Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poor Sleep Linked to Hypertension and Preeclampsia

Research Links Poor Sleep and Snoring to Hypertension and Preeclampsia

Smoking. Poor Diet. High stress. Lack of exercise. All are things that raise our risk of hypertension. Although the causes of hypertension and preeclampsia are relatively mysterious, a new factor can be added to the list of possible culprits—poor sleep quality.

According to a study conducted at the University of Pisa in Italy, over 230 participants, both males and females whose average age was 58, who had problems sleeping were two times more likely to have resistant hypertension than those without sleep complications.
Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure. Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide defines resistant hypertension as blood pressure that remains high even when treated with lifestyle changes and medication. In fact, if blood pressure diagnosis is still high after treatment with three or more blood pressure medications, it is typically diagnosed as resistant hypertension. This condition increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.

This research identified a link between poor sleep and hypertension; however, the exact cause of the link has not been identified.

Another link between getting better sleep and preventing hypertension was found by the University of Michigan in a study of over 1,700 women during the last twelve weeks during pregnancy. It is the largest study of this type and drew some interesting conclusions. This study found that women who experienced the onset of snoring during pregnancy have a greater chance of developing high blood pressure. University of Michigan concluded that if a definite link between snoring and maternal hypertension can be established, then up to 19% of hypertension disorders found during pregnancy might be treatable and relieved with treatment of sleep disordered breathing.

Untreated hypertension in a woman during pregnancy is potentially life threatening to both mother and child. Known as preeclampsia, it is the number one cause of fetal complications. For this reason, it is important to understand how to sleep better and lower your risk of preeclampsia in pregnancy.

How Can I Prevent Preeclampsia?
  • Understand the symptoms of hypertension. According to the University of Michigan, developing snoring during pregnancy could be a red flag.  Tell your doctor; it is now one of many possible signs of hypertension.
  • Ask your doctor if a sleep study may be necessary to diagnose a sleep disorder.
  • The ideal sleeping position for a pregnant woman is lying on her left side so that internal organs are positioned to allow blood flow.
Pregnant or not, getting better sleep is a simple way to try lowering your blood pressure. Along with the proper medications and a healthy diet and lifestyle, quality sleep may be an answer to many hypertension problems. As a college student, however, I know that getting enough quality sleep can seem nearly impossible with a busy schedule. There are a few simple guidelines I follow to keep my sleep schedule on track.

Tips to Sleep Better
  • Stay active. Your body will naturally sleep soundly if you get more physical activity.
  • Be consistent. Try to wake up at the same time every day, and try to get to bed at the same time every night. This creates a sleep schedule that will make waking up and falling asleep much easier.
  • Avoid physical distractions such as bright lights, buzzing cell phones, and any distracting background noise.
  • Try to ignore any mental distractions. Pushing tomorrow’s anxieties out of your mind is a critical step to falling asleep.
  • Cut caffeine out of your evening diet. It seems obvious, but many people do not realize that even after a few hours, caffeine can still have an effect. It’s safest just to consume any caffeine exclusively in the morning and afternoon.
Hypertension and preeclampsia are serious health issues and can be difficult to understand. There is plenty that is still unknown about these conditions. Research on this subject, however, is paving the way to a better understanding that will give way to more effective treatments. For now, recognize your symptoms and schedule an appointment with your doctor to address any concerns. Focus on incorporating quality sleep into your healthy lifestyle in the meantime— it may be the missing link to treating or preventing resistant hypertension. 

Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy National Candy Corn Day!

candy corn candy
How many of you knew that October 30th was National Candy Corn Day?  Candy Corn is one of those delectable delights that you either love or hate!  I happen to be one of the many that LOVE the little corn shaped popular Halloween Candies.  Candy Corn is one of the things that I can say has been around a lot longer than I have!  That can't be said for a lot of other things in our fast changing world out there. 

popular Halloween candies
Candy Corn one of the most
popular Halloween candies.
Did you know that candy corn resulted from the works of a mastermind with a sweet tooth named George Renninger.  He worked for the Wunderlee Candy Company out of Philadelphia in the 1880's, when he concocted this little sweetness.  It was made to look like a kernel of corn to entice the farmers to buy them.  Guess he was a pretty smart guy as they haven't changed shape since then.  In 1900, The Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Co) started mass producing the candy but due to lack of machinery, it became a seasonal treat, available from March to November.  Now you will find the candies at Christmas time and Easter with a varying flavor so we can indulge just about year round! 

Today, Brach's Candy Co. is the top producer of the infamous best Halloween candy.  Brach's sells enough candy corn candy each year to circle the earth 4.25 times if placed end on end, kernel by kernel!  Now if that isn't a great trivia question that you can stump your friends on I don't know what is.

Little Kernels of Information

  • Candy Corn is primarily made from sugar, corn syrup and artificial coloring.  Some makers of this tiny little treat use binding agents in their recipe.
  • In the Brach's Candy Co. version you can eat 20 pieces and take in 150 calories.  There are 0 grams of fat in candy corn.
  • There are 9 billion (yes billion) kernels produced each and every year AND it is the top searched for candy on Google!

Here is a common recipe for trail mix that you can mix up and treat your company to during the Halloween season. I added cranberries, nuts and chocolate chips, but you can use just about anything in this!

Goblin Gorp ~

Popular Halloween candies
Goblin Gorp. photo by JanuaryBride.

2 cups peanuts and 1 cup pretzels
1/2 cup Gold Fish Crackers
1 cup chocolate chips (or M&Ms)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
1 cup Candy Corn candy

This is a great treat for the kids with less sugar!


Halloween Party Activities!


Candy Corn Fun Activity! 

Rather than go for the typical Trick or Treat night have a Halloween get together for the neighborhood children and make your own safe, fun evening for children of all ages!  Here is just one suggestion for a game that is lots of fun!

Candy Corn Hunts


Children delight in hunting games. Hide ten candy corns in an area – beneath the table, behind the door, on the planter. You may have to throw out a couple "getting warmer/colder" hints to aid in the effort. If you leave them uncovered, even the youngest children will be able to find their bright colors.

If you want to spice up the game, put the candy in little cellophane bags and tie with decorative ribbon. Hide them all around - either inside or out - for a new spin on the Easter egg hunt.

Create a trail of candy corn for children to follow. Lead them through the lawn, or a maze - or through a cluttered house. Depending on the cleanliness of their bedrooms, you might use this game to help your kids find their beds! If you stick a toothpick into the wide end of the candy, you instantly have an arrow. Use the arrows for hints in your hunt.

So make sure you shop early to get a good supply of this popular Halloween Candy.  You will want to make sure you have some on hand for those ghosts and goblins! So I leave you with this little thought from Candy Corn Wonderland:

Halloween is almost here
goblins and ghosts, oh the fear!
Pumpkins, black cats and witches too,
Bobbing for apples and witches brew.
So jump for joy and sound the horn,
relax and have some candy corn!


Cindy Foley

Contributing Writer  

Monday, October 29, 2012

For the Troops

meaning of deployment
Wondering what to send the troops?
Send them peace of mind by helping their families.

Most Americans want to support the troops, but with less than 1% of us serving in the military, it's hard for the rest of us to know what kind of support the troops really need. What's it like to go to war? What's the meaning of deployment? Well, the military conducted a survey that reveals the three biggest causes of stress for deployed service members.

The third biggest turns out to be difficulty within the unit, things like personality conflicts and abusive leadership. The second biggest cause of stress is combat. If you're like me, you probably assumed that would be number one.

losing a loved one
When a parent deploys
it's like losing a loved one,
and children may act out or withdraw.
But actually, the number one stress for deployed service members is trouble at home. The home front causes nearly twice as much stress as the battlefront. So instead of wondering what to send the troops in a care package, the best way to help a deployed service member is to help their family back home.

I guess I should have seen that coming. I'm married to a Navy chaplain who has deployed to war zones three times, twice with Marines on the move, getting shot at. The first time he headed out, I thought I was the only crazy one crying in the shower and imagining his funeral. I didn't find out until much later that my reaction was totally normal when you're facing the possibility of losing a loved one. It's called anticipatory grief, and it's very common among families who have a loved one with a terminal illness... or a loved one who deploys to a war zone.

death of a loved one
The fear of a knock at the door
announcing the death of a loved one
can lead to anticipatory grief.
That fear of a knock at the door announcing the death of a loved one is at the back of your mind every waking moment of a deployment. Anticipatory grief can result in a whole constellation of symptoms, including anxiety attacks, insomnia, and headaches. If it leads to depression, or you self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, you've got trouble on the home front. Anticipatory grief and loneliness are the two biggest emotional challenges most families face when their service member deploys.

For the spouses of deployed service members, other challenges include increased responsibilities at home and a drop in income -- they often have to cut back at work to handle everything that goes with managing a household on their own and, if they have kids, being the only parent.

Military family members have to deal with phone calls and emails from the front, too, often in the middle of the night -- anytime their loved one gets a break and has access to a phone or computer. Meanwhile, depending on a family's feelings about the war, they may feel isolated or alienated from the military community, or the civilian community.

All these challenges overwhelm some of us. Others figure out how to cope and even grow stronger and more resilient. Still, we can all use some help now and then.

If you know a family going through a deployment, offer hands-on, practical help -- mow the lawn, bring meals, take the kids for a few hours so the home front parent can run errands, or just lend a listening ear. Don't judge and don't offer opinions about the war, pro or con. Military families are as diverse as civilians in their opinions. The difference is that their opinions are part of how they cope with the intense emotions of a deployment. Undermining that is not helpful.

If you're a teacher, keep an eye on kids with a deployed parent. If they start acting out or withdrawing, or show up for school looking like they got dressed in the dark, odds are there's an overwhelmed parent at home who's struggling, too. Educate yourself about available family support services so you can share that information -- Military OneSource is a good place to start. Believe it or not, many military families have no idea what's available.

Even if you don't know anyone in the military, you can still help through a variety of nonprofit civilian organizations. To find one with a good reputation, visit the White House's Joining Forces website and volunteer or donate.

death of a loved one
Many military families are unaware that family support services are available.
Mental health professionals can donate their time through organizations like SOFARGive an Hour, and NAMI. Animal lovers can foster a deployed service member's beloved pet through Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet. There's something for everyone. Whole communities can weave together a safety net of support to ensure no military family falls through the cracks. A complete list of suggestions, resources, and family support services are on my website.

-- Kristin Henderson, author of "While They're at War: The True Story of American Families on the Homefront"

Friday, October 26, 2012

FamilyWize Points Donegan Elementary in the Right Direction

Students at Donegan Elementary School
attend FamilyWize event.
On October 17, FamilyWize joined Donegan Elementary School in a ribbon-tying ceremony celebrating its introduction as the newest United Way COMPASS School in the Lehigh Valley, PA as its lead corporate sponsor. The FamilyWize initiative began in 2005 with the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley at the Fowler Family Center, located in Donegan. After recognizing and fulfilling a need within this localized community, CEO Dan Barnes points to Donegan and United Way as one of the key motivating forces that “challenged us to expand.” FamilyWize is so happy for the success it has gained since then and to have come full circle and be able to give back to the community in which it first gained a foothold toward success. Lehigh University also joined FamilyWize as the school’s sponsor.

The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s COMPASS program (Community Partners for Student Success) is an initiative that encourages community partnership with educational institutions to ensure that students have all the resources necessary to follow their dreams and pursue academic success. These resources are not only limited to financial sponsorship but especially focus on mentorship from leaders in the community. It encourages students to take part in community service projects and empowers parents to take a more active role within the student body. COMPASS emphasizes education, leadership and character development to help guide students toward a fulfilling future.

The United Way of the GLV states that the community school model focuses on the following elements, reported by the Coalition for Community Schools that have been proven to increase students’ learning potential:

  • Access to high quality early childhood programs
  • Quality education through high standards for all students
  • A wide range of positive youth development opportunities
  • Services that help students/families to meet their basic needs
  • Mutual respect and effective collaboration among parents, staff and the community
  • Safe and supportive learning environment

Susan Gilmore, President of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, noted that efforts to provide quality education for children in their community cannot be totally fulfilled by the United Way alone, but depend heavily on the support and partnership with businesses and individuals within the community. She spoke about leadership programs within the school, reading programs and activities at the school that were made possible through United Way and participation from the community. The Lehigh University Black Student Union also showed their support by taking part in a performance of “Lean on Me” by Donegal’s students. Some Lehigh University student athletes were also present and Lehigh University president, Alice Gast, discussed their involvement in the “Reading Rocks” program which drives home the importance of education in addition to students’ extracurricular activities.

A student at Donegan, although seemingly nervous, spoke to the crowd with great insight about how involvement from the community, Lehigh University students, United Way volunteers and local small business owners had positively impacted his experience in school.“I like telling people what to do”, he said. “And with the leadership programs here, I could.”  He also spoke about improvement in his reading skills and touted himself as an example of the types of students such partnerships could foster.

United Way
Part of the ribbon that was tied by Dan Barnes,
CEO and Co-Chair at FamilyWize.
When Dan Barnes spoke about FamilyWize’s relationship with Donegan Elementary school, he noted that it began further back than the business relationship that started in 2005. He told about his mother’s involvement with the school as a teacher and continued involvement as the coordinator between FamilyWize and Donegan, today.  Emphasizing the special relationship he has with Donegan both professionally and personally, Dan Barnes volunteered at Donegan when he was in middle school, reading to the younger children . He then tied a ribbon with the FamilyWize name onto a larger ribbon with the other community partners’ names, signifying multiple entities and institutions coming together to help usher in a new future for the students at Donegan Elementary School.

working in Bethlehem PA
It takes a village to make a school successful.
FamiliyWize is proud to embark on this journey
with the people of Lehigh Valley.
The faces of proud parents, students and teachers spoke volumes about how the United Way COMPASS movement inspired real faith and optimism in the community about the future of their school. Many of the speakers talked about their long history of participation in the Bethlehem Area school district. Visitors to the school got the sense that the audience was made up of much more than just individuals but rather a school community that has come together as a family to ensure that their children have the optimal potential for success. FamilyWize is excited and proud to embark on this new journey with them, toward helping improve the lives of people in the Lehigh Valley by creating happier, healthier communities through quality education and community involvement.

Christina Colon
Contributing Writer and FamilyWize Marketing Team Member

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Carving - A Halloween Tradition

Well, it's that time of year again...fiery red and glittery golden leaves wafting to the ground, the air is crisp and we're starting to see scary ghosts and monsters on front lawns. What would Halloween be without carved pumpkins, large and small, to add that festive touch to our front steps and porches?

Driving through our rain-swept streets, I've seen carvings from the traditional Jack-o-lanterns to some of my favorite celebrities carved into these orange gourds! Pumpkin carving dates back centuries to Ireland and was reportedly brought to America in the 1800's. Regardless of how it came here, it's a part of the Halloween history of decorating that no trick or treating night would be complete without.

largest pumpkin
Spooky pumpkin patterns are a Halloween tradition.

When I was a kid, we just carved triangle eyes and a mouth and that was it. These days, carving is at a whole new level. I saw a pumpkin carved into Jimi Hendrix and one was a scene from Star Wars. Well, I found out there are stencils for cool pumpkin patterns. What makes it even better is that you can download these cool pumpkin templates for free! Pumpkin Masters has some free fun patterns that include easy to follow instructions. Or just search "free pumpkin carving templates" in your browser's search box and you'll find plenty of choices.

Pick a Perfect Pumpkin

Remember, you can buy pumpkins at your local grocery, farmer's market or go to a "pick your own" pumpkin patch. The Farmer's Almanac gives some helpful pointers for picking the best pumpkin for carving:

pumpkin seed recipe
Buy locally grown, buy small or get the
biggest pumpkin they have!
  • Pick a pumpkin with a smooth surface. These tend to look better when carved. However, a few small dents or nicks might enhance your design.
  • Avoid bruised pumpkins as they will decay more quickly.
  • Light colored pumpkins are easier to carve as they are softer.
  • The biggest pumpkin is not always the best pumpkin. Consider your design. Smaller designs need smaller pumpkins, etc.
  • The pumpkin should be flatter on the bottom so it will not roll while carving or holding a candle or light.

 How to Carve

WikiHow has great step-by-step instructions for carving your pumpkin up just right to make a scary Jack-o-lantern or a fun smiling face pumpkin. Basically, you want to make sure the pumpkin is clean and dry before you get started. Then:
  • Carve off the pumpkin top. If your pumpkin doesn't have a pretty flat bottom, carve off a little to make it sit upright and steady.
  • Scoop out the insides, and don't forget to save the seeds. You'll use them later in a great pumpkin seed recipe.
  • Tape your spooky pumpkin stencils to your pumpkins and use a pumpkin carving tool to trace the image onto your pumpkins. Some people are creative and like to draw the picture free hand. 
  • You can purchase a pumpkin carving tool kit for carving your design. These work well, especially if you are carving with your children. Sharp, serrated edged knives can be dangerous when carving any fruit, so put safety first!
  • If you choose to use real candles to light your Jack-o-lanterns, make sure they are not near anything flammable. Battery operated tea lights are a great and safe way to light up your new cool pumpkin carvings.
Pumpkin Seeds

Toasting pumpkin seeds is easy. All you need are the seeds, washed and dried, some olive or vegetable oil and seasoning. Salt and pepper will do, or you can add just about anything from cinnamon to garlic, to make pumpkin seeds recipe unique. There are many ways to cook pumpkin seeds, just use your imagination. They can be seasoned and tossed into a salad, used to decorate pumpkin muffins or cupcakes or even added to your own homemade trail mix. Pumpkin seeds are not only a fun snack but they also have some great nutritional value. Here are a few facts about pumpkin seeds:
  • Pumpkin seeds are also called pepitas.
  • They are rather high in calories, 1/4 cup = 186 calories.
  • They are one of the most healthy seeds available. 
  • Although they are high in calories and most of their calories come from fat, they are high in the heart-health polyunsaturated-fat.
So don't be afraid to eat them, they make a much healthier snack than a candy bar. Ooooohhh did someone say CANDY?????

pumpkin carving tool
Pumpkin display at Indian Walk market in Buckingham, PA


Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Canning - A Winter tradition that saves money!

Beautiful fall canning memories

My memories of childhood, most definitely, include my mother canning through the fall season. We grew up in the beautiful northwestern hills and mountains of Pennsylvania. My parents always had a bountiful garden. In fact, my dad still does to this day. I love reminiscing about the smells of all the grape juice, pickles, and applesauce that my mom had brewing on the stove.We enjoyed our tasty supply all year long!

Now one thing to know about my mom is that she was from Brooklyn, NY. Canning was NOT in her repertoire of experience. I say that to prove that if my city-born mother could learn the art of canning, with no experience, then anybody can!  The only tools she had were desire and a financial need to save money on food. In this day and age of rising costs and an unpredictable economy, canning can be a very valuable skill to have in our own money saving tool box.

Benefits of Preserves

One of the perks of canning at home is that you limit your exposure to the chemicals and pesticides used on so much produce and seafood. In fact, most commercially prepared vegetables, fruits, spreads and sauces contain added sugar, salt and preservatives. These ingredients can not only be unnecessary because the natural flavors of foods don't always need enhancers like added sugar and salt. They can also raise health risks for people suffering from serious health problems. Home canners have complete control over the ingredients they put in their food. They can choose organic, local and fresh ingredients. If you choose your produce carefully, you can limit your exposure to pesticides and other chemicals found in so many packaged foods today.

When you can’t eat fresh… preserve it!

home canners
Canning preserves nutrition and flavor.

When you pick foods at their peak of ripeness they are far superior nutritionally, even when preserved.  The vitamin C content in tomatoes, for example, increases when the vegetables are allowed to fully ripen on the vine. The challenge with a garden is that everything seems to ripen at once. The solution to making the most of a bountiful garden is to preserve the food by canning. Since letting produce ripen on the vine increases its nutritional value, canning and preserving them at the peak of ripeness will preserve their vitamins and minerals.


We preserve many things in our lives. Food is one of those things, and preserving your own self-reliance is very important as well. If there is a natural disaster and supplies are short, will you have your own food, or be prepared to store food you’ve harvested yourself? Not feeling powerless in life is more valuable than we often realize  Preserving your own food in times of hardship could turn out to be one of the most significant benefits of learning this art. It gives you the confidence to know you can do other things to take care of yourself, and those you love.

Home Canning
preserve canning
Home canning saves money!

Home canning used to be one of the only ways to safely preserve fresh foods from decaying. Of course, that was before we had so many canned and frozen foods on the market, before so many food preservative options and, of course, refrigeration. The canning techniques developed in the late 1800s are the same ones we use today. 

Reading the labels on store bought food can give you some insight as to why home canning can be healthier. On store labels you find ingredients like salt, sugar, and preservatives. Canning your own food lets you decide whether to add sugar and salt and how much you want to put in. The advantage of home canning is that preservatives are not necessary because the canning method is what preserves the food.

Money Saving AND Nutritional Value - you can’t beat that!

Another good reason to preserve food by canning is to save money! Whether you grow your own food or buy in bulk from your local farmer, canning will help you save money and keep quality food on your table.

Let’s say you are NOT a person with a “green thumb.” That’s okay; you can visit your local farmer and take advantage of the best produce in your area. You can buy in bulk so that you get a good price and then preserve the food so that you have plenty of fresh grown fruits and vegetables throughout the year. If you like to buy locally grown produce, then you know that most produce is only available when it's in season, in your area. Canning produce means you can take advantage of in-season vegetables and fruit and extend their great taste and value beyond the growing season. You get better tasting food and support local farmers at the same time.

Not sure where to begin? The USDA offers a complete guide to help you with everything from selecting to preparing fresh vegetables, fruits, raw meats and fish. The National Center for Home Food Preservation also has a comprehensive link for information about how to can safely as well as tips about what not to do.

Canning Recipes

There are many options when canning. In case you are unfamiliar with preserves, here are a few for you, so you can go on a great canning adventure of your own!

Simply Canning and All Recipes are sites that give tips about all types of canning:

canning and preserving
Preserving food is practical and saves money.
  • Jam preserves
  • Canning fruit
  • Tomato canning
  • Canning salsa
  • Canning pickles 

A Word About Freezing

Freezing is also an option for preserving food. However when freezing, label your packages with the name and date and be sure your freezer is in good working condition. In case there is a power outage you would need to have a generator to keep the freezer running, or you could risk losing what you have frozen.

Have a Great and Fabulous Canning Adventure!

Gwendolyn Adams
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tricks for Treats

Halloween is always a fun and favorite time of the year for kids. They get to dress-up and be someone else for the day plus this is the one day that candy is considered okay. Pretty much all the rules are thrown out the window and kids can really be kids with no worries. Even though there aren't many rules to follow here are some ideas that may help to have a safe and unforgettable Halloween.

Trick or Treating Tips

When my girls were younger I would always wonder when were the best trick or treating times? Daylight savings not changing until November 4th makes it nice for young children. This way kids can get started early and finish up while it's still light out. Speaking as a parent and a teacher, nothing is worse then sending your child to school the next morning after a long night of trick or treating. Plus, the earlier you go the better chances you have that no one will run out of candy!

Usually you can cover two or three blocks in a couple of hours and be done. Starting earlier with young kids also gets them out before older kids come out with scarier costumes. This is a consideration if you have a child that is easily frightened. 

Halloween Events in your Community

Many communities have alternative activities for Halloween if you don't want to do traditional trick or treating. In our community we have a Halloween party at the high school that all the kids love. It is a safe environment and the kids play fun Halloween games in exchange for candy. There is also a costume contest and plenty of food and beverages. You can Google your city, town or county plus community Halloween parties to find the perfect Halloween event.

Halloween Parties

Throwing a Halloween party is always a good way to keep your kids safe and close. If you are a parent who loves to organize and throw parties this may be a great tradition to start with your kids. There are plenty of great ideas that can make your party a success and it will keep your kids and their friends entertained for years.

Fun Halloween Party Food

Kiwi Frankenstein
Cauldrons filled with goodies
Banana Ghosts
String Cheese Ghosts
Mummy Hot dogs
Zombie Fingernails and blood (Slivered almonds and ketchup)

Spooktacular Halloween Decorations

You can make inexpensive easy Halloween crafts.

trick or treating
Milk Carton Ghosts
All you need is a little imagination, construction paper, markers, and a lot of pumpkins. 

Start by finding some free cut out patterns of bats, pumpkins, ghosts, and witches. Next have your children trace and cut out the Halloween figures. 

Color and hang up all over the house with fishing line.  

You can add streamers, webs, lights and place carved and non carved pumpkins throughout the house to add that extra Halloween feel. 

If your carved pumpkins are in a low place for little fingers to touch make sure you use battery operated tea lights for inside the pumpkins rather than candles to keep your kids and house safe.

Halloween Extras

There are a lot of different Halloween extras that can be found on the Internet that can take a lot of time so I have done all the searching for you and compiled the best of the best to make your Halloween Holiday out of this world. Just click on each idea and it will take you to the page on how to make it or play it. 

Top 5 Easiest Halloween Snacks

Fun and creative Halloween food ideas

Fruit Bat Kabobs

halloween event
Ghoulish Halloween Drinks

Witches Brew
fun Halloween games
Fun Halloween Desserts
(Photo credit

Creepy Dessert Recipes

Free Halloween Print Outs & Game Ideas For Kids


Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cholesterol - More Than a Number

When you think about cholesterol, what comes to mind? Is it a big, juicy cheeseburger with crispy bacon and all the fixings? Is it the thought that only your parents and older relatives have to worry about cholesterol? Is it a guilty feeling in the pit of your stomach that reminds you to pay more attention to your own cholesterol?

As yummy as this looks, it can raise
cholesterol levels.
Here is one way to think about cholesterol. Imagine you had some delicious fried food for supper, and you’ve decided to pour the grease and leftover oil from the frying pan down the drain. As you might already guess, this probably isn’t the best way to dispose of the grease. If you don’t run the hot water while pouring it down the drain, you might end up with a pretty nasty clog the next time you go to use your kitchen sink. Cholesterol impacts our arteries in much the same way, except, our bodies don’t have a natural way to flush out the buildup on the walls of our arteries.

When cholesterol builds up on our artery walls, the heart receives smaller amounts of blood and oxygen. This raises our risk of heart attack and stroke. Removing this plaque from the walls of our arteries is not as simple as turning on the hot water, unfortunately. Cholesterol medication might be necessary if your arteries are showing signs of plaque buildup from having high cholesterol. Surgery to remove the plaque, caused by cholesterol buildup, is also a possibility.

Why Your Cholesterol Numbers Matter

Your cholesterol levels are more than just numbers we need to check from time to time. Our overall health is directly tied to cholesterol numbers, specifically as risk factors for serious health conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Keeping cholesterol at healthy levels prevents irreparable damage so often seen by patients suffering from heart failure, coronary artery disease, and stroke. Doesn’t it make more sense to prevent the problem rather than deal with a major health issue for the rest of your life?

Knowing your cholesterol numbers can help you live a healthier life rather than being surprised at your levels in the future. The American Heart Association encourages all adults of 20 years and up to get a fasting lipoprotein profile once every five years to check total cholesterol, ldl (bad cholesterol), hdl (good cholesterol), and triglycerides. This cholesterol test requires that you do not eat, drink, or take pills for a period of  nine to twelve hours. If you decide to have this test done, be sure to consult your physician if you have any cause for concern about the fast, for example, if you take medication on a daily basis.

High ldl cholesterol is considered a risk factor we can control, since we determine our own diets and lifestyles. See our previous article, Cholesterol - Know Your Numbers, for information about healthy levels. The risks associated with high cholesterol become even greater if you have other major risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Arteries can become clogged with plaque, narrowing the vessels and potentially restricting the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Also, bits of the plaque can break off and get into the bloodstream, causing a heart attack or a stroke.

According to the Texas Heart Institute, stroke is the number three killer of Americans, with someone dying from a stroke every four minutes. Sometimes strokes may not be fatal, but they can be truly debilitating, leaving many patients disabled. One of the top risk factors for stroke is a high level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (ldl cholesterol), and triglycerides, in the blood.

Cholesterol Medication 

As people get older, cholesterol medication may become a part of daily life. Statins are a common drug designed to lower cholesterol in order to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease. WebMd reports that statins, while not entirely free of side effects, prove to be very safe in the majority of patients receiving this type of therapy. If you are in doubt about your own cholesterol situation, make an appointment and review your options with your doctor.

If your doctor does prescribe medication to lower your cholesterol, remember that FamilyWize can help you lower the cost of prescriptions while you lower your bad cholesterol. Download the free discount prescription card and start saving today.

How a Healthy Diet Can Help

low cholesterol
Fried foods can raise ldl cholesterol.
Our heart health is a vital consideration when it comes to diet. Consuming fast food all the time, and eating other foods high in cholesterol, negatively impacts our health in a big way. We should try to avoid a diet high in saturated fat as much as possible, while also watching other foods that are high in dietary cholesterol. Eggs, shrimp, liver, and duck are high in dietary cholesterol, so it may pay to monitor your diet for a healthy heart.

Did you know your morning cup of coffee may have a connection to your cholesterol? The Harvard School of Public Health reports that unfiltered coffee contains cafestol, which has been shown to stimulate LDL cholesterol levels. Drinking filtered coffee should shield you from this substance, but other methods of coffee brewing, such as French press and boiling the coffee, may not separate this element from your beverage.

dietary cholesterol
Low cholesterol foods helps maintain
normal cholesterol levels.
According to the University of Florida, some types of fiber can remove cholesterol from the body, helping to battle high cholesterol levels. Oatmeal, oat bran, fish and Omega 3s, nuts like walnuts and almonds, and olive oil are a few examples of foods that can positively impact your cholesterol, according to Check with your family physician for additional foods that can help you improve your diet and your cholesterol.

Strive for low cholesterol in your diet and normal cholesterol levels whenever you get your numbers checked. Don’t forget the benefits of regular exercise, as well. If you are able to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle now, your body will repay you for it as you get older. Do you do anything special to impact your cholesterol levels? Please share your experiences in our comments below.

Kathryn M. D'Imperio 
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 19, 2012

Autumn Is In the Air!

fall leaves
Bald Eagle State Park in rural Pennsylvania offers fun
Autumn activity for families, activities for children
and beautiful Autumn foliage.

Can’t you just feel the changes in the air? The nights are cooler and the days are getting shorter and shorter.  Autumn has arrived! What do you think of as the season changes from the “dog days” of summer to that wonderful crisp, cool autumn weather? Our beautiful summertime slowly starts to slip away as the leaves start to change colors to display their beautiful autumn foliage and eventually fall from the trees. Could that be why we call it Fall?

Have you ever wondered just what other things start to change along with the seasons. If you have pets or livestock you will notice definite changes in them as they start to grow out their winter coats. Fewer hours of daylight trigger this change. Just like foliage, pets and livestock are part of the changing images of autumn, as their coats get thicker. So if you see horses getting rather fuzzy you will know why! Some animals, like the Arctic fox and hare, change their color to white to camouflage themselves better in winter months.

Time to Talk Healthy!

We also must be aware that changes in weather can affect our health. From flu season to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), we need to keep ourselves healthy as the temperatures drop. Scheduling a seasonal physical with your health care professional is a good idea for all ages to establish a baseline for a variety of areas that are important as we age. Cholesterol levels, thyroid levels and blood sugar are just a few.  By establishing a baseline your doctor knows quickly when there are changes in your body. Your doctor can learn a lot from a simple blood test that actually checks for several things in a person’s body. This can detect early something that could be a potential health issue if left untreated. Make this an annual autumn activity for families!

A visit to the doctor is particularly important for senior citizens as they are more susceptible to flu and cold weather illnesses, like pneumonia. Doctors' offices and many pharmacies offer vaccines and many are covered by insurance. Be sure to check with your insurance company to see what is covered.

Let’s Have Some Fall Fun!
Autumn leaves
Autumn foliage as trees change color

Autumn is my favorite time of the year for other reasons too. The beautiful colors of fall subtly appear on the trees in their autumn leaves ranging from soft yellows and gold to the bold reds of the maple trees. Soon the leaves will fall as the temperatures also begin to fall making way for winter.

images of autumn
Collecting fall leaves for crafts is one of
many Autumn activities for children.

Fall is a great time of the year to dress up your dining room table with mini bouquets of gorgeous leaves tied together with colorful ribbons. It is a great time for easy craft projects with materials at your fingertips out of your own backyard. There are plenty of free fall craft ideas online. Art Is Helping Kids is a great resource for free activities for all seasons.

Fall is also a great time to encourage your kids to help with the yard work. Making a family fun game of raking fall leaves is a great way to motivate kids to get involved. Have relay races to see who can get the biggest pile in the shortest amount of time. Just make sure that you provide them with kid-size tools for safety measures. If you have pine trees in your yard, the kids can gather the pine cones for future craft projects for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pine cone crafts, like making turkey table decorations or scented pine cones for the upcoming holidays, can be easy and fun projects for kids.

This is a really fun time of year that the whole family can enjoy and that offers a variety of activities for children and adults of all ages. Don't hesitate! Get started because Autumn will soon turn to Winter. HAPPY AUTUMN!

Cindy Foley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Talking to Your Teen About Prescription Drugs

What Parents Need to Know

October is the 27th national Talk About Prescriptions month. The annual event was created by the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), which seeks to raise awareness of the dangers prescription medications can pose when taken incorrectly. Helping parents to educate their teenagers about prescription and over-the-counter medication is a main goal of this organization. Talk About Prescriptions month was created to help consumers to be better informed about the need to use medicines properly and to discard of unused medications.

Some topics parents may need to talk about with their teens include:
  • Youth substance abuse
  • Addictions and different types of addiction
  • Substance misuse
  • The importance of patients’ adherence to dosage instructions
  • “Medicine cabinet dangers” – the risks of prescription or over-the-counter medication abuse or misuse


Why is this important?


Good question. And the answer is in the final bullet list item above: Medicine cabinet dangers, or the risks of improperly used prescription or over-the-counter medication. Medicine cabinet risks to teens take many forms, such as not taking medications as prescribed (under- or overdosing), taking prescription medicines not prescribed to the teen, or taking out-of-date medications (see our related article on this topic: Got Prescription Drugs? Get Rid of ‘em!).

It’s important for parents to consider that the average teen hasn’t had much experience with being responsible for their own health or medications. What we as parents think of as common sense may not be so obvious to our teens. And what little they do know about drugs is information they get from their peers, which may be incorrect or even dangerously wrong.


Starting the Conversation

Do scare tactics work? Typically, attempting to frighten your kids into not abusing drugs does not work, particularly if you cannot back up what you’re saying with facts. Kids today know that facts are available to them online faster than you can finish your first sentence on the matter. Thus, unsubstantiated claims can even backfire, undermining your credibility with your teens.

substance misuse
Substance abuse in teens
is a growing problem.
On the other hand, honest and accurate portrayals of the substance misuse or abuse risks can work very effectively. The Partnership for a Drug Free America has tips for how to start the conversation and what to say. Talk honestly about the negative physical and emotional effects of drugs, and on the rates of substance abuse in teens.

Also, stay involved in your teen’s prescribed use of drugs; sufficient parental supervision has been found to be a deterrent to illicit drug use in teens.

Beyond prescribed medications, stay alert to social conditions that influence your kids; know how, where, and with whom your teens hang out. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Connect with your teen’s friend’s parents. Limit access to medications in your own home by getting rid of unused medications and by locking up current prescriptions.


Addiction Symptoms– What to Look For 


While we all want to believe our children are trustworthy, it’s risky to assume that your teenager is not exposed to peer pressure or that they would not participate in risky behavior related to substance abuse or misuse.

Symptoms of youth substance abuse and addictions vary depending on the drug, but be on the lookout for any of the following:
  • Confusion
  • Irritability or sleepiness
  • Discolored fingertips (tobacco or marijuana use)
  • Redness of the whites of eyes
  • Aggressiveness
  • Excessive appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Changes in mood: excessive happiness/euphoria, fear, anger/rage
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Poor coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea or vomiting


How to Get Help

What can you do if the problem is out of hand, or if you simply feel that you need help?
  • Your local school counselor or church pastor may be able to talk with your teen or provide you with literature that you can use when talking with your teen.
  • For help with understanding the potential risks of substance misuse, Google the phrase “stories about addiction” or “stories about teen drug addiction” to find stories about teen addiction to prescription, illegal, and over-the-counter drugs.
  • See the drug addition section of the Mayo Clinic website for statistics and guidance on identifying symptoms of substance misuse in your teen.
Make this month – the 27th national Talk About Prescriptions month – the time to talk with your teen about youth substance abuse, addictions and the importance of patient adherence to prescription drugs.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer