Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year’s Resolution Revolution

Rumination. According to Webster’s, it means to go over and over things in our minds. And this time of year, many of us do just that: we reflect on the last year and our perceived failures and lack of accomplishment. We beat up on ourselves with “cheery” New Year’s resolutions like, “I will stop eating junk food and lose 20 pounds,” or “I will stop smoking and start exercising,” or my personal favorite, “I will stop being negative and complaining about everything.” These lofty goals, usually touted along with giving up one of our vices, set us up for failure. It’s not that we can’t do these things. It is that we handle ourselves with iron fists, demanding we give up our favorite foods, our long-held habits, without any room for error or forgiveness.

So, rather than making New Year’s resolutions that may be unattainable, why not try out some New Year’s “revolutions,” instead? What’s the difference, you ask? I’m so glad you did.

1. Want to lose weight? Try out this instead: I will learn to love my body, regardless of my clothes size. Here’s the reality of the equation that a friend of mine who lost a lot of weight discovered: Even if you lost all the weight and looked exactly as you desired, your problems in life, love and work would remain. Your frustration with your least-loved body part would still be there. It’s truly about loving ourselves completely, embracing the imperfections, and valuing who we are as people, that will make us happy. The weight? It will probably come off in time, if you just love yourself up enough. Because when we love our bodies, we want to give them what they need, rather than just eat out of emotional desire or social dictates.

2. Quitting smoking? How about something like this: I will discover what things make me happiest, and do those instead. We smoke because of many different factors. And those that push past tough addictions often do so because they find something else to fill the void that the addiction has been disguising. So instead of putting the focus on “quitting” something, why not turn it into finding something you love? Whether it’s a new hobby – parasailing? Scrapbooking? Building replicas of machinery? Or engaging in more social activity, or joining a dating site, or finding new folks to spend time with via meetup.com. Whatever it is, when we place our attention on positive changes, the old negative ways are much easier to let go of.

3. Looking for a more positive outlook? Add this to your daily self-talk: I acknowledge the good and the bad in life, though I choose to dwell on the positive aspects most of the time. Truth is, while paying attention to only the negative is dangerous, positive thinking can be just as treacherous. Finding a balance, allowing yourself the normal emotional swings that accompany life, while still seeking the silver lining, tends to be healthiest – and most achievable – mindset when it comes to altering our attitude. So go for acceptance, with a side dish of positive thinking.

One of the downsides to New Year’s resolutions is creating ideals that we can never reach. So let’s revolutionize our thinking, go for a more reasonable approach, allowing for human error, balance, and life’s twists and turns. You’ll be able to craft the change you want to see in your life, while drawing happiness and satisfaction to you, as well, by simply tweaking these small elements.

What have been your most successful life changes? What steps did you put in place to get there? How have you revolutionized your thinking?

Live Healthy. Live Smart

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Five Tips for Better Long-Distance Grandparenting

Times have changed, in both good and bad ways for distant "grandparenting."
  • The bad part: Americans are much more scattered from their roots than in times past, which means there are often many miles between you and your grandkids.
  • The good part: If you live far from your grandchildren in this “digital” age, there are many more ways than in the past to effectively shrink the distance – to stay in touch, to influence, to share in their growth and development. 
Yes, it is possible to be a positive influence on your grandkids even when you don't get to see them very often – especially if you take advantage of these five grandparenting tips to  to feel closer to your grandchildren and for them to feel closer to you.

Tip # 1 – pick up the phone!

You can become quite special in your grandchild's life by making phone calls especially for him or her.
Perhaps you already make frequent phone calls to your son or daughter, and perhaps part of these calls are sometimes spent talking to your grandson or daughter. But imagine how special it would be if your grandchild knew that every Tuesday at 5 PM was their personal grandparent phone time, set aside by you for just him or her.
Over the years, this special time will become even more important, one they will anticipate. But to make it even more special:
  • Plan ahead – Make sure you are ready for each call with questions to ask and interesting news to share.  Put yourself in the mind of your grandchild.  They are not as captivated by a conversation on your phlebitis or arthritis condition as they might to find out if Grandpa finished building the tree house, or to hear you recount the story of previous visits from the grandkids and what made that trip special for you.
  • Be specific – General questions, like “How’s school?” or “How are you?” will test the limited patience of a small child (or of an emotionally edgy teenager). More specific questions indicate your interest in them – “Have you heard from your best friend Mary since she moved across town?” or “Your mom tells me that you got to pitch on your last Little League game.  Did you get any strikeouts?” Questions like this will awaken their minds and encourage them to engage with you.

Tip #2 – Get visual

While words of love and kindness are wonderful to share, the expression "A picture is worth a 1000 words" applies to creating strong and positive memories for your grandchildren. Build heritage into their history through imagery, not just words. Here's how:
  • We tend to remember our past best when there is an photo or video attached to the event. So, whenever you are together with your grandchild, make sure to take pictures or video that you can share with them later.
  • Use those pictures and family movies not just for your own pleasure; share it with your grandchild. A simple card or letter with a photo included from their visit with you will help solidify that memory and make it extra special.
  • There are many online websites you can use to upload photos or video, which you can then share access to with your grandchild.
  • Using those same photo service websites (such as YorkPhoto.com, ShutterFly.com and SnapFish.com) you can easily transform photos into keepsake gifts. This can be as simple as a framed photo for the grandchild's bedroom. But you can also create a photo mug or custom photo book as a gift, including photo captions or other notes on the page. Imagine how special it would be for your grandchild to receive a commemorative photo book about their recent trip, such as “Billy’s Big Week Camping With Grandpa.”

Tip #3 – Use Social media websites

It's easier than ever to use one of the "social media" websites, such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, or Google+ to stay in touch with your grandchildren. You can upload and share pictures with them (but usually through their parents' profile, as most websites do not allow children to have their own profile), or have text-chat conversations. If you are not sure how to get started, ask your son or daughter for help.

Tip #4 – Grandchild naming games

The most important word in the English language is one's own name. To make a positive impression on your grandson or daughter, create unforgettable games, places, recipes, or special items that are based on your grandchild's name.
To make it memorable, make it a recipe (or whatever) that, by name, matches the first letter of grandchild's first name, or rhymes with it. Ideally, it should be something that genuinely connects to the child, such as a favorite recipe or favorite place of theirs.
Some examples to get your creative juices flowing:
  • The “Zack Snack” or “Billy’s Banana Madness” or “Laura’s Loveable Lasagna”
  • "Sam's Secret Hideout" or “Freddy's Favorite Chair"

Tip #5 – experiment with technology

Perhaps the next best thing to being there is to have a video chat with your distance grandchild. While a video chat would have been prohibitively expensive just 20 years ago, it's free today, thanks to software like Hangouts by Google or Skype
A video chat is essentially a phone call that you do from your computer in which each person uses a web cam (a video camera hooked up to a computer or mobile device) and microphone so that they can, in real time, see and hear each other from across the state, country, or even across the world.
All it takes is a web-connected device with a camera and microphone, plus the free video chat software installed. And, just like that, your grandchild can show you the presents they got for Christmas, rather than just talk about it.
That's special.

Do you have any  grandparent tips of your own  that have worked well for effectively shrinking the distance between you and your grandchildren?  Please share! Use the comments field below to tell us about it.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Inactivity – It's a Killer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Going Gluten Free: The Controversy Continues

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

Types of gluten-free diets:

  • An elimination diet
  • A replacement diet

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

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

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

Yet, experts warn against these claims.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What’s in Your Tap Water?

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

Is tap water safe to drink?

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

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

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

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

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

How to ensure tap water safety:

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

How can you test your tap water?

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

How can you protect your tap water?

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

What is hard water?

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

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

Is hard water hazardous to your health?

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

Is cloudy tap water a problem?

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

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

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Latest on TB

What is TB?

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

History of TB:

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

Symptoms of TB:

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

What is the difference between latent and active TB?

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

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

Is tuberculosis contagious?

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

How is TB diagnosed?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

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

Risk factors for catching TB:

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

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

Treatments for TB:

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

Latest findings:

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

For more information, visit www.annals.org or www.nim.nih.gov/medlineplus.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

The Caffeine Kick

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

How safe is caffeine overall?

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

What are the risks of consuming too much caffeine?

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

How much caffeine is in foods?

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

What products can contain caffeine without consumers knowing?

Non-cola sodas
Ice cream
Pain relievers
Cold medicines

How much caffeine can you consume per day?

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

How do you calculate caffeine content of products?

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

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

What about caffeine-enhanced energy drinks?

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

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

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quick and Easy Thanksgiving Cleanup

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

How can you ensure a quick and easy Thanksgiving cleanup?

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

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

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

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

What do you need to know about leftovers?

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

What are the best uses for leftover turkey or ham?

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

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

Additional suggestions for leftovers:

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

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

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Protecting Your Precious Eyes

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

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

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

The most common symptoms of CVS are:

Blurred vision
Dry eyes
Neck and shoulder pain

What factors contribute to the symptoms of CVS?

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

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

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

How is CVS diagnosed?

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

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

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

How can you protect your eyes from electronic devices?

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

What are the recommendations for preventing or alleviating CVS?

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

What else do you need to know?

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

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

Be Wize & Be Healthy,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bee Pollen Health Benefits & Risks

Some research shows that Bee pollen – the nutrient-rich pellet made by honeybees and used to feed their young – is full of concentrated goodness for humans too. To help you decide if supplementing your diet with bee pollen is right for you, let’s take a look at the benefits, the risks, and the research. But first…

What is bee pollen?

The pollen that makes you sneeze is chemically different than the pollen molded by bees into granules. Honeybees create bee pollen as they fly from flower to flower. When a honeybee lands on a flower, it scrapes off the loose pollen powder from the stamen using its jaws and legs, and then moistens the pollen with honey it brought from the hive, mixing it and pressing it down into pockets on its legs. It forms into a single pollen granule, which the bee takes back to the hive to become food for the young bees. Amazingly, a single teaspoon of bee pollen pellets represents about 240 hours of pollen-harvesting labor from one bee! 

Bee pollen possesses the nearly all the nutritional substances we need for survival and health, including B-complex, other vitamins, amino acids, and more accessible protein per ounce than that of any animal source. Bee pollen has been called by many "the ultimate survival pack," because it is such a complete nutrient combination. Purportedly, you could live indefinitely on a diet of nothing but bee pollen and water if you add a source of dietary roughage.

Key health benefits of bee pollen

While bee pollen is popular in health circles today, its history is deep, having been used as food for centuries. Written history shows that Hippocrates and Pythagoras recommended bee pollen for its healing powers, even prescribing it to their patients.
Positive health benefit claims by proponents of bee pollen include:
  • Boosting the immune system (due to its antibiotic effect on the body, potentially protecting it from viruses)
  • Enhancing energy (because of its carbohydrates, protein, and B vitamins)
  • Increasing sexual functions in both men and women – aphrodisiac (due to hormonal boosting)
  • Lifespan/longevity increase (because of its high antioxidant count)
  • Soothing skin irritation (bee pollen is often used in topical products for this reason)
  • Aiding digestion (due to its enzymes)
  • Protecting the skin and boosting skin cell regeneration (through its amino acids and vitamins)
  • Reducing inflammation in the lungs (due to its inherent antioxidants that can induce anti-inflammatory effects)
  • Boosting sports performance, including speed, stamina, and endurance
  • Reducing allergic reactions (by reducing the presence of histamines)
  • Correcting nutritional imbalances in the body
  • Improving prostate health (by reducing inflammation resulting from benign prostate hyperplasia)
  • Treating addiction and supporting weight loss (by reducing cravings)
  • Increasing cardiovascular health (due to be pollen's high amounts of the antioxidant bioflavonoid Rutin, which is known for strengthening blood vessels and capillaries)
  • Preventing heart attacks and strokes (also because of bee pollen's Rutin)
  • Stimulating ovary function
  • Battling oxidation (because of its high antioxidant content that strengthens the cells' ability to fight free radicals)

Research on bee pollen

Since many of the bee pollen health benefit claims come from those who market bee pollen, it's helpful to look at scientific research to see if it supports claims. Here is what we found:
  • A 1983 study of bee pollen to analyze its properties found that it  has high crude fiber content, and contains high concentrations potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium. While they found bee pollen to be high in protein, it is minimally useful to humans because of its low digestibility.
  • One study reports anti-inflammatory benefits from bee pollen, similar to the effect of the drug Vioxx, but without the increased heart attack risks.
  • Two studies, one in China and one in Denmark, on the effect of bee pollen on memory found little to no improvement on memory. However, in both cases, the tests involved a formula that only had 14% bee pollen.
  • A 1977 clinical trial on bee pollen determined that bee pollen provided no significant sports performance enhancement benefit.
  • A 1978 study, reported in Journal of Sports Medicine, tested bee pollen’s effect on athletic performance, and concluded that the pollen had no significant effect.
  • Former Russian Olympic coach Korchemny determined in a 2-year study that bee pollen improves athletes’ recovery power. 
  • Vanderbilt University compiled results from multiple bee pollen studies, finding no proof that bee pollen has any energy-enhancing effects nor positive weight loss effects.
  • Some clinical tests showed that bee pollen is quickly digested and enters the bloodstream quickly.
  • One experiment showed that, on a diet of nothing but bee pollen,  mice can survive and reproduce.
  • A 1994 mouse experiment tested bee pollen’s effect on maternal nutrition and fetal growth. The pollen-fed group experienced increased body weight,  higher levels of total protein, and a lower death rate than the fetuses fed a normal diet. 
  • A 1995 clinical trial on pollen extract’s anti-tumor potential found it to be effective in treating prostate enlargement and prostatitis.
  • In a 1991 study on rats on the effect of pollen on prolonged poisoning of rats with simulated industrial exposure, liver damage was nearly nonexistent in pollen-treated rates, yet significant in the control group.

Bee Pollen risks

The University of Utah states that there are no significant food or drug interactions to bee pollen. That said, some people are allergic to ingested pollen, with symptoms ranging from mild to fatal.  Allergy warning signs include:
  • Wheezing
  • Rash
  • Photosensitivity
  • Anaphylaxis
If you have a history of airborne allergies to pollen, the risk of a reaction to bee pollen supplements is higher.
Some studies also suggest that bee pollen can create liver damage or renal failure.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

An Unexpected Health Benefit of Computer Games – Reduced Nicotine & Food Cravings

Can you "game" the system of addictive behaviors to reduce cravings? A recent study suggests that you can – that you can subdue your addictive cravings, such as those for cigarettes, food, or alcohol, simply by playing certain PC games for a few minutes.

Gaming can be good for you?

We reported in 2012 on the potential health benefits, and even social benefits, of computer gaming and video games. While the same potential risks from too much gaming or age-inappropriate games are still there (discussed in the 2012 gaming article), a 2014 study adds further grist to the mill of the arguments in favor of gaming.

The research psychologists focused on the measurable effects generated from study participants who were playing the computer game Tetris, observing that the game-playing activity lessened the severity of alcohol, food, and nicotine cravings.

In this study, the psychologists witnessed that the mental-visual stimulation experienced when players rapidly manipulated the Tetris game shapes distracted participants' brains from picturing food, alcohol, or tobacco products and, consequently, the associated cravings.

The study also revealed that the positive effects kicked in after as little as three minutes of gameplay. It appears that the visual stimulation inherent in the game Tetris reduced cravings associated with alcohol, cigarettes, and food.

How researchers discovered the positive effect of gaming

The science behind the study is based on "Elaborated Intrusion Theory," which suggests that imagery is central to craving and that, therefore, a visually-based tasks should decrease craving and craving imagery.

The research, conducted at the Plymouth University Cognition Institute, tested this theory using 121 study participants who were asked if they were experiencing a craving and, if so, were then instructed to rate the strength, vividness, and intrusiveness of the craving. Following this, the participants either played Tetris for three minutes or, for participants placed in the control group, watched what appeared to be a computer program trying to load for three minutes, effectively receiving no visual stimulation.

Before task completion, craving scores of both groups were essentially the same. However, after the three minute period, those participants who played Tetris had significantly lower craving and less vivid craving imagery than the control group.

The conclusion: loading up the visual-spatial part of our memory has the potential to reduce our naturally occurring cravings. The researchers also concluded that Tetris might be a useful way for just about anyone to tackle cravings outside the laboratory in everyday life.

Understanding the science of cravings

Earlier studies on addictive behaviors have shown cravings to be a trigger that launches undesirable activities such as binge eating, giving up on weight loss programs, and even the onset of obesity.

Cravings are an everyday occurrence; we all experience them. Cravings are usually associated to negative effects. When experiencing cravings that we can't ignore, we either lose resistance and engage in the undesirable behavior (such as breaking a diet, overeating, smoking, or drinking) or, even if we are able to resist the temptations of the cravings, we often experience undesirable distress or distraction.

What happens is that an internal or external trigger gives rise to a spontaneous thought that we are either able to ignore or that latches on, becoming elaborated. When elaboration happens, mental images are developed and held onto, overwhelming other mental faculties, such as the desire to resist the negative behavior.

The power of these images in the mind's eye is substantial. For example, an earlier study showed that alcohol-craving imagery resulted in a majority of study participants being able to mentally "taste" the substance they craved.

Why Tetris can short-circuit addictive behaviors

It turns out that working memory – the place in our minds where visual cravings occur – has a limited load capacity. As the new study showed, involving the working memory system with an irrelevant task load, such as playing Tetris, overwhelms that visual-spatial "sketchpad." The result is that this unrelated task can short-circuit the cravings for food, alcohol, or cigarettes – effectively distracting the mind and dulling the addictive cravings.

While this short-circuiting effect may work with other similar games, Tetris is specifically known to load the visual-spatial part of working memory. In Tetris, the player can only keep the game going if they rotate and move geometric shapes very quickly to achieve the goal of completing a row of shapes without gaps.

How you can game the system of addictive behaviors

If you want to try this same experiment at home, you will find that Tetris and several freeware knockoff versions of Tetris are available for download from the Internet. The next time you are experiencing cravings common to tobacco, alcohol, or foods, open your computer or mobile device right away and play a few rounds of Tetris.

You too may find that Tetris works to manage your cravings or other related imagery.  Worst-case scenario, you'll get to enjoy the pleasure of a short game break. 
As an added bonus, if you have any trouble with lazy eye syndrome, a 2013 study showed that Tetris can also improve problems with lazy eye.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Discover The Ancient Chinese Practice of Tai Chi

What is tai chi?

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that originated as a martial art and form of self-defense. The practice has evolved into a form of exercise that incorporates a series of gentle, focused movements with deep breathing and relaxation. While there are thousands of different styles of tai chi, all are based on specific forms and moves. Often referred to as “meditative movement,” this non-competitive, self-paced practice is great for stretching, balance and calming the nervous system.

Tai chi basics for beginners:

* Styles of tai chi include: Yan, Wu and Chen.
* The ancient practice is based on forms, with short being best for beginners.
* Tai chi involves moves, which are a combination of actions. Many moves have been named after animals, such as Bird’s Tail, Horse Stance and White Crane Spreads Its Wings. But, don’t let the complexity of the names deter you.

What are the health benefits of tai chi?
According to the Mayo Clinic:

Relieves stress and anxiety
Benefits cardiovascular health
Increases stamina and energy
Assists with balance, flexibility and agility
Improves muscle strength

Results of studies evaluating balance, sleep quality and cognitive performance can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3396052/.

Additional benefits include:

Noticeable improvement in quality of sleep
Immune system enhancement
Lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure
Helps diminish joint pain
May improve chronic pain

Studies have proven that regular tai chi practice results in a reduction in the number of falls among participants. In addition, in a study involving stroke victims who practice tai chi, significant improvement in balance, quality of life and mental health issues were reported. Read more here.

What health conditions can tai chi benefit?

Balance, equilibrium issues or vertigo
Arthritis and any condition affecting the joints
Chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia

While tai chi is generally a gentle, safe form of exercise, always consult your healthcare provider before starting a practice.

Who can practice tai chi?

Individuals of all ages and fitness levels
Older individuals who otherwise may not be able to engage in exercise
Those recovering from injury or illness
Individuals or groups

How can you find a class?

Experts suggest you find a qualified teacher to learn tai chi movements
Videos and books are available to augment classes
Local YMCA/YWCAs, senior and health centers offer classes
Sites such as https://www.taichinetwork.org/ can help you find a teacher in your area.

Suggestions for maximum benefits of tai chi:

1. Set regular practice times
2. Practice several times per week, in addition to your class
3. Aim to workout for 20 minutes or longer
4. Wear loose, comfortable clothing

So, if you're looking for a new activity that offers numerous health benefits, can include the whole family and is relatively inexpensive to try, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi might just fit the bill.

Be Wize & Be Healthy,

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Does Obesity Equate to Poorer Grades?

A recent study revealed some troubling statistics that appear to connect childhood obesity with lower grades and less success in secondary level education. The study also determined that the negative influence of obesity on education is not affected by the student’s social background.

The groundbreaking study from the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) focused on obesity statistics in Germany, but it portends even greater concern for US children, since obesity among German children is approximately six percent while, by comparison, more than 10 percent of US children are obese, according to statistics from California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

And the percentage of obese children in the US is increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the past 30 years, childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. The CDC estimates that obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States — triple the rate from just one generation ago.

In the 2013 German study, researchers looked closely at how weight and obesity influences grades in mathematics and language in primary school and in Germany's equivalent of of our secondary schools, analyzing both those children who would be classified as overweight and those who would be classified as obese (The CDC defines overweight as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above 85 percent, and obesity as having a BMI at or above 95 percent compared to children of the same age/sex – see CDC Growth Charts for a breakdown by age and gender).  The researchers discovered that:
  • Obese girls and boys are statistically less likely to receive a“ good” or “very good” math grade, with the likelihood of getting top grades as much as 11 percent lower compared to children of healthy weight.
  • Those children classified as overweight do not perform worse in math.
The influence of obesity on math grades did not appear to be effected by whether or not a child is healthy, how much exercise or sports participation they did or didn't get, nor how much TV they watched.

The bully effect

The researchers also found that, because obese girls are bullied more often, they showed lower self-confidence, leading to an increase in behavior problems.
Interestingly though, researchers found no “bully effect” in the study for boys. Although obese boys were found to suffer from lower self-confidence. The researchers believe that this helps to explain the lower math grades.

Self-confidence and obesity

An earlier study in the US on the psychological and social adjustment of obese children and their families showed that obese children are less socially competent, had more behavior problems, and had poorer self-perceptions than their non-obese peers. In effect, the newer WZB study continues where this earlier study left off, connecting these common problems of obese children to negative school performance.

The WZB researchers also concluded that obese children are less likely to take advanced level classes in secondary education than their overweight counterparts.

Parents in the US are already concerned about the health impact when their children struggle with obesity. The German study also highlights the social burden that accompanies the childhood obesity epidemic, not just for the child's current situation but potentially for the long term. 

Parents can investigate two CDC resources for more information about childhood obesity:  the Basics about Childhood Obesity website and CDC's Strategies and Solutions content.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What the Heck is a Macrobiotic Diet?

Macrobiotics – a word you’ve likely heard but … what does it mean? If the term macrobiotics is Greek to you, here’s your primer! 

And, incidentally, the word macrobiotics is in fact Greek, at least in origin, coming from the word macro, meaning great, and bios, meaning life: Great Life.

Given the principles of the macrobiotic diet, you couldn’t choose a better word than one that means Great Life. Macrobiotics is not just a diet but a philosophy of life balance.  The founder of macrobiotics, Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa, taught that a balanced, healthy diet is a necessary component of a great life. And let’s face it, if you have an unhealthy diet, it’s only a matter of time before your health will suffer – and where’s the happiness in that?

What a macrobiotic diet looks like

Have you heard someone describe themselves as a pescatarian? It’s not a church denomination; a pescatarian is someone who considers themselves a vegetarian but who also eats fish and other aquatic animals for protein.  The macrobiotic diet strictly follows vegetarianism or pescatarianism. 

The diet is also based on the principles of yin and yang: opposing, complementary life forces that we should strive to keep in balance.  As this balance applies to the diet, foods are categorized as belonging to yin or yang, based on sweet vs. salty, hot vs. cold, and so forth. Thus, a macrobiotic dieter seeks to keep a good balance between yin foods and yang foods.

Macrobiotics practitioners are generally either health conscious individuals or those who are sick and hoping to find healing through the macrobiotics diet and lifestyle (including physical health and spiritual health).
What’s on the menu?
The macrobiotic diet is roughly half whole grains, a third vegetables, and the remainder a combination of beans, bean soups, miso soups, and sea vegetables. Rather than eating on a breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule, you eat when you feel hungry.  The diet also advises you to thoroughly chew when you eat to aid in digestion. 
What’s off the menu?
Things a macrobiotic dieter avoids:
  • No dairy products and no meats
  • No vitamin or mineral supplements
  • Avoid microwaving
  • Avoid cooking with electricity
  • No processed foods
  • No foods that contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
  • No caffeine
  • No plastic storage; use stainless steel, wood, glass, or china instead

Why do a macrobiotic diet?

There are many health benefits reported by macrobiotic dieters.  Ohsawa stated that the macrobiotic diet could even cure cancer. Scientific studies do not unequivocally support this claim. Some studies have found no conclusive connection between the macrobiotic diet and cancer improvement.  However,  a 1993 study looking at pancreatic cancer reported that more than half of those who maintain a macrobiotic diet were alive after one year, while 90 percent of the study participants not on the macrobiotic diet had died by the end of the 12 months – results which generated a macrobiotic diet boon, especially among those with cancer.
Other macrobiotics health benefits are likely, simply because the diet removes all processed foods, includes lots of vegetables, is low in unhealthy fats, and high fiber. These factors have all been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

How to get started with a macrobiotic diet

Given the holistic lifestyle nature of macrobiotics, and the likelihood that the diet and food preparation methods will be radically different than what you are familiar with, the best way to get started is to seek out a macrobiotic practitioner for guidance.  Your budget or comfort level can determine whether you choose a person who teaches macrobiotics for a living or is simply a person who is experienced in practicing macrobiotics in daily life.
If personal guidance from an experienced practitioner is not an option for you, there are many books and online resources that can give you the basics.

Risks of the macrobiotic diet

It’s easy to do a macrobiotic diet wrong if you haven’t received guidance and training.  Risks to consider:
  • Since the macrobiotic diet has no dairy or animal products, you need to make sure that your body gets enough nutrients from other sources.
  • Many people lose a great deal of weight after switching to a macrobiotic diet. If you are already low in weight, this can put you in danger.
  • Even those who strictly follow macrobiotic diets might be deficient in certain vitamins, such as B12, D, iron, and calcium.
  • Because of the potential for vitamin deficits on the diet, macrobiotics is unadvisable for children, pregnant women, and those are already very sick.
As with any significant diet change, talk to your doctor, especially if you have any serious medical conditions.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer