Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How Safe Are Your Personal Care Products?

For years we’ve been warned about the toxins lurking in skincare products and cosmetics. But, if you find yourself overwhelmed while maneuvering this maze of information, you’re not alone. Here are some guidelines to assist you in choosing products for you and your family.

Personal care products

Are the findings to support a link between personal care products and cancer real?

According to

  • 1 in 5 personal care products contain chemicals linked to cancer
  • 80% of beauty products contain ingredients containing hazardous impurities
  • 56% of personal care products contain “penetration enhancers,” which aid in delivering products deeper into the skin

Is absorbing trace amounts of ingredients into the pores of your skin or through your mouth really dangerous?

While the amount of toxins absorbed might seem insignificant, when you consider that we’re exposed to these ingredients daily, you can quickly see how these toxins build up in our bodies over time.

What specific ingredients should be avoided?

  • Triclosan
  • Synthetic musks
  • Formaldehyde
  • 1,4-dioxane
  • Hydroquinone
  • Phtalates
  • Parabens
  • Lead and other heavy metals
  • Nitrosamines

Why are these hazardous ingredients used in personal care products?

Typically, they act to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination.

However, according to the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) FDA, no evidence exists that soaps or washes containing the ingredient triclosan, for instance, offer additional benefits over those that do not. Yet, in a 2008 study, triclosan was found in the urine of nearly 75% of the U.S. children tested for the ingredient.

An ingredient such as diethyl phthalate (DEP) can be found in toothbrushes, toys, food packaging, cosmetics and aspirin. The ingredient has been found to have adverse affects on the liver and reproductive system, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.

What long-term effects can these ingredients have on the body?

In the case of triclosan, the Mayo Clinic reports the following findings:

  • Alters hormone regulation in animals
  • Might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs
  • Might harm the immune system

What can you do as a consumer?

  1. Read labels: Be aware of what’s in products you and your family are using.
  2. Keep it simple: The fewer ingredients listed on a product, usually the better.
  3. Look for ingredients you recognize: Aloe or oatmeal, for instance, are typically safe ingredients.
  4. If it sounds like a chemical, it probably is. Be wary of ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  5. Check the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database for a listing of companies and individual products to determine their safety rating.

Natural moisturizer

What about products with natural or organic claims?

Anyone can call any product natural or organic, but that doesn’t mean it is. Look for the natural seal of approval from the Natural Products Association, indicating a product is at least 95% natural. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal appears on goods at least 95% organic. For those products 70-95% organic, “made with organic ingredients” should appear on the packaging.

What progress is being made regarding safety in the beauty industry?

After pressure for nearly a decade, Proctor and Gamble will stop using DEP and triclosan in personal care products beginning in 2014, according to the site Breast Cancer Fund. In addition, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, is committed to banning as many as 10 toxic chemicals from products sold in its stores.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Monday, October 28, 2013

What’s the Big Deal About “Grass-Fed”?

Should you care about buying your beef from grass-fed cows?  It usually costs more than other kinds of beef but, other than price, is there any significant difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef?  Indeed there are several differences worth noting – and perhaps worth influencing your purchasing decisions. Seven key differences may steer you to grass-fed beef!

Grass fed cow

1.  The Grass-fed flavor difference

What goes in to an animal’s diet affects the flavor. Grass is the natural food for cattle – it was the primary diet years ago, before most farms were run by major producers.  For efficiency and cost reasons, the majority of cattle in the U.S. today are fed grain instead. 

Not surprisingly, there is a distinct taste difference between the burgers or steaks that come from grass-fed cattle.  Most describe the flavor of meat from grass-fed cattle as richer or more beef-like. 

This may be reason enough for you to consider trying grass-fed alternatives, but the remaining six health-related reasons are even more compelling.

2.  Grass-fed beef is lower in calories

Counting calories?  Then count on the beef of grass-fed steers instead of grain-fed.  The meat from grass-fed steer are lower in calories – about 100 calories lower than in a 6-ounce steak, for instance.   While that may not sound like much of a difference, consider the average amount of beef Americans eat; if you’re one of them, you will consume nearly 1,500 fewer calories each month by switching to grass-fed sources, and without eating any less meat! 

3.  Grass-fed meat has less saturated fat content

You’ll get a lot more bad fats when you eat regular, grain-fed cattle beef.  The meat of most grass-fed animals have considerably less total fat.  In the case of cattle, you’ll get about 50-66 percent less, depending on the  cut, which can lower your body’s LDL (bad fat) cholesterol levels.

4.  Grass-fed beef has more heart-healthy fats

These days, just about everyone knows that you can get Omega 3 oils (good-for-you fats) from certain kinds of fish, but did you know you can also boost your Omega 3’s by eating beef from grass-fed cattle? Compared to grain-fed, grass-fed livestock produce a meat that is 200 to 600 percent higher in HDLs – the kind of fat that helps you lower cholesterol levels.

5.  Grass-fed beef has higher amounts of CLA

If you’ve ever seen a product called CLA in the supplement section of your favorite retailers, and wondered what it is, CLA (which stands for conjugated linoleic acid) is being investigated for its value in treatment of disease-related weight loss, obesity, atherosclerosis, allergies, and even cancer.  In one study from Finland, for instance, women who were eating diets with higher amounts of CLA showed a 60 percent lower rate of breast cancer than those women who had very little CLA.

But you don't have to buy CLA in a bottle. It occurs naturally in some dairy products and meats, including beef. However, grass-fed beef weighs in with nearly five times the amount of CLA's as a grain fed.


6.  Grass-fed beef has more vitamin E

With studies released in the last few years that appear to link the antioxidant vitamin E with anti-aging and a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease – especially when the vitamin E is sourced from foods rather than pills – you'll be happy to learn that beef is a vitamin E source. Once again, there is a "however" with this information – meat from cattle that have been grazing on grass has four times the vitamin E count as grain-fed cattle.

7.  Grass-fed beef is potentially safer

All the reasons above described what you get from grass-fed beef that you don't get in grain-fed beef. However, sometimes the choice on whether to choose one type of food over another – such as selecting organic produce over inorganically-grown produce – has as much to do with what you don't get as what you do.  In the case of grass-fed meat supplies:
  • When you buy beef labeled as grass-fed, the cattle have not been given hormones nor antibiotics – both standard in modern grain-fed cattle raising, and both of which can show up in the meat you eat.
  • You have less need to worry about mad cow disease. To date, mad cow disease has never been discovered in any grass-fed cattle.
  • You are also less likely to encounter E. coli bacteria – which has been found in some grain-fed cattle, but rarely in grass-fed cattle.

Grass-fed – cost vs. value

Yes, you'll likely pay a bit more for meat sourced from grass-fed cattle than from grain-fed cattle. But considering the health and flavor differences, grass-fed is certainly worth a try.  And if you do give it a try, tell us about it. What are your personal thoughts regarding the flavor difference, for instance.  You can share your thoughts on this using the comments field below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Safety: How to Have Your Candy and Eat It, Too!

For some of us, it’s our favorite time of year: spooky yard ornaments, orange and black decorations in homes and businesses, and costumes that allow us to be someone other than ourselves, if only for a short time. There are plenty of Halloween safety tips regarding personal safety while trick-or-treating, safe consumption of candy received from the hands of strangers, and even considerations for pets during the Halloween celebration.

Kids at halloween party

So instead of addressing these issues that have been covered already, let’s talk about the reality of Halloween candy consumption, and how to enjoy it in the healthiest way possible. Let’s be honest: Halloween candy isn’t health food. It doesn’t lend much by way of nutrients to your diet, and it’s usually made with the cheapest ingredients available. (I call it “indulgent food,” as consuming it is a rare pleasure in my house, so I enjoy every moment when I do.) So can this plastic-encased, fake-colored, artificially flavored substance ever be part of a healthy diet?

With some advanced planning and preparation, it can, and here’s how you can get started.

Have some basic rules. You need to establish up front, the rules for all candy coming into the household. Yes, kids are going to attend birthday parties, holiday events, friends’ houses, etc. and often, they may bring home bags (or baskets!) of candy. Rather than make it an evil thing crossing the threshold, or a free-for-all when it does, it helps to create expectations up front. Humans crave patterns and rules, so this is a great opportunity to come together as a family and write up a Junk Food Constitution. For example, assign a drawer, basket, or container for all candies (if you have multiple children, you might have one per child to avoid arguments) and allow them to have a certain number of candies for dessert. Five was the rule in our house, and of course, that changed if it was a large gummy spider or M&M’s. This is where serving sizes can be reviewed – all processed foods have them, and if you don’t have the box the candy came in, you can look it up online. Keep in mind, as well, that when the thrill of the candy wears off, it’s likely that your children will forget about the candy, and then you can safely dispose of it as it ages.

Eat candy after a meal. When you put processed foods high in sugar into a body that is hungry, the sugar hits the blood stream faster, causing a high…and then a crash. When you eat a hearty meal of protein, fat, and carbohydrate, and then add a sugar-laden dessert, you are slowing the absorption of the sugar into the blood stream, allowing the body more time to respond to processing the sugar and maintain a more steady blood sugar level. Not to mention, once the stomach is full, there is little desire to eat much more of anything, so serving sizes are much easier to stick to.

A little is not going to kill anyone. Even in the healthiest of households, a little junk food shows up here and there. If you eat out, your food is cooked in unhealthy seed oils, trans-fats, and sugars. That’s why your body is its own amazing detoxification system. And if you eat healthy 80% of the time, you can afford to take some time off here and there and enjoy life. You don’t want to create disordered eating in the form of intense restrictions. If your children love Halloween candy, develop a plan that works best for your home and life, and creates healthy patterns for them, as well. Living in a bubble isn’t ideal, either, any more than eating junk food all the time is. So finding a balance, and teaching your children how to create that in their own life perpetuates a healthy mindset about food.

Offer tempting substitutions. For some kids (and adults), the temptation is the presence of the candy, not necessarily the candy itself. Perhaps you don’t really care for Hershey’s chocolate, but if it’s the only chocolate present, you’ll make do. Particularly in situations when the take has been huge and you have more than enough candy to last for quite some time, offer your child healthier options, like their favorite healthier dessert item, in exchange for a serving size of candy. This will help them learn to negotiate, make healthier yummy choices, and dispose of the candy at the same time. Take heed: If you turn this into a manipulative situation, kids will pick up on it. Make sure the choice is theirs, and if they choose to enjoy their candy instead of a healthier option, keep the rules of servings sizes and after a meal in place, and let them have their choice. For some of us, a sweet that we love is worth more than a whole recipe of chia-seed pudding, no matter how much healthier the pudding is.

What patterns around indulgent foods have you found that work well in your household? What elements of junk food do you find unacceptable? What substitutes have you discovered that work well for you and your family?

Contributing Writer

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CDC Warning: New Drug-Resistant Bacteria!

The most recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes it clear that we are at risk of entering a post-antibiotic era: a point in history in which prescription drugs are no longer going to be any match for the "superbugs."  These are the bacteria that have successfully morphed their way around any pharmaceutical battle gear (antibiotics) that we have thrown down to stop their advance. The implications could be catastrophic, making this warning from the CDC one that we as individuals and a society cannot ignore.

Bacteria slide

The seriousness of the superbug situation

Quoting CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.: “If we don’t act now, our medicine cabinet will be empty and we won’t have the antibiotics we need to save lives.”

According to the 2013 CDC report, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, these new antibiotic-resistant superbugs cause two million illness each year in the U.S. and 23,000 deaths.  That puts these antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in the top 10 causes of adult deaths in the U.S., according to CDC death statistics.

The CDC report ranks the superbug threats into three categories: urgent, serious, and concerning, as measured by seven factors: health impact, economic impact, how common the infection is, a 10-year projection of how common it could become, how easily it spreads, availability of effective antibiotics, and barriers to prevention.  Infections classified in the report as urgent threats include:
  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)
  • The drug-resistant gonorrhea strain
  • Clostridium difficile, a serious diarrheal infection usually associated with antibiotic use. 
The strain C. difficile alone causes nearly a quarter of a million hospitalizations and more than 14,000 deaths every year in the states.

The cost of not solving the superbug dilemma is not just about the risk to those victims of the bacteria but also economic risks.  These antibiotic-resistant infections add significant cost to our overburdened U.S. health care system. The CDC reports that antibiotic resistance adds $20 billion in excess direct health care costs. Factor in the additional costs to society for lost productivity and the superbug economic damage skyrockets to $35 billion annually.

Why this is happening

What’s causing the problem? The use of antibiotics. This is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance, the CDC asserts. Too often, doctors prescribe antibiotics inappropriately or for conditions that cannot benefit from antibiotics at all.

Compounding this issue is that, whether gradually or quickly, every bug naturally develops resistance to every new bacteria-fighting drug that comes on the market to fight them, leaving us evermore at risk of contracting an illness for which there is no cure. 

Another key problem is that any antibacterial drug you take will not only kill the targeted bacteria but also the good bacteria that we need for a healthy internal microbiome.  This leaves us more vulnerable to a recurrence or two other strains of bacteria.  CDC estimates suggest that 50 percent of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not prescribed appropriately. 


Take these four steps to halt superbug resistance

It is possible, as individuals and a nation, to fight antibiotic resistant superbug development. The four key steps recommended by the CDC include:
  • Prevent infection. The best way to prevent the spread of resistance is to prevent infection in the first place. Drug-resistant infections can be prevented by immunization, infection prevention actions in healthcare settings, safe food preparation and handling, and general hand washing.
  • Practice antibiotic stewardship.  We need to reduce the use of antibiotics to only where they are medically needed/called for. For example, antibiotics are widely used in food-producing animals, which puts not just the animals at risk but those who consume the antibiotic-infested meat, eggs, dairy products, etc.  every time antibiotics are used, the bacteria will begin to evolve and develop resistance. If we use antibiotics less today, we will have more access to them when we need them tomorrow.
  • Track resistance patterns. CDC gathers data on antibiotic-resistant infections that cause some people to get a resistant infection. Experts can use this info to develop infection prevention strategies and prevent the resistant bacteria from spreading.
  • Develop new antibiotics and diagnostic tests.  This is a call out from the CDC to drug manufacturers.  Antibiotic resistance is a natural, inevitable occurrence. It can never be stopped, only slowed. Thus, we will always need new antibiotics to stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria.
The first two steps noted above are fully within your control.  You can, for instance, choose to buy animal-based foods only from sources that do not use antibiotics in growing their farm animals. To be sure, purchase only those products labeled organic. Not only will this directly reduce the superbug risk to you and your family but, if enough people start doing this, the economics of lost business may persuade farmers to discontinue widespread use of antibiotics in their livestock.

See the full CDC report on superbugs for more information about drug resistance and the serious impacts it has on human health, or visit

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, October 21, 2013

Go Pink For Breast Cancer Awareness This Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month; everyone, from NFL players to meteorologists, is supporting the cause by wearing pink throughout the month.  In some manner, this devastating disease affects us all. That’s why it’s so important to know the facts and stay informed.

Breast Cancer Facts

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in American women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
  • About 1 in 8 (12%) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer affects men too.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

  • A lump
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Any change in appearance
  • In the case of Inflammatory Breast Cancer, skin can appear red and feel warm. This form of cancer may be mistaken for an infection.
  • Sometimes there are no symptoms

Can breast cancer be prevented?

While many doctors and researchers believe there is a genetic component to breast cancer, there are steps you can take to help prevent the disease:

  • Have regular mammograms
  • Have clinical breast exams
  • Perform self exams
  • Engage in a healthy lifestyle— consume a healthy diet, maintain an appropriate weight, exercise and limit alcohol consumption
  • Know your family history
Breast cancer care

Why are mammograms so important?

Because there are often no symptoms with this disease, regular mammograms, which view the breast tissue for signs of change, are crucial to early detection.  Can’t afford a mammogram? Visit for information on no-or low-cost mammograms.

Should you be concerned about a breast cyst?

A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that is typically round or oval in shape. A cyst may be compared to a grape in appearance and feel, but it can also be firm.  According to information provided by the Mayo Clinic, breast cysts are usually not cancerous (benign).  But, you’re still urged to visit your doctor if you discover a cyst.

When is a breast biopsy necessary?

In the case of an abnormal mammogram or lump, a biopsy may be performed. This procedure removes a small piece of tissue from the breast for further testing. Don’t let the thought of a biopsy deter you from having one.  A biopsy can often be performed in your doctor’s office. Many individuals claim they feel the numbing agent they receive before the procedure more than the biopsy itself.

Is there any good news regarding breast cancer?

After increasing for more than 2 decades, female breast cancer incidence rates began decreasing in 2000, then dropped by about 7% from 2002 to 2003, according to the CDC. In addition, researchers continue to gain insight into the causes of this disease and work on finding a cure.

What else can you do?

  • Encourage family members and friends to have regular mammograms. Some friends make appointments to go for their mammograms together.
  • Take part in the many activities being held throughout the month to raise awareness and money for research. Visit for a listing of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks in your area.
  • Stay informed and pass along valuable information to others to help create greater awareness.
  • If cancer is prevalent in your family, talk to your doctor about genetic testing.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 18, 2013

Health benefits of Ginger Root

Some might call it an ugly food.  Others call it a superfood.  Call it what you will, many scientists and health experts agree that ginger can do you a world of good, depending on what ails you.  And whether you’re ailing or healthy, you’ll find that ginger has a remarkable and unique flavor that can add a little zest and zing to many a lackluster dish.

Ginger root

Five health reasons to include ginger in your diet

Taste is a good enough reason to flavor your food with ginger, but the health benefits of ginger root may persuade you to make this ugly duckling of the superfood family a staple in your diet.
1.  Ginger boosts immunities
By boosting body heat, which ginger does thanks to two compounds, gingerol and shogaol, you can not only get warmed up from the inside (a handy thing on a cold day) but also get a boost to your immune system.  A little sweating from body heat is a good thing, especially when you have a cold or flu.  Not only does the sweat aid in detoxification but scientific research shows that sweat generates a germ-fighting agent – dermicidin – that combats infections.
2.   Ginger aids in many digestion problems
If your parents gave you a little ginger ale when you had tummy trouble, they were on the right track.  Even in a highly processed form, such as in a ginger soda, relief from stomach pains and nausea have been documented.   Ginger is often used to aid appetite as well, simply by munching a tiny amount before a meal to invigorate digestive juices. Having trouble with flatulence? Ginger can help there as well.

Note: while a lot of ginger will likely do you no harm, a lil’ dab’ll do ya, as they say; ginger’s active substances are concentrated enough that you can steep a half-inch sliver or two of fresh ginger into your tea water to get some anti-nausea benefit.
3. Ginger takes the flame out of inflammation
The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger are remarkable. One study showed that its anti-inflammatory effect is strong enough that it could eventually be used as a substitute for synthetic medications for inflammation. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects are the result of the gingerols.  If you struggle with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, taking as little as a fingernail-sized sliver daily provides enough gingerol to reduce pain and improve mobility.  In the studies, 75 percent of the arthritis patients experienced relief.  And in another study, published in Osteoarthritis Cartilage, involving those with knee arthritis, patients were given ginger over a six-month period and experienced reduced knee pain and swelling.  Various studies over the years have shown ginger’s pain relief benefits for those with upper respiratory tract infections, muscle soreness, menstrual pain, stomach pain, coughs, and chest and back pain. 
4.  Ginger may aid in cancer treatment and prevention
Two kinds of cancer issues appear to benefit from ginger intake: protection from colorectal cancer and destruction of ovarian cancer cells.  Studies by the University of Minnesota showed a reduction in the growth of colorectal cancerous cells when patients were treated with ginger.  The researchers concluded that the compounds in ginger compounds appear to be an effective chemopreventive with colorectal carcinomas.

University of Michigan research determined that ginger could destroy ovarian cancer cells as effectively as standard chemotherapy drugs.  Ginger’s phytonutrient gingerol, extracted for the study, was able to cause cell death in all the ovarian cancer forms studied in the experiments.  Remarkably, the researchers found that the ginger treatment even had an advantage over conventional chemotherapy agents; the ginger did not cause cancer cells to become resistant to the treatment, as often occurs with standard chemo drugs.  
5.  Ginger makes pregnancy easier
Those with common pregnancy issues such as vomiting and nausea have found safe relief from these symptoms by using ginger.  Using just a single gram of ginger in a University of Maryland study,  research participants experienced relief from morning sickness and a reduction nausea severity and frequency in early pregnancy – and without side effects on the mother or the unborn child.  This cannot be said for common anti-vomiting drugs, which can cause birth defects.

Ginger root in tea

Ginger recipes

Beyond Ginger's potential medicinal properties, Ginger is a wonderful way to spice up your recipes. Some quick-serve examples:
  • If you're a big fan of ginger's flavor, you can chew directly on the raw inner flesh. Just peel and eat.
  • Whether you like to make green smoothies or fruit smoothies, you can add a nice zest to it by including a little raw ginger in the mix. With its potent flavor, a piece of ginger root smaller than half your thumb is plenty.
  • For a slightly spicy lemonade, combine a little bit of freshly-grated ginger, lemon juice, your favorite sweetener, and add water to taste.
  • Used ginger gratings in a standard rice dish to give it a perky flavor and smell.
  • Looking for an easy and exciting dressing? Simply add soy sauce, olive oil, garlic and shavings of ginger together and you're good to go.
  • If you make homemade ice cream or sorbets, a little bit of grated ginger adds an amazing flavor to a fruit or vanilla recipe.
  • Add some life to any sautéed vegetable dish by stirring in a small amount of freshly minced ginger.

Here are a few more ginger recipes that make it even easier to infuse your family's diet with a healthy touch of ginger:

Ginger – a spice for life

Some final thoughts. First, while ginger in just about any form is good for you, fresh ginger is best, particularly if you are trying to get the most health benefit, not just flavor.  Raw ginger has the highest amounts of gingerol.  Second, when buying ginger root, which you can find in most supermarkets, pick ginger that is mold-free, smooth, and firm.  Third, the best way to store fresh ginger to keep it fresh is in the refrigerator. Unpeeled, it should be good for at least a week, and up to three weeks. 
In summary, for both health and flavor, it's best to go gingerly through life.

Ric Moxley 
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sports Injuries In Kids Are On The Rise

Each year millions of children and adolescents are treated in emergency rooms across the country for sports-related injuries.  These astounding numbers don’t account for the injuries that go unreported either. Undoubtedly, team sports teach today’s youth important lessons about commitment, team spirit and perseverance.  But how can you keep kids safe while they participate in organized sports?

What are typical sports-related injuries?

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIH):

  • Sprains and strains
  • Concussions—accounting for 12% of ER visits
  • Bone injuries, specifically the growth plate, the developing tissue at the end of long bones, which is present in hands and fingers, forearms, upper legs, lower legs and foot bones
  • Repetitive motion, such as stress fractures and tendinitis
  • Heat-related illnesses (see post)

Soccer injury on the field

Why are concussions so concerning?

Research shows younger athletes take a longer time to heal from these types of injuries. In addition, a concussion is considered a traumatic brain injury to young brains, which are still growing.  Finally, a concussion at an early age leaves the athlete at risk for Second Impact Syndrome, which can take place when a second head injury occurs prior to a full recovery from the first. Sadly, SIS is often fatal.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

  • Headache/pressure in head
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Ringing in ears
  • Amnesia surrounding incident

What are some delayed responses to a concussion?

  • Concentration or memory difficulties
  • Irritability or changes in personality
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Taste or smell disorders
  • Depression or adjustment issues

For more information on concussions, visit the Mayo Clinic.

How can sports injuries be prevented?

  • Ensuring adequate rest
  • Following proper technique
  • Teaching athletes to speak up regarding injuries and signs of fatigue
  • Using protective gear—head gear/helmets, eye protection, proper footwear and mouth guards.
  • Administering proper conditioning/coaching—include warm-up exercises and strength training.

How are sports injuries treated?

For sprains or bruises, remember: RICE

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compress
  • Elevate

In the case of muscular-related injuries, typically heat and stretching are advisable.

Who can help with sports-related injuries?

In addition to working with team coaches, trainers and other key personnel, consulting with specialists in sports injuries may be helpful. These professionals include: sports medicine doctors, sports physical therapists, physiotherapists and orthopedics.

What accounts for the increase in sports-related injuries?

Experts attribute more injuries to an increased participation in sports. In fact, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), children or adolescents participate in organized sports has jumped to over 30 million.  In addition, the highly competitive nature of team sports on any level adds to the risk of injury.  Surprisingly, it’s not just contact sports such as football that are concerning; in fact, cheerleading and gymnastics account for a high percentage of annual injuries.  But, the CDC still believes more than half of all sports-related injuries are preventable.

What else can parents do?

  • Encourage kids to report any injury or signs of sports-related fatigue
  • Ensure proper gear is utilized
  • Discourage premature return to play, which may result in re-injury

Need additional information on sports injuries for your athlete or team? Visit and learn about the campaign to stop sports-related injuries.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Monday, October 14, 2013

October – It’s About Understanding Health

Let's face it. Understanding the principles of good health can be difficult: confusing.  The info you need to improve your health is often unavailable, hard to find, or hard to understand. Every day, Americans face the challenge of making life-changing decisions about their health.  These major decisions are often made in doctor's offices, but just as often, we make medical and health decisions in real-world places: at grocery or drug stores, workplaces, or around the kitchen table.  To make the best possible decisions, we need information. Understandable and readily available information.

Making health more understandable is the core goal of Health Literacy Month.  This annual nationwide event, founded in 1999, encourages people and businesses to promote the importance of understandable health information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines health literacy as the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.  And the CDC is so concerned about the nationwide problem of health illiteracy that they created a website to raise awareness and offer ideas and solutions for improving health literacy.

The need for better health literacy

Research by the CDC and others shows that health information is too often presented in ways that are not usable by most adults. The CDC reports that nearly 90 percent of adults have difficulty using health information, even when it is readily available. As a result, many of us end up skipping needed medical tests, end up in emergency rooms more often, and have a greater difficulty managing chronic diseases. 

With risks like these, there is no question that we need raised awareness of the problem – that we need a Health Literacy Month to raise awareness and seek solutions.  The good news is, Health Literacy Month is making a difference. Since its founding, there have been thousands of events from coast-to-coast, and even around the world, raising awareness of the need for understandable health information.  Beyond awareness, the CDC adds that every organization involved in health information and services needs its own health literacy plan to improve its organizational practices.

How others have improved health literacy in their areas

For the October 2013 Health Literacy Month, the goal is to create health literacy heroes – individuals and organizations that actively work to improve how we communicate health information. And for many years, groups and individuals have worked to host health literacy events, such as patient health education programs, educational opportunities for the general public, and communication workshops for health professionals.

For example, North Carolina’s Wake Health Literacy Coalition is improving health literacy in its area by educating professionals and the public on how to clearly communicate about health.  Another inspiring example: Sinai Urban Health Institute Asthma Team has created a “Helping Children Breathe and Thrive” program, operating within Chicago Housing Authority developments, meeting underserved people in their homes, often teaching teaching them how to use medications or assessing homes for adverse asthma-related environmental problems, such as mold. 

What you can do to improve health literacy

If health literacy is a topic you’re passionate about, there are many methods you can apply to promote health literacy success.   Here are some examples:
  • GET TRAINING. Do you work in the health profession? Getting training in health literacy is essential for you and your business. There are many courses available to help, such as the self-directed training course A Physician's Practical Guide to Culturally Competent Care, or the free five-hour course Effective Communication Tools for Healthcare Professionals. 
  • READ TO GET UP TO SPEED. Check out the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  This downloadable guidebook seeks to engage organizations and individuals in an effort to improve health literacy. The plan includes seven broad goals with multiple high level strategies for various stakeholders and provides a focal point for the field.
  • SHARE AND INTERACT. To help you get the word out, and grow your own knowledge, check out the CDC's Health Literacy Blog, where you can join in on discussions and share your ideas about what you would like to see CDC and other public health agencies do to improve health literacy. Also, review these CDC suggestions and resources to help you communicate key points about health literacy to colleagues, staff, leadership, and the community.
At, you can find many resources specifically designed to help you develop and organize health literacy events. Check out their resources page, where you can purchase their Health Literacy Success Kit, Health Literacy Month Handbook, a podcasting guide, and the book Health Literacy from A to Z. 

To find an event near you, check out the CDC's Health Literacy Activities by State web page.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 11, 2013

Promoting Philanthropy in Children

Philanthropy. The word usually conjures up images of wealthy individuals donating large sums of money to organizations. Yet, in reality, philanthropy actually encompasses not only charitable giving but service and support as well.  Studies show promoting philanthropy in children can be beneficial to their well-being.

Children and teen volunteers

Why should I encourage philanthropy in children?

According, children who engage in philanthropic activities reap the following benefits:

  • A boost in self-esteem linked to performing selfless acts
  • Learn the value of money
  • Engage in teamwork and experience the importance of working with others
  • Gain knowledge of empathy and a commitment to helping others
  • Develop and utilize skills such as organization, communication and problem solving

Developmental psychologist Marilyn Price Mitchell believes children who engage in philanthropic acts experience a greater sense of well-being, are successful academically and have better relationships with peers than those who do not.

How do I teach children about philanthropy?

  • Lead by example.  Children learn more by what they see you do than by what you say. Have children join you when you volunteer and you will be sending a valuable message about how to be a philanthropist.
  • Promote their passion.  Encourage children to get involved in a cause they care about and they’re more likely to continue with those philanthropic activities.
  • Have discussions. Explain the different ways of being philanthropic—charitable giving, volunteering time or energy to a cause or being of service to those in need.
  • Get involved as a family. Engaging in philanthropic activities together is a great way to spend quality time as a family while helping a worthwhile cause. Participating in a “Giving Circle,” term used for pooling money as a family, is a great way to teach children about charitable giving.

Visit Share Save Spend,, an organization that teaches children how to allot a portion of their earnings or gifts to spending, sharing and saving, for additional ideas.

Sign for lemonade for hurricane relief

When do I start teaching children about philanthropy?

  • Early education is key. Children can become involved in charitable giving at any age. Choose activities and involvement that is age appropriate and related to their interests.
  • Studies show the earlier philanthropic activities are discussed and introduced in a child’s life, the more likely it becomes a lifelong habit.

Philanthropic activities for children:

  • Volunteer at an animal rescue by walking dogs or cleaning cat cages.
  • Assist at a food bank by stocking shelves with donated food or bagging food to go to needy families.
  • Visit an elderly resident in a nursing home or a war veteran.
  • Help children undergoing cancer treatment by supporting an event. Visit for more details.
  • Encourage children to develop their own ideas for a philanthropic activity.

For more ideas on philanthropy and charity for children, visit

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 10, 2013

World Mental Health Day 2013

World Mental Healthy Day is October 10.  The goal of this designated day is to raise awareness of mental health, also known as behavioral health. While the specific focus for 2013 is older adults, mental illness can affect anyone, at any age.

World Mental Health Day

What is mental health?

Also known as behavioral health, mental health is a complex component of health that encompasses your mood, thinking and behavior.  Mental health has an impact on your day-to-day functioning, as well as work, activities and relationships.

Mental illness statistics:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health,

  • Mental illness is more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease
  • 25% of American adults (18+) and 13% of American children (8-15) are diagnosed with mental illness during a given year
  • Major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are among the U.S.’s top 10 leading causes of disability
  • 8 out of 10 individuals suffering from mental illness return to normal activities after receiving proper treatment

Types of mental illness:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Addictive behaviors

Experts agree that even more important than knowing the different types of mental illnesses is recognizing warning signs, which are crucial to early diagnosis and proper treatment.

Warning signs of mental illness or episode:

  • Social withdrawal or loss of interest in others
  • Noticeable decline in performance at work or school
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Changes in sleep patterns or personal hygiene
  • Heightened sensitivity to the senses--sight, sound, smell or touch
  • Unusual sense of power or abilities
  • Mood swings
  • Suspicious feelings

According to the professionals at, a combination of these symptoms and their negative impact on daily activity might indicate an underlying mental illness.

Is a nervous breakdown a sign of mental illness?

An episode usually caused by extreme stress, a nervous breakdown creates a psychiatric response in an individual. It may indicate underlying mental illness.

What should you do if someone threatens suicide?

  • Take the threat seriously
  • Get help
  • Act quickly
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Visit for suicide prevention information.

Can mental illness be prevented?

Because behavioral health is contributed to a variety of factors, including social, demographic, psychological and biological, experts believe it can’t be prevented. However, awareness and early detection can be key in preventing major episodes and hospitalization.

What factors may be helpful in maintaining good mental health?

  • Stress management
  • An overall healthy lifestyle, including exercise and a healthy diet
  • Socialization
  • Engaging in hobbies, sports or activities you enjoy
  • Maintaining medication schedule, if applicable

According to a study in Britain, findings support the idea that those eating a healthy diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables are less likely to suffer from depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Why don’t individuals suffering from mental illness get help?

  • May not be aware help is needed
  • Might be concerned about stigma attached to mental illness
  • Concern about taking medications
  • View their condition as a sign of weakness

Behavioral health is a vital aspect of enjoying overall good health. World Mental Health Day provides the perfect opportunity to discuss the importance of mental health with your family.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ready, Set, Walk to School!

Wednesday is Walk to School Day – an annual International event, held every October.  But don’t think of Walk to School Day as a one-day blip in your community; since its founding in 1997, this national level event has proven to make positive changes in communities beyond the event day. Local Walk to School Day coordinators from previous years’ events report that this one-day event has engendered remarkable local changes, such as long-term walking and bicycling programs, the development of new sidewalks and pathways to encourage walking, better enforcement of laws against unsafe driving behaviors that could put pedestrians at risk, and the creation of supportive school and community policy changes.

If you or your kids have not participated in the national Walk to School Day event, consider making this week your launch pad. Read on for ideas on how to make Walk to School Day fun for your kids, how to get involved yourself, and how to use Walk to School Day to promote lasting improvement in your family and community.

Two girls walking to school

Why walk to school

In case you or your family members need a little motivation, consider these three compelling reasons to participate in your neighborhood’s Walk to School Day event.
1.  Fat ain’t phat
In the U.S., children struggle with obesity, setting them up for a lifetime of health problems and, according to this new research, even educational deficiencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. 

Walking regularly can counteract this. Walking briskly to and from school a half mile each way can burn between 73 and 150 extra calories daily, depending on your child’s weight (use this chart to estimate).  That’s as much as 29 thousand calories over the course of a school year when walking to school daily! Starting this habit now can help your child to manage weight and increase cardiovascular fitness.
2.  Walking to school is good clean fun.
The fun part: Walking and bicycling bring a sense of joy and independence to your children. When walking, your children get to appreciate things they don’t notice in the car, like the sounds of the neighborhood, seeing friends and neighbors, and feeling connected with their community. 

The good part:  It’s hard in our busy days to carve out focused talk time with our children. Walking to and from school with your child can make for wonderful communication time.

The clean part: Replacing car trips to school with walking or bicycling can reduce congestion and air-polluting emissions.
3.  Participating in National Walk to School Day promotes safety too!
As a result of participation in Walk to School programs, communities have built sidewalks and added traffic calming measures to improve pedestrian safety. Encouraging walking and bicycling to school can help build support for infrastructure improvements in the broader community.

Kids walking to school

Plan your Walk to School Day

Feel free to keep it simple if it helps you get it done; simply encourage your kids to walk on Wednesday this week.  But if you want to make the day more impacting on your family or community, here are some tips to help:
  • Make it a walking block party.  Talk with the other parents on your block and encourage them to make Walk to School Day a group event, which will grow participation, build community rapport, and add an extra measure of supervised fun for the kids.
  • Get local officials active in your walk-to-school event.  Previous neighborhood volunteers report that lasting improvements are more likely to happen, and happen more quickly, when city officials walk or bicycle to school with students.  Doing so let’s them experience firsthand what needs to be done to make safe walking and biking to school a reality. Contact your local officials and invite them to walk with the kids on your block.
  • Employ event-making techniques. The organization behind Walk to School Day has assembled over 50 event ideas that can make your community’s day a big and lasting success.  Check ‘em out here.
  • Build excitement!  Let people know about the big day.  If you’re a teacher, consider making simple handouts for children to take home, or putting up signs and banners in school hallways.  Parents can spread the word on their favorite social media sites too.  Get helpful event resources here.

And then one more day, and then another…

Now that you’ve started a good thing, there’s no reason to stop.  The walk to school event seeks to change community culture, working to build an environment that's more inviting for every walker and bicyclist, young or old. 

Check out these activities and ideas designed to build on the momentum in ways that can make a lasting change in your community.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, October 7, 2013

Getting Financially App-y

In a recent post, we talked about how financial health can affect your over health. (If you’re not sure where you stand financially, here’s a quick quiz to help you figure it out.) While facing the reality of your financial health can be a little overwhelming, there are effective tools courtesy of the worldwide web and smart phone apps to make it a bit less daunting. Between helpful financial budget calculators and consumer credit report tracking, there are plenty of options to help you get on the right track and get financially happy.

Saving money in a piggybank

If you are just starting out with creating a budget, check out Mvelopes. It’s an in-depth budget creator that works on the basis of envelopes. You fill each virtual envelope after your payday with what you can/need to spend. As you buy your groceries and pay your bills, the money is automatically subtracted from your envelopes, regardless of whether you use your credit cards or bank accounts. They also offer a free version if you don’t have many financial obligations, or if you do, they have a reasonably priced paid version as well. They offer online access and smartphone apps.

Smartypig is a fun way to save for an upcoming vacation or purchase. Set up an account, select your goal, and Smartypig will automatically transfer funds from your bank account into an FDIC-insured, interest-bearing account. You can receive gift deposits from friends and family via Facebook, earn rewards via “cash boosts” and cash rewards, and when you’ve reached your goal, you can withdraw your funds plus interest. You can also withdraw your funds at any time without penalty. Smartypig offers both online and smartphone app access.

For an all-in-one money tracker, check out Mint. They offer a free money and spending tracking service that can show you your trends over time. Color-coded spreadsheets, easy to understand charts, and simple language allow you to grasp where you can allocate more funds, and where you can tighten up a bit more. Not sure where to go to save more money? Mint offers suggestions from their affiliates to help you save money, but never in an intrusive, obnoxious way. Mint offers a robust smartphone app and website for your financial needs.

Saving money

Credit Karma houses all your consumer credit report information in an easy-to-understand format. Not sure about your credit score? Credit Karma tracks that as well, for free, via soft pulls on your credit report (the kind that won’t drag your score down). They also offer credit report tracking. While they have monthly monitoring for a price, you can utilize their free services to find any flags on your credit report and find better choices for your credit and financial services, from credit cards to utility companies. They have apps for both smartphone platforms (Android and iPhone) and a website.

Becoming a financially-savvy spender doesn’t happen overnight, but using tools that help organize your money and debt help. Studies show that while financial stress has intense negative effects on our health, lessening the guilt and improving your financial health (even if it’s only opening a savings account) can turn that around. So why not give it a try? Let us know how you make out, and what tools work best for you!

Contributing Writer