possibility of overeating
Loss of vital nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate
Higher caloric, fat and sugar content in many gluten-free replacement products
Gluten-free products are typically more expensive

So, what’s the bottom line?  The most recent research suggests those following a gluten-free diet for weight loss or to improve health should really be focusing on lower carbohydrate intake.  A diet that eliminates gluten may be a healthier alternative for those looking to cut carbohydrates and calories; a gluten-free replacement diet would not be suggested.

Gluten- free diets that replace food items containing gluten with gluten-free alternatives should be left for those who really have an issue with gluten. To date, medical findings do not appear to support utilizing a gluten-free replacement diet for those who have no gluten intolerance, sensitivity, allergy or celiac disease.

For additional information on gluten-free diets and acceptable foods, visit:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What’s in Your Tap Water?

If you want to learn more about your tap water but don’t know where to start, check out these resources, list of possible contaminants, and suggestions for keeping your tap water safe for your family.

Is tap water safe to drink?

That might depend upon where you reside. A study by the National Resources Defense Council questions the safety of drinking water in U.S. cities.  Possible contaminants include:

Lead, which poses health risks, especially to pregnant women and young children.
Germs, which may be dangerous especially to individuals with weakened immune systems, the elderly, and young children.
By-products of chlorine treatment. These toxins may cause cancer and reproductive problems.
Arsenic. This toxin can cause cancer, skin problems, birth defects, and reproductive disorders.
Radon, the rocket fuel perchlorate, other carcinogens, and toxic chemicals.
Nitrates. Above 10 ppm, nitrates can present health risks for infants less than 6 months of age. The level of nitrates in tap water may rise due to rainfall or agricultural activity.

Where can you find information regarding the safety of your tap water?

Every city is required to supply public reports regarding the safety of water. Check with your water supplier for specific information on your area. Additional sources:

National Resources Defense Council
U.S. Geological Survey
The Environmental Working Group

How to ensure tap water safety:

1. Have water tested periodically.
2. Check reports from your water supplier.
3. Consider a water filter system. Check out to determine the best filter for your household.
4. Decide if bottled water may be a better choice for your family.

How can you test your tap water?

Home water testing is a simple way to monitor your home’s tap water safety. Visit this site for information.

How can you protect your tap water?

Remember anything you put on the ground or down a storm drain can make its ways into groundwater or other water sources.
Be careful of using fertilizer, and pick up promptly after your pets.
Keep up with care of your vehicles. Oil, antifreeze, and Freon that have leaked from a vehicle can wash away, winding up back in the environment.
Call 911 if you witness an accident or intentional dumping that may result in an environmental hazard.

What is hard water?

Hard water contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The scale for hard water is as follows:

0 - 5 grains/gallon = soft water
6-10 grains/gallon = moderately hard water
> 11 grains/gallon = hard water

Is hard water hazardous to your health?

Since they’re not hazardous to your health, the minerals in hard water don’t need to be removed from your water. However, mineral deposits, the white spots or streaks that appear on faucets and fixtures, might prove to be a household nuisance. It can be more difficult to make “suds” with hard water; some individuals claim hard water has a negative effect on their hair and skin.

Is cloudy tap water a problem?

Cloudy water, also known as white water, usually clears up quickly and is harmless. Air bubbles, or the pressure of water in the pipes, might cause cloudy water.

With the amount of information available regarding your water supply, it’s not difficult to keep tabs on the quality of your tap water to ensure safe use for you and your family.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Latest on TB

What is TB?

According to the Center for Disease Control, TB is a disease caused by a bacterium that typically affects the lungs. Also known as tuberculosis, TB can attack other organs such as the kidneys, the spine, and the brain. Left untreated, TB can be fatal. But, the disease is curable.

History of TB:

TB was once the leading cause of death in the U.S.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, the disease became an epidemic. TB still causes an estimated 1.5 million deaths annually.  While reported cases of TB are at a record low, the disease remains a worldwide health concern today, especially in undeveloped countries.

Symptoms of TB:

A persistent cough lasting for more than a few weeks.
Weight loss.
Weakness and/or fatigue.
Chest pain.
Coughing up blood.
Lack of appetite.
Night sweats.

What is the difference between latent and active TB?

With latent tuberculosis, you have the TB infection in your body, but you have no symptoms. The disease remains inactive and is not contagious. However, latent TB must be treated. Approximately 1/3 of the world’s population has latent tuberculosis!

In the case of active tuberculosis, you will suffer from symptoms, you will feel sick, and you are also contagious.

Is tuberculosis contagious?

Yes, active tuberculosis can quickly and easily spread through air particles from an infected person who is coughing or sneezing, for instance, to others. This is why it’s not uncommon to hear of TB outbreaks occurring after an infected individual uses mass transportation or travels by plane. Despite this, experts say that it’s not that easy to catch TB.

How is TB diagnosed?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Physical Exam: Your doctor will check your lymph nodes and listen to your lungs while breathing to help determine if tuberculosis might be present.
Skin Test: The most common test for TB. A reaction on your skin in the area you’re tested indicates the possibility of having TB. False-negative results may occur, so follow-up tests usually confirm a diagnosis.
Blood Test: Typically used to rule out or confirm latent or active TB after skin test.
Chest X-Ray: Confirms findings of a skin test.
Sputum Test: This method, used after an x-ray, involves testing the sputum, mucus you bring up while coughing, for the TB bacterium.

Risk factors for catching TB:

Anyone with a compromised immune system has a greater chance of catching TB if exposed. Examples include:

Being infected with HIV.
Having other chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, which affect the body’s ability to fight infection.
Alcohol or tobacco use.
Improper treatment of tuberculosis in the past.

Treatments for TB:

The standard treatment is 6 months of antibiotics. This course of treatment can last up to 2 years if the medications stop working, which is known as drug resistance.

Latest findings:

Vitamin A may help to fight TB by boosting the immune system, according to this article.
TB can be difficult to treat because it is often drug resistant. This means scientists need to keep finding new drugs for the treatment of this disease. Medications known as multiple-target drugs have shown signs of being good treatment options. See this article for more details.
The TB Alliance is planning to launch a study of a combination of TB drugs used as a “cocktail” to treat the disease.  The hope is this new treatment option will alleviate the occurrence of drug resistance with TB.

For more information, visit or

Be Wize & Be Healthy

The Caffeine Kick

Caffeine-enhanced products are popping up everywhere – from drinks and gum to slimming body wear and eye cream. But, how safe are these products for consumption and use? Here’s what you need to know to keep your family healthy and safe.

How safe is caffeine overall?

According to reports, adults who consume caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and hot cocoa can actually experience mental benefits such as short-term focus and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Green tea offers added benefits by affecting areas in the brain responsible for motivation, focus, and pleasure.  Moderate amounts of caffeine are typically safe for women to consume during pregnancy, but caffeinated drinks are not advised for children.

What are the risks of consuming too much caffeine?

Poor quality of sleep.
Cardiovascular symptoms.
In large amounts, caffeine may stop absorption of calcium, leading to thinning bones (osteoporosis).
Consumption may lead to fibrocystic disease, painful, lumpy breasts.

How much caffeine is in foods?

Coffee – 100 mg per cup
Tea – 14 - 60 mg per cup
Cola drinks – 45 mg per 12 oz. drink
Chocolate – 45 mg per 1.5 oz.
Candy, snacks, and gum – 40 – 100 mg per serving

What products can contain caffeine without consumers knowing?

Non-cola sodas
Ice cream
Pain relievers
Cold medicines

How much caffeine can you consume per day?

**Consume no more than 200 -300 mg of caffeine per day, which is two to three 8 oz. cups of coffee or five servings of caffeinated soft drinks or tea**

How do you calculate caffeine content of products?

This is where part of the difficulty with caffeine consumption comes in. Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require manufacturers to list caffeine content on labels, consumers are often unaware they’re consuming additional caffeine. In the case of caffeine-enhanced products, such as eye cream or body wear, there is no clear-cut answer regarding how much caffeine is absorbed into the body with use. As a result, you might be taking in more caffeine than you’ve accounted for.

The solution? Be aware of products, such as those mentioned above, that may contain small amount of caffeine. If using caffeine-enhanced products where it’s unclear how much caffeine you might be exposed to, make allowances for that additional caffeine, as insignificant as it may seem, as part of your daily intake. Check out this site for more info regarding caffeine-infused products.

What about caffeine-enhanced energy drinks?

These drinks provide temporary benefits such as increased alertness and enhanced energy levels, which explains why students often rely on these drinks to stay awake while studying. However, energy drinks can be dangerous to your health, and especially that of your children, due to their high caffeine levels, according to recent findings from the University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University, published in Preventive Medicine. According to this site, caffeine contents of energy drinks may range from 50 - 500 mg, clearly exceeding the AMA’s recommendations for daily caffeine consumption. When you couple the high caffeine content with being high in sugar, these drinks are linked to serious health risks.

Keep your family members safe and healthy with greater awareness as well as moderate consumption and use of caffeine-enhanced products.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quick and Easy Thanksgiving Cleanup

You and your family gobbled up the Thanksgiving Day meal, but now it’s time for the cleanup. Rather than groan at the thought of the chore, enlist the help of family members, and your cleanup will be a breeze.

How can you ensure a quick and easy Thanksgiving cleanup?

Have storage containers ready. Younger family members can help with cleanup by transferring mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and other side dishes into separate bowls for storage. Always label and date the containers for quickly locating in the refrigerator.

Clean the turkey bone. Always have an adult take care of this task, putting leftover meat into separate containers for sandwiches, baked dishes and soup.

Save the wishbone. If it’s your family tradition to save the wishbone to determine future good luck, place it out of hands of young children and pets while drying.

Safely dispose of discards. To ensure pets and young children can’t get into garbage, be sure to wrap everything well and throw out of reach of little paws and hands.

What do you need to know about leftovers?

According to the Mayo Clinic, you can safety keep leftovers for three to four days in the refrigerator. If you don’t think you’re likely to use leftovers within that timeframe, it’s best to freeze them.
To avoid food poisoning, refrigerate leftovers promptly and don’t let them sit for more than two hours at room temperature.
Refrigerate turkey and stuffing separately, rather than in one container.

What are the best uses for leftover turkey or ham?

You can quickly turn Thanksgiving leftovers into everyday meals by using either turkey or ham in soups, casseroles and sandwiches. With fresh new recipes, these ideas for leftovers are anything but boring.

Sandwiches are always a big hit with leftovers. Put a new twist on a classic sandwich with this recipe idea. Open-faced sandwiches are another idea. With gravy, stuffing or potatoes and a spoonful of cranberry sauce, you can easily create a delicious hot meal for your family to enjoy. Looking for a healthier alternative? Consider a wrap instead of sandwich bread.
Soups are an easy way to use leftover ham or turkey. Once cooked, soup can easily be frozen for use during the cold winter months. Check out this recipe for Creamy Mashed Potato and Turkey Soup.
Individual potpies can be made with both ham and turkey.  Step-by-step instruction are available at
Replace bacon or sausage with ham or turkey as a breakfast meat for a change of pace.

Additional suggestions for leftovers:

Consider making individual meals for elderly neighbors who might not get out for the holiday.  Include a choice of meat, samples of all the fix-ins and a slice of pumpkin pie for a nice treat.
Encourage your guests to create plates to take home for themselves. Often, family members and friends say they enjoy eating out for Thanksgiving but miss the leftovers when they don’t cook at home.
Not a fan of leftovers? Don’t overcook. Keep your meals in proportion to your number of guests to ensure less or no waste.

Do have a favorite recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers? Feel free to share! Happy Thanksgiving.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Protecting Your Precious Eyes

With the increased use of computers and other electronic devices, it’s crucial to protect your eyes from the negative effects these devices may have. Whether you spend only an hour a day on a computer, or have a family member who is glued to an electronic device, it’s important to be aware of the special needs of your precious eyes.

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

According to the American Optometric Association, CVS is a term that encompasses eye and vision-related problems associated with prolonged computer use. It can apply to cell phones and other electronic devices, too.

The most common symptoms of CVS are:

Blurred vision
Dry eyes
Neck and shoulder pain

What factors contribute to the symptoms of CVS?

Poor lighting
Glare on a computer or electronic device screen
Improper viewing distance
Poor seating posture
Uncorrected vision problems
A combination of causes

Why is staring at a computer screen or other device difficult on eyes?

In general, eyes work harder when viewing electronic devices than reading a printed page due to the unique characteristics of the screen and the high visual demands of viewing it. Letters on an electronic device are often not as precise or sharply defined as those on a printed page. In addition, the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult.

How is CVS diagnosed?

A comprehensive eye exam, including an eyesight test.
A patient history.
Other specific tests as needed, including those to check measurements and how the eyes are focusing.

If you’re diagnosed with CVS, how is your overall vision affected?

Typically, most symptoms of CVS are temporary and will decline or stop completely after cutting back on or alleviating computer work. In rare instances, eye symptoms continue to worsen over time.

How can you protect your eyes from electronic devices?

Control the lightning and glare on your computer or electronic device screens. Consider a computer screen eye protector, if necessary.
Maintain the appropriate posture when using a computer or other device.
Establish a proper working distance from any electronic screen.

What are the recommendations for preventing or alleviating CVS?

Location of computer screen. Your eyes should be looking downward, approximately 4-5 inches below eye level.
Reference materials.  Placing reference materials beside your monitor usually works best. Refrain from moving your head back and forth from document to screen.
Lighting. Avoid glare from lighting and windows.
Seating. Use a comfortable chair, with feet flat on the floor. Your wrists should not rest on the keyboard.
Rest. For every two hours of computer work, rest your eyes for 15 minutes. In addition, for every 20 minutes of computer viewing, look into the distance to refocus eyes for a few minutes.
Blink. Help minimize dry eye by blinking as you work. Blinking keeps the front surface of your eye moist, which helps to alleviate this symptom.

What else do you need to know?

Special glasses for computer use are sometimes necessary. Even individuals who have an eyeglass or contact lens prescription may find it's not suitable for their computer requirements. Your eye care professional will work with you to determine your specific needs.

Sometimes vision therapy, also called visual training, might be necessary. This therapy is a series of eye exercises that assist the eyes and brain in working together more effectively.

Be Wize & Be Healthy,