Monday, September 30, 2013

September Is Healthy Aging Month

Overall, we’re living longer and that’s great news. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to engage in practices and a lifestyle that will ensure healthy aging and a long, active and fulfilling future.

Aging hands and young hands


What is healthy aging?


Healthy aging encompasses aging well in a number of different ways--physically, socially, mentally and financially.  Typically, by 45-62 years of age, the time known as middle-age, individuals start putting practices in place to ensure healthy aging.

Why is healthy aging important?


  • Individuals are living longer
  • Aging well ensures a better quality of life
  • Chronic health conditions are costly

What are the components of physically healthy aging?


  • Cardiovascular system
  • Bones, joints, muscles
  • Digestive system
  • Bladder and urinary tract
  • Memory/brain health

According to the Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com. 

How can you ensure healthy aging?


According to Webmd.com, the following suggestions are paramount to aging well:

  • Be active—Exercise helps maintain a healthy body and mind.
  • Stay social—Take a class, volunteer or visit with friends.
  • Eat healthy—Beans and other high fiber foods help digestion and heart health; fresh fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, which help ward off illness and disease.
  • Stay balanced—Activities such as yoga and tai chi can improve agility and prevent falls, considerations as you age.
  • Take a hike—Brisk walks bolster heart and lung health.
  • Sleep well—It’s an important aspect of aging well. Visit this post for more information.
  • Beat the blues—Depression isn’t anything to be ashamed of and it can be treated.  Discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
  • Have a plan—Setting and maintaining financial goals are important to aging well.  Debt and the stress it can create might be detrimental to your overall health.

Older couple exercising


Tips to keeping your brain healthy:


  1. Exercise: It’s crucial to keeping your brain healthy. According to Christine Anderson, MS, wellness and fitness coordinator of the University of San Francisco, preliminary research suggests that exercise can actually promote new stem cell growth, which can be helpful for the brain. In addition, exercise helps you think more clearly and creates a sense of well being, benefits anyone can enjoy.
  2. Engage in new activities: There is evidence that any activity requiring manual dexterity as well as mental effort is beneficial to brain health. Try drawing, painting or crafts.
  3. Make lists, follow routines, slow down and organize. Don’t tax your brain with information you can write down or multi-tasking.

Visit www.health.harvard.edu for additional suggestions.

While family history, also known as your genes, play a role in the likeliness of developing certain diseases as you age, lifestyle plays a significant part in healthy again, too.  It’s never too early to start implementing healthy changes for both you and your family members.

Other suggestions for healthy aging:


  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Stop smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Know you numbers—cholesterol, blood pressure
  • Have regular dental check-ups—poor oral health can lead to a host of health conditions

In celebration of Healthy Aging Month, health organizations on a variety of levels will be offering events and ideas to promote wellness. Visit www.healthyaging.net for more information or events in your area.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 27, 2013

September Is National Yoga Month

Yoga is an exercise program and so much more. Based on a series of movements and poses that build strength, flexibility, clarity and a sense of calm, for those who practice yoga, it’s a way of life.  September is National Yoga Month, and it’s a great time to give this activity a try.

Yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago. According to www.medicine.net, over 20 million Americans practiced yoga in 2012. Experts predict that number will continue to grow.

Silhouette of Woman Practicing Yoga

Types of Yoga:


As yoga has increased in popularity, variations on this ancient practice have popped up in studios around the world.  According to webmd, below are the most popular types of yoga:

  • Hatha: A straightforward, unhurried style great for beginners to learn poses.
  • Lyengar: A slow-paced, gentle style of yoga great for older individuals, those with injuries or chronic health conditions.
  • Viniyoga: Another gentle style that emphasis breathing and movement. It’s perfect for increasing flexibility or injury recovery.
  • Bikram: This style is suggested for healthy individuals, with sweating and weight loss common.
  • Ashtanga: A highly vigorous style only for those in great physical shape.
  • PowerYoga: Also called flow yoga, flow-style yoga and vinyasa, it’s a popular form of yoga that combines cardio with yoga.
  • Kundalini: A more spiritual practice that includes meditation, breathing techniques and chanting.

Health Benefits of Yoga:


  • Lower blood pressure
  • Greater flexibility
  • Enhanced brain function
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Better skeletal adjustment
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased stress

Woman practicing yoga


Who can practice yoga?


  • Older individuals
  • Those with chronic health conditions, such as arthritis
  • Individuals recovering from an injury
  • Pregnant women
  • Athletes looking for more flexibility and a sense of calm
  • Kids of all ages

Strengths of practicing yoga:


  • Can be practiced at any age
  • It’s an activity the family can take part in together
  • Can be practiced independently or with a group
  • Limited need for equipment and accessories

Weaknesses of practicing yoga:


  • Even though it can be a gentle form of exercise, injury can occur

Before starting yoga:


  • Consult with your doctor before trying yoga to determine the type best suited for your individual needs.
  • Choose a qualified yoga instructor.
  • Notify your instructor of any limitations or injuries.

In celebration of National Yoga Month, over 2,000 yoga studios worldwide are offering one free class during the months of September and October. For a list of participating studios and to receive your free coupon, visit www.yogahealthfoundation.org.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

School Attendance Improvements Start With You

Here at FamilyWize, we are excited to be partnering with other organizations in support of September's national Attendance Awareness Month – an initiative to generate awareness of the importance of school attendance to academic and life success, and to bolster school attendance statistics nationwide.

Two big reasons we're proud to be a part of this initiative is, first, the initiative's successes to date (which you can read about in this previous School Attendance Awareness Month FamilyWize article).  Common sense and research make it clear that, in order for students to learn, they need to come to school consistently/regularly. Through Attendance Awareness Month, improvements in school attendance across the U.S. is making positive strides.

Second, the initiative's active work to help parents, children, and schools this very month is encouraging. On their website, you can find countless activities and teaching aids being added every day, as well as examples of what School Attendance Month partners, such as FamilyWize, are doing.  Here are just a few "actionable" examples -- activities and ideas that you can personally participate in.


Awareness via Social Media


Attendance Awareness Month is making it easy for you to spread the word in your community about attendance statistics, activities, and opportunities related to this important initiative by using social media sites. For example, they have assembled a social media posting guide chockfull  of daily posts you can use on Facebook to make daily Attendance Awareness Month announcements on your (or your school's) Facebook and Twitter pages, as this page snippet shows.


A good Facebook posting sample you can use:  “FACT: Nationally, as many as 7.5 million students nationwide miss 10 percent of the school year in excused and unexcused absences every year. That’s 135 million days of school.  Learn more about reducing chronic school absence here.”  See how easy it is to get involved?


Awareness via Event Content from YOU


Attendance Awareness Month is making it super-easy for you to make a difference in your community and be an example to other communities through its website participation channels. For example:
  • You can easily add your activities related to attendance and attendance awareness onto the Attendance Awareness Month Community Action Map.  
    By placing your attendance awareness activities on the interactive map, you'll not only boost local awareness, but encourage others nationwide to get "get on the bus" with this initiative.  Your event will show up on the map. Those who click on your map icon will be able to see the full details of your event in a pop-up info box.
  • Attendance Awareness Month is also encouraging you to send in your attendance stories or examples of the work you or your school or community is doing. This is a great way to build community pride and to give others ideas they can try in their own communities. See examples on their Community Highlights page.


Awareness via Multimedia


Let's face it – we live in a visually oriented world. Many kids in particular are growing up with multimedia as an increasing part of their education. In response to this, organizers at the Attendance Awareness Month website have created and assembled several videos to help you promote school attendance in the most entertaining way possible.

On their video page, you'll find many videos of varying length for your own edification or for parents, students, and teachers in your committee. For example:
  • View the Attendance Works: a Community Imperative six-minute video highlighting the problem of chronic absenteeism and its impact on school achievement. In this short video, you'll also get solutions and examples on how to improve the statistics in your neighborhood.
  • Check out the Attendance Works Animated Infographic - a visually engaging one-minute video animation pictorially explaining why attendance matters particularly in the early grades. 
You’ll find a dozen more helpful visual presentations on the video page, including presentations from the Ad Council, U.S. Army, and school districts across the U.S.


Awareness via Webinars


Even more engaging and interactive than videos are webinars. Join in on the ongoing schedule of free webinars – online real-time seminars – going on throughout the year. For example, you just missed the September 16 webinar on commonsense strategies to reduce chronic absenteeism, which examined the roles that state-level actions and policies play in improving school attendance. But keep an eye on the schedule to learn about and join the next one here.


School Attendance – Why it Really Matters


Chronic absence affect all students, not just those missing school. When significant numbers of students in a classroom or school are chronically absent, learning for all students is adversely affected when the pace of instruction necessarily slows down because teachers have to spend time reviewing material for those who missed the lessons in the first place.

But reducing chronic absence must be a community affair, involving parents, government agencies, faith leaders, businesses, and community nonprofits.  History shows that this is the best way to build a culture of attendance.

For true attendance success, start with you. Think about what you can do, and volunteer to help. Parents can make a big difference! For example, parents with middle school and high school children: did you know students should miss no more than 18 days of school to stay on track to graduation?  And be aware that absences are often a sign that a student is losing interest in school, struggling with school work, or even dealing with a bully.  Get tips for parents to help keep your students on track.

 
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer




Monday, September 23, 2013

Self-Improvement Month: Tips for Becoming the Best YOU Possible

By definition self-improvement means to make or become better through your own efforts. September is Self-Improvement Month, and it’s a great time to look for ways to make yourself the best YOU possible.

Self-improvement can take place in a number of ways—emotional, spiritual, physical and financial. Your efforts can affect your mind, body and behavior. Ongoing improvement or personal development is necessary for increasing and maintaining self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image, key factors in a healthy personal evaluation.

Girls playing soccer


Why is building self-esteem important?


The need for building self-esteem and confidence starts in childhood. Healthy self- esteem is a balance of feeling capable and feeling loved, according to kidshealth.org.

Children with a healthy self-esteem tend to be more well-adjusted as adults
Healthy self-esteem increases the ability to handle stressors in life
It’s a necessary component in forming and maintaining healthy relationships

Ways to build self-esteem in kids:


Suggest involvement in sports and activities
Help them discover their strengths
Encourage them to spend time with friends who are positive influences and who make them feel good about themselves
Show them they are loved for who they are, not what they achieve

According to Academic Pediatrics, www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov, risk factors for low self-esteem include:

Depression
Anxiety
Suicide
Eating disorders
Violent behavior
Earlier initiation of sexual activity (in girls)
Substance abuse

Clearly, developing a positive self-esteem is essential in childhood. But the need for self-improvement shouldn’t stop after adolescence.  In fact, self-esteem, confidence and personal growth are important factors to consider throughout your lifetime, especially during times of transition, such as:

After a loss—a job, business or relationship.
At a crossroad in life—those recently retired or empty nesters, for example. Visit www.aarp.com for more information.
Ongoing personal growth benefits everyone!

Ideas for self-improvement or personal development:


Woman volunteering to feed dogs Take a class: Learn painting, photography or another art form.
Start an exercise routine: Walking is a great form of exercise and it’s inexpensive.  All you need is a good pair of walking shoes.
Learn a new language: Tapes, books and local classes are available.
Take up a hobby: Knitting or wood working projects can make great gifts.
Join a new group: Book clubs or car enthusiasts share similar interests.
Volunteer your time: Read to the blind or work with animals.

Remember, self-improvement or personal development doesn’t have to be costly. The focus is on doing something to improve your life and your feelings of self-worth, one day at a time.

Benefits of personal development include:


Improvement of existing skills or acquiring new ones
Continued/improved chance of success and happiness
Better quality of life and health
Stronger relationships
Better self image


Steps to Self-Improvement:


The Personal Growth Studio suggests the following:

1. Patience—Give change the necessary time to become a part of your lifestyle.
2. Persistence—Stay the course.
3. Perseverance—Overcome setbacks in your quest to self-improvement.

Whether your self-improvement objectives include a weight-loss plan, financial goals or spiritual aspirations, September is the month to institute a plan. What’s standing in your way?

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sugar Substitute: Choosing a Sweetener

Earlier I wrote about Gluten Free Baking and the ways to choose the best flours for your recipes. Today we are going to tackle different sweeteners and their benefits and drawbacks. If you are focused on removing highly processed foods from your lifestyle, replacing white sugar in your recipes is a great way to start. Alternatives to white sugar offer more nutrients as they are closer to their original form and/or are a more nutrient-dense source to begin with, which means you can enjoy your treats while receiving more nourishment for your body.

Jar of honey


As someone who loves to create recipes, there are lots of choices that can seem overwhelming when you stand in the baking aisle of your grocery or health food store. Not to mention, some of them can be expensive. So here’s your guide on what to substitute for sugar.

Liquid Sweeteners -- Offer a wonderful sweetness and more moisture to your recipes.
  • Honey is an amazing option for sweetening your favorite recipes. Depending on the flavor of the honey, it can gently guide the complexity of your final product. Whether you choose standard clover honey, orange blossom honey, or wildflower honey, they tend to lend a pleasant sweetness to your recipe. Buckwheat honey has a stronger, smoky flavor that works best in pancakes and breads. Local raw wildflower honey is my favorite to add to recipes, and you can substitute most honeys at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Maple Syrup has a lovely, unique flavor that works well as a substitute for white sugar. I prefer it in things like muffins and pancakes, but you can use it as a brown sugar substitute to sweeten cookies and cakes. This can be added at a 1:1 ratio. Pumpkin pancakes come out perfect with a little maple syrup added to the recipe – and on top!
  • Blackstrap Molasses works great in recipes like gingerbread cookies. It has a strong flavor, which can significantly change the outcome of your baked goods, so do some research before using it to replace white sugar. When you are ready to start adding it in, check out this article for advice on how to substitute it for the best results.

Granulated Sweeteners -- a great sugar substitute when nothing else will do.
  • Coconut Sugar offers a similar flavor to brown sugar, along with a medium-sized granular texture that is perfect for cookies, for cinnamon-and-sugar shakers, and for sprinkling over baked sweet potatoes. Check out Natural Sweet Recipes for some great baking ideas and tips. Coconut sugar can be substituted 1:1 depending on the recipe, but it does have a muskier flavor than regular sugar, so proceed with an adventurous spirit.
  • Date sugar offers the perfect blend of fruit and sugar-like texture. And you can make it yourself! It’s another great addition to recipes as a brown sugar substitute or desserts that have a caramel-like finish. Check out these Salted Dark Chocolate Truffle Cookies to test out some date sugar.
  • Organic Sugar can be substituted in any recipe where sugar is called for. It’s still a somewhat processed sugar, but much of the molasses and minerals are still present. Many companies also subscribe to Fair Trade standards, which makes this a more conscientious baking choice, and it’s a very easy sugar to find at almost any grocery or health food store. If you are considering making icing, check out this helpful video on how to powder your organic sugar for the task.

Coconut palm sugar

Low-calorie Sweetenersfor those with diabetes or a desire to lower their sugar intake, there are some substitutes that provide sweetness without the glycemic load.
  • Stevia is the product of the green leaves of the stevia plant. While there are many options when it comes to blends of stevia, for a true stevia flavor, stick with brands that have only stevia as the ingredient. Stevia can taste bitter to some folks, as their taste receptors are more sensitive to bitter flavors than others. But if you like stevia, it can be a great additive for those trying to avoid sugar. You can purchase it in liquid or granulated form, and it often works best in beverages like smoothies or tea. Or perhaps, even in soda…
  • Xylitol is a great sugar substitute for those looking to lower their sugar intake. Standard xylitol is sourced either from corn or fruit, and organic xylitol is usually sourced from birch trees (check the package to be sure). When using it in the place of sugar for a recipe, you may need to put the required measurement into a coffee grinder to powder it to ensure that your recipe doesn’t turn out grainy. Xylitol can have a cooling affect on the tongue, but usually after it’s heated in an oven, that dissipates. It’s not quite as sweet as sugar, so you will need to increase the amount of sweetener you add to your recipe. I find that I add about a quarter more xylitol when substituting for sugar (example: 1 ¼ cup xylitol for 1 cup sugar). These Carrot Cake Cookies are a great way to try out xylitol.
Let us know what you discover as you experiment with sugar alternatives!

Contributing Writer

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Importance of Healthy Snacking

Snacks are often viewed as special treats, only to be enjoyed on occasion. Actually, when snack ideas are healthy, they can be an important part of a well-balanced diet. These small meals aren't just for children anymore; adults can benefit from snacks, too. Food snacks are especially helpful during the warm summer months when activity levels are high and dehydration can be a concern.


Why snack?

The best snacks provide vitamins and nutrients your body needs throughout the day. This is particularly true for children who can’t consume much in one sitting due to their smaller stomachs. These mini meals help keep energy levels up, especially during activity. In addition, snacks can even help you consume less. But, the key to healthy snacking is wise food choices.

What’s a healthy snack?

According to nutrition experts at webmd.com, the best snack choices offer a good combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Examples of healthy snack ideas include: trail mix, low-fat yogurt with granola and fruit and a piece of fruit served with an ounce of cheese and a handful of nuts.  When considering fresh fruit as a snack, a 4-ounce serving offers fiber, vitamins and minerals as well as carbohydrates. Fruits with a low glycemic rating, a number that indicates how quickly blood sugar rises after eating, are best.

Good fruit snacks include:

  • Cherries
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberries

During the hot days of summer, frozen fruit makes an extra special treat.  While kids may prefer ice cream sundaes, sugary frozen drinks, muffins or French fries, these snack ideas don’t deliver the vitamins and minerals the body needs.


How to encourage healthy snacking:

  • Be Creative:  If kids enjoy a cool glass of lemonade, for instance, offer them water with lots of fresh lemon added as a healthier substitute. They’ll still be satisfied with the refreshing lemon taste of the beverage without all the added sugar. If it’s ice cream they find appealing, opt for frozen treats that are less than 150 calories each. Fudge bars, fruit bars, sherbert and frozen yogurt in tubes are all healthier frozen snack choices.
  • Make It:  Kids are more likely to enjoy healthy snacks if they take part in making them. Ants on a Log is a great example of a healthy recipe that kids can create. Comprised of celery sticks, filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins, it’s a simple, quick and fun recipe for kids to enjoy. Check out allrecipes.com for other great snack ideas, such as Roll-up Salad, Bunny Food and Apple Ladybugs.
  • Lead By Example: While adults may prefer less than healthy snacks, they usually understand the importance of healthy choices. With children, the best choices are not always so obvious. Yet, kids do mimic what they see. If the adults around them choose healthy snack foods, chances are they will follow.
  • Keep It Simple: Sliced red, green and yellow peppers as well as baby carrots make great snacks for summer. Healthy smoothies are another great snack option. Popcorn, wholewheat bagels and crackers and cheese are additional ideas to keep in mind. Visit www.mayoclinic.com for additional snack ideas.

As with meals, keeping snacks varied and interesting makes them more appealing. With a little creativity and planning, health snacking can quickly become an important part of your family’s diet.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer


Monday, September 16, 2013

Air Pollution Warning to Pregnant Mothers

You may have limited control over your environment, but alarming connections between air pollution and fetus development suggest that pregnant mothers should do all they can to avoid airborne toxins.  Recent studies indicate that a pregnant mother's exposure to air pollution, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and pesticides is associated with low birth weight.  

Mother and child looking at chimney stalks


This should be a significant concern to mothers, since infants with a low birth rate often experience considerably more health problems compared to infants of normal weight.  Statistically more likely health problems of a low-birth-rate infants include:
  • Post-birth problems, such as perinatal morbidity and infections
  • Delayed motor skills development
  • Learning disabilities
  • Social development problems
While you may be able to reduce the use of some pesticides around the home during pregnancy, there are often pollution sources outside your direct control, such as city traffic and community-wide pesticide applications used to control vermin in towns or cities.  The CDC sites the example of a 1997 pesticide application in a Manhattan borough of New York City that, in that one application, exceeded the total amount of all pesticides applied in any other single county in all of New York.  It is likely that pregnant mothers in that borough did not even know of this application, nor had any knowledge regarding the health risk that the pesticide presented to them, their children, and particularly to their fetuses.  More recent research confirmed that prenatal pesticide pollutant exposure  can have adverse effects on birth size and a child's neurodevelopment.


Why fetuses are more vulnerable to air pollution and pesticides


As the fetus grows, development of all the systems it will need to survive (including the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, and urinary systems) are in hyper development, going through more and faster changes than it will experience at any time in its life post-birth.  This period of rapid development means that any interference in the normal development process can have a much more profound effect on the unborn child.

For example, in early life, the nervous system is still developing, which makes it highly influenced by exposure to neurotoxic pesticides.  Likewise, certain metabolic and enzyme activities performed by the kidneys and liver are not yet "mature" or complete and are easily disrupted during fetal development.
A 2005 neurotoxicolgy study found that several other factors contribute to a fetus’ vulnerability to air pollution and toxins:

  • The fetus absorbs and retains toxic substances at a higher rate than post-birth.
  • The fetus has a reduced ability to detoxify chemicals and repair damage to DNA, compared to post-birth children.
  • The fetus also has a higher rate of cell proliferation occurring during any toxin exposure.

In a 2003 study of a group of minority women and their infants, scientists discovered that developing fetuses may be as much as 10 times more susceptible to DNA damage from before-birth exposure to airborne polyaromatic hydrocarbons than the mother is. 

Other studies have shown negative effects on an infant's growth from pre-birth exposure to certain pesticides. In one of these studies, involving pregnant women at prenatal clinics in January 1998, scientists followed them until 2004, capturing data showing that, when the EPA phased out residential use of the pesticide chloropyrifos in 2001, infants exposed prenatally to this pesticide before the phase-out had significantly reduced birth weight and shorter length. Similar studies showed that toxin-exposed infants were born with low activity levels of important enzymes that affect the infant's ability to metabolize and detoxify they were exposed to.  And a 2007 study showed that infants with prenatal pesticide exposure had smaller head circumferences (Berkowitz et all. 2004, Wolff et al. 2007).  Statistically, smaller head circumferences correlate with reduced intelligence and decreased cognitive function later in life.

Traffic pollution


What can pregnant mothers do to protect their unborn children?


Scientists admit that reliably measuring exposure to environmental pollutants is difficult, as exposure can vary widely within a community, even within a home depending on such things as the amount and type of chemical and individual users in daily patterns of life. For example, it is likely that a mother is exposed to more cleaning chemicals than the children in the home.  And from individual to individual, exposure duration or magnitude can vary widely.  But there are steps you can take to reduce the danger of exposure to pesticides and air pollutants during pregnancy that may result in a low birth weight for your child:

  • Quit smoking, and avoid being in the presence of other smokers while pregnant.
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to indoor or outdoor air pollution.
  • Consider getting a portable indoor air purifier that you can take with you from room to room.
  • Drink purified water to ensure that your water is not contaminated with lead, which is considered by the CDC to be an environmental risk factor.
  • In many states, you can help reduce air pollution where you live by reporting smoking vehicles or other general air pollution complaints.  In California, for instance, you can File an Air Pollution Complaint online.
  • Consider putting a carbon monoxide detector in your home that will sound an alert when the levels are too high.
  • Switch from using chemical-based household cleaners to more natural cleaning methods, such as vinegar.

To become a more informed pregnant mother, and to get more information on what you can do to help avoid low birth weight problems, you can learn about toxic air pollutants from the EPA, or explore the CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (Tracking Network) – a system of integrated health, exposure, and hazard information and data from a variety of national, state, and city sources.  

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Friday, September 13, 2013

Bullying Basics

It’s a problem that has become an epidemic, cropping up in a variety of forms. Close to 30% of students, ages 12-18, were bullied during the 2008-2009 school year, according to www.stopbullying.gov. In addition to the potential damage this abusive behavior can do to a young person, a recent study proves there are long-term effects, as well.  But, through education, awareness and intervention, it’s possible to identify and stop bullying.

No bullying drawing


Bullying Facts:


  • Boys are more likely to engage in bullying than girls.
  • Some groups might be at higher risk of being bullied—homosexuals, those with disabilities or individuals who are socially isolated, for example.
  • The behavior isn’t just limited to students. In a school setting, bus aides, lunchroom workers and other school workers can be at risk.
  • Workplace bullying can affect adults.

Bullying is a complex issue with multiple factors, including family, peers, community and school. Often the victims of abusive behavior themselves, bullies may engage in these actions based on issues in their own lives—parental divorce, poor self esteem or difficulty in school. Without awareness and intervention, the cycle of bullying is likely to continue.

Effects of Bullying:


  • Health
  • School performance and attendance
  • Relationships with family and friends
  • Involvement in activities
  • Can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and violence in both bullies and their victims

But, the negative effects of this destructive behavior don’t end there. In a recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conducted by William Copeland, Ph.D., findings support the idea that bullying has long-lasting effects in an individual’s life. In fact, bullies and victims alike are at risk for serious psychiatric problems, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide

The study concludes that unlike some traumas experienced early in life, the effects of bullying don’t appear to dissipate over time.  In addition, according to www.bullyingstatistics.org, childhood bullies or victims are more likely to partake in bullying behavior as adults.

Causes of Bullying:


  • Need to dominate others or feel superior
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Difficulty managing anger, anxiety and jealousy
  • Trouble tolerating others, especially those viewed as “different”

Types of Bullying:


  1. Physical—pushing, shoving
  2. Verbal—making fun of, taunting
  3. Emotional—spreading rumors, excluding from groups
  4. Cyber—bullying through social media sites such as Facebook or texting

Cyberbullying has become the most prevalent form of bullying because it allows “hiding,” anonymity for the bully.

Girl being bullied at school


Signs of a Bully:


  • Gets into physical/verbal fights
  • Has friends who bully others
  • Demonstrates increasingly aggressive behavior
  • Given detention frequently

Signs of a Victim of Bullying:


  • Has unexplained injuries
  • Suffers from frequent illness, such as headaches and stomach aches
  • Experiences difficulty in sleeping or nightmares
  • Grades start declining; doesn’t want to attend school
  • Changes in eating habits

To help stop this cycle of destructive behavior, awareness and intervention are crucial. Researchers continue to determine the best way to handle bullying; to date, the following guidelines are suggested.

How to Stop Bullying:


  • Be aware and informed.  Know the signs of bullying and don’t ignore them.
  • Speak to your children about bullying. Know what’s happening in school and with friends.
  • Know how to intervene if you witness bullying:
    • Keep calm
    • Teach kids to get adult help
    • Separate those involved
    • Get medical help or police assistance if necessary

For additional information on bullying, visit www.nimh.nih.gov or www.apa.org.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gluten Free Baking

If you've ever stood in the organic aisle at your local grocery store and scratched your head over the choices of gluten free flours, sweeteners, and other baking ingredients, you are not alone. Whether you are simply adjusting your pantry to healthier, more nourishing ingredients, or you've been recently diagnosed with food allergies or autoimmune issues concerning gluten, the change can be overwhelming. What ingredients do you buy? What works best for which applications?

Wheat


The good news: with a little careful substitution and some tried and true recipes, you can discover a whole new world of gluten free dessert creations that will please your palate and treat your body right.

Gluten free flour blends can be a great option, because they require little adjustment and are generally a cup for cup substitution. Looking to make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? This is the way to go.

For more complicated recipes, like gluten free angel cake and bagels, or even certain cake recipes, you’ll want to blend your own flours. This gets challenging, because you’ll need to add elasticity agents like xanthan gum and/or guar gum that help to mimic wheat flour in recipes. You can find some awesome flour blends on various websites, or you can experiment with the nature of the different flours and create your own. Warning: this may involve a lot of trial and error. But for the kitchen warrior who has a willing taste-tester, it can be a blast.

Curious about what kinds of flours are out there? Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of flours and how to use them.

If you are adventurous, you can explore specific flour recipes. Almond flour recipes are often delicious, with a hearty finish. Coconut flour creates a delicious flavor with a sweet edge. Chickpea flour creates amazing treats. You can even skip the flour altogether with these bean-based brownies.

Not sure where to start? You can even find boxed gluten free/alternative flour mixes at just about any grocery store.

Sliced bread in a basket

A couple of tips on baking for the newbie setting off on this adventure:
  • Explore recipes online and read the comments. Using different flours also means creating different textures. Gluten free batters often look a lot wetter – and sometimes thicker – than what you are used to. See what tips others offer before you start. 
  • Almond flour and coconut flour get much browner than traditional flour – and even more so than other alternative flour. Coconut flour can appear to be burned, but taste fine. Tapioca flour, when used alone, doesn't brown significantly, but if baked for too long, can turn rock hard. So while your rolls will look pale and perfect, you may break a tooth trying to take a bite! 
  • Allow some latitude for flavor and texture. Each flour and blend has its own benefits and drawbacks. You may find that you like your old recipe better…or the new one. And if you are making food for someone who has a food allergy, what might taste a bit strange to you may very well be a thrill for them. Remember that they haven’t had the “regular” recipe in probably quite a while. For example, I love gluten free pancakes, and I can’t remember the taste and texture of wheat-based ones anymore. 

Ally Bishop
Contributing Writer


I will leave you with one of my favorite recipes to make for guests – Brazilian Cheese Bread. It’s delicious, gluten free, and folks will be begging you for the recipe!



Monday, September 9, 2013

Life-Saving News on Cholesterol Management

Odds are, you are more likely to die as a result of heart disease or stroke than just about any other cause. Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States.  Would you like to rise above this statistic?  You can;  we now know that the main way to prevent these two killer diseases is to detect high cholesterol and treat it promptly. 

High cholesterol in your blood is one of the main risk factors for both heart disease and for stroke.  Getting the word out about the importance of lowering cholesterol to reduce your risk of dying from heart disease or stroke is fundamentally the reason for September’s National Cholesterol Education Month initiative.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), sponsoring National Cholesterol Education Month, launched the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) 23 years ago with the goal of reducing illness and death from coronary heart disease by reducing the percent of Americans with high blood cholesterol.  The efforts of the NCEP are making a difference; our intake of saturated fat and total fat is on the decline. And it’s no coincidence that illness and death from coronary heart disease mortality has continued to decline as well.  That said,  heart disease and stroke remain leading causes of death in the U.S.


Cholesterol 101


Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood.  And it’s not all bad; your body actually needs cholesterol.  The problem is entirely about too much cholesterol of the wrong kind.  When you have too much, the cholesterol starts building up on the walls of your arteries, which blocks the blood flow.  These blockages can bring on the big and ugly three: heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

So then, how much is enough cholesterol, and how much is too much?  The trick is to understand that there are two kinds of cholesterol: HDLs and LDLs. One is good and one is bad.  The HDL’s (high-density lipoproteins) are the good ones and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) are the bad ones.  Thus, you want a higher HDL level, and you want to have a lower LDL level.  An easy way to keep them straight; use their first initials as a mnemonic; be Low on LDL and High on HDL.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 71 million American adults have high LDL’s – the bad cholesterol. While that’s alarming enough, the CDC also states that just one-third of them have the condition under control.  If you are one of these 71 million who need to get your cholesterol under control, why not start now, during National Cholesterol Education Month?

Heart shaped plate


The lowdown on lowering cholesterol levels


Now that you’ve got the basics down, you know that lowering cholesterol levels is really about lowering bad cholesterol. Might you be at risk? You can get a general sense of your risk by using the  10-Year Heart Attack Risk Calculator, available from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  But to be certain of your risk…
Get screened!
Doctors agree that a screening for cholesterol levels is the key to detecting if you have a high cholesterol problem. High cholesterol can be a silent killer because there are usually no outward symptoms; most of those who have high cholesterol do not know. 

The good news is that the test is simple, and can usually be performed by your doctor in his office. If you’re an adult, 20 over over, NCEP recommends getting screened every five years, or more often if:
  • You are older than 45 and male or older than 50 and female.
  • Your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher.
  • Your HDL (good) cholesterol is lower than 40 mg/dL.
  • You have other heart disease and stroke risk factors, which your doctor can tell you.
Change your lifestyle
Even before you get tested, you can make changes to your way of life that can lower your bad cholesterol levels:
  • Exercise regularly.  By adding about 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity into your weekly routine, you can lower your bad cholesterol.
  • Eat right.  The average American diet is high in saturated fats and trans fats, either of which may raise LDLs. Do include healthy fats in your diet though, as they can actually lower LDL cholesterol levels, as can having enough fiber in your diet.
  • Manage your weight. Obesity usually raises your cholesterol levels. Conversely, losing weight can help lower cholesterol.
  • Don’t smoke. Just one more reason to quit; smoking can elevate your LDLs.
With these lifestyle changes, you may always come home from your cholesterol screening with a smile on your face.  But if you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol and given doctor's instructions or prescription medications for cholesterol, follow their guidance.

People exercising at the gym


Learn more about blood cholesterol


If you have dangerous levels of cholesterol or are at risk of developing high cholesterol, you’ll benefit from the guidance and education of these resources:
Make this September your personal kickoff event to improving your health by getting screened for cholesterol and making lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Friday, September 6, 2013

Getting a Good Night's Sleep

It’s one of the most important things you can do for your health, yet it eludes most individuals at least occasionally. Getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle.
By instituting proper sleep hygiene, recognizing how much sleep you require and being aware of sleep problems and disorders, you can ensure quality sleep for you and your family members.

Importance of sleep:

Maintains proper brain function and a healthy mental state
Ensures healing and repairing of major organs
Helps control eating by balancing hormones that make you feel hungry (gherlin) or full (leptin)
Regulates proper immune system response

Sleep deprivation, the condition of not getting adequate sleep, may be acute, occurring on occasion, or chronic, lasting months or longer. Regardless of how sleep deprivation presents itself, lack of sleep can result in fatigue, depression, problems with concentration and memory, illness and injury according to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, www.nhibi.nih.gov.

Source: National Sleep Foundation

Sleep needs vary depending on the individual, but younger children require far more sleep than most other individuals. Teenagers typically have a different internal clock, being energized in the evening hours while sleeping late in the mornings. More information regarding sleep requirements can be found at www.sleepfoundation.org.

Proper sleep hygiene, the necessary practices that ensure regular, quality sleep and daytime alertness, is recommended for adequate sleep. Suggestions for good sleep hygiene include:

Keep the bedroom dark, cool and uncluttered
Maintain regular sleep and wake patterns, even on weekends
Establish a relaxing routine—read, take a warm bath, or meditate, for instance
Turn off electronic devices
Avoid the following:  daytime napping; caffeine, alcohol and exercise close to bedtime; large meals late in the day

Sleep problems and disorders are becoming more prevalent in today’s fast-paced world.  According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common sleep challenges include:

Insomnia—the inability to fall and remain asleep, waking up feeling unrested. Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans.
Sleep Apnea—a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts again.
RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome—a condition that causes legs to feel uncomfortable, which may result in movement. Typically occurs in the evenings and can disrupt sleep.


Woman sleeping

If you’ve incorporated good sleep hygiene into your daily routine and sleep is still a problem, what else can be done?

See your physician to ensure you don’t have an underlying medical condition.
Your physician may order tests or a sleep study to help determine the basis of your sleep challenges.
Under the direction of a doctor or other health professional, herbs and natural remedies such as melatonin, chamomile, hops or valerian may be helpful. Lavender and lavender-based products have been used to induce a state of calm and relaxation too.
Prescription medications are available for use as well. Speak with your physician about your specific needs. Remember, the FamilyWize card gives great discounts on prescription medications.

Kathy Rembisz 
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tasty? Don’t Trust Your Taste Buds

You may think that you prefer this recipe over that one, but did you know that the sounds in the room – or the color of the plate your food is served on, or the weight of the fork you’re eating with – could be dramatically influencing your palate?  Fact is, whether it’s food or drink, scientists are learning that our taste buds can easily be manipulated by what our five senses are feeding us. 

I would like to think that I can trust my taste buds. But, truth be told, I already suspected that my other senses were influencing my opinions of the foods I eat in the beverages I drink.  For instance, while I don't know for certain that there is any actual taste difference between beer served in a can versus beer served in a bottle – or milk served in a glass versus milk served directly from a carton – I have always perceived that both of these beverages taste better in the glass.

Just me?

According to scientists, it's just about everyone. Let’s looks at some examples. 


Food tastes better – or worse – based on how it’s served


If you want to change the flavor of food, you can add salt, or you can use less salt. On the other hand, it turns out that you can simply change the color of the serving dish or the utensils and fool your brain into thinking that a food is already salted enough.

As crazy as this sounds, scientists in this 2011 study discovered that the color of the bowl from which popcorn was served completely changed the taste perception of the test subjects.  Participant felt that the popcorn was sweeter or saltier when, in reality, it was the exact same batch of popcorn. The only difference was the color of the popcorn bowl.

In a similar 2013 study using cheese, scientists served the exact same cheese but in different manners – such as using a toothpick, versus eating the cheese off a knife, spoon, etc. What researchers learned is that, mysteriously, the mind perceived the saltiness of the cheese differently depending on which way it was served.

Colorful bowls


And in another 2011 study, this one from Spain, scientists were able to dramatically manipulate how people felt about the taste and the appropriate price of a food based on nothing more than the weight of the dish in which the food was served.  By using the same batch of flavored yogurt, study participants were convinced that one bowl of yogurt was tastier – and should of course be priced higher – then another bowl of the exact same yogurt. The only difference? The weight of the bowl!

Of course, you may have already experienced something very similar to this, if you have ever felt that a meal served on a paper plate seems somehow less tasty than when served on a regular dish.  Whether or not this new knowledge will influence you to think differently about the quality or taste of your foods, the results of this study certainly provides a simple way for any cook or restaurant to improve what the diners think about what they are being served.  Try this: Next time you're tempted to serve up a quick meal by putting that hot dog and side of potato chips to your family on paper plates, put it instead on your best dishes and see if they come away from the meal feeling more satisfied and happier about dinner.

Woman comparing wine

Price tags make us think differently about taste


Have you ever been guilty of buying a bottle of wine that you chose because it was more expensive and you therefore thought that it would be a much better tasting wine?  Funny thing is, even if you thought you were right – that the more expensive wine tasted better – there's a good chance that you were wrong.
Caltech scientists have learned that our perception of the quality of a food or drink can be influenced by something as simple as the price tag. In the study, volunteers were served several wines, purportedly ranging in price from as little as five dollars per bottle to as much as $90 per bottle. By far, participants preferred the flavor of the wine that they were told costs more money. In reality, some of the wines come from the same bottle, and yet that same wine scored higher when the participants thought it cost more. 


Noise alters our taste sensations


In a study published in the British Journal of psychology, study participants came up with a completely different description for the taste of a wine depending on what music they were listening to as they tasted it.
 
And in a Netherlands study, scientists learned that people will perceive the taste of food differently depending on the atmosphere of the room in which the food is served.  In the study, blindfolded participants consumed the same food but with different background sound experiences, such as soft sounds (think a quiet, upscale restaurant), a high level of white noise (think a mall’s food court) or silence. Interestingly, study participants experienced the flavor of the food as being quite different depending on which aural environment they were in while eating.  Specifically, participants found that foods tasted more bland in the noisier environments.


We eat less when served food on a smaller plate


It turns out that one of the cheapest diet plans available doesn't involve what you eat at all, because we can easily manipulate our sense of satisfaction with the portions we are eating.  This recent Cornell University study indicates that we tend to eat less and feel fuller when we eat from smaller plates. 

Different size cups

As the study showed, putting the same amount of food on two different sized plates engendered completely different psychological effects on the test subjects. Those served the portion on a smaller plate, which was relatively overflowing with food, felt more satisfied than those served the exact same portion on a larger plate, which obviously had plenty of room to spare. 

The implication of his study: What you see is how much you eat.  So, rather than spend a ton of money on a diet plan, why not simply eat off of smaller plates?


Taste is a many splendored thing


One useful lesson from these studies; you can have more satisfied diners at your table without changing your recipes.  Simply serve your food in a way that positively engages all five senses, and your reputation for cooking will score bonus points.
 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer