Monday, January 14, 2013

National Birth Defect Prevention Month

One in every thirty-three babies born in the United States is affected by a birth defect. According to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), this staggering statistic is the leading cause of infant mortality in the country. As alarming as this information may be, the NBDPN dedicates the entire month of January to building awareness for the prevention of birth defects.  

folic acid
Protect your baby before and after birth by being
aware of the risk of developing birth defects.
This January’s National Birth Defect Prevention Month theme is: “Birth defects are common, costly, and critical.” The NBDPN is focusing on medication use and pregnancy, two elements that factor greatly into the risk of developing birth defects. Two-thirds of women take one or more medications during pregnancy. Proper healthcare before and during pregnancy is essential to preventing birth defects and other pregnancy complications.
There are various types of birth defects and numerous categories that they fall under. The major categories include: the 
  • Central nervous system 
  • Eyes 
  • Cardiovascular 
  • Orofacial 
  • Gastrointestinal 
  • Musculoskeletal 
  • Chromosomal anomalies 
The four most common birth defects in the US are congenital heart defects, cleft lip and/or palate, Down syndrome, and Spina bifida. Congenital heart defects affect one in 100 babies, and are an abnormality in any part of the heart that is present at birth. 

Cleft lip and/palate is a birth defect in which the baby's upper lip and/or palate does not form completely and has an opening in it, afflicting one in 700 babies. Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that includes a combination of birth defects. Those affected have some degree of intellectual disability, characteristic facial features and, often, heart defects, as well as other health problems. The severity of these problems varies greatly among the one in 800 affected each year. And lastly, Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the lower back and, sometimes, the spinal cord of one baby in every 2,500 born.There are three types of Spina bifida, which from the least to most severe form include Occulta, Meningocele, Myelomeningocele.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is currently too difficult to pinpoint what causes each specific birth defect. However, there are many risk factors that can be controlled and therefore, can lower your chances of having a child with a birth defect. They list  risk factors associated with birth defects as smoking before and during a pregnancy, obesity, poor control of diabetes and taking certain medication during pregnancy

In addition, the CDC recommends these 10 steps to help reduce the risk of birth defects: 

1. Take 400 micro-grams of Folic Acid every day

Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman consumes enough folic acid at least one month before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. Talk to your doctor before taking folic acid or any over the counter vitamins or medications.
2.     Don't drink alcohol at any time during pregnancy
When a woman drinks alcohol, unfortunately so does her unborn baby. Alcohol in the woman’s blood passes through the placenta to her baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with a fetal alcohol syndrome.
3.     Don’t smoke
Smoking before or during pregnancy can
cause birth defects.
Smoking during pregnancy exposes babies to harmful chemicals that inevitably cause birth defects. Even being around cigarette smoke puts a woman and her unborn baby at risk for complications. Quitting smoking before getting pregnant is best.
4. Do not use “street” drugs
       A woman who uses illegal—or “street”—drugs during pregnancy can have a baby who is born with birth defects. It also is important that a woman not use "street" drugs after she gives birth, because such drugs can be passed through breast milk to her baby and can affect the baby’s growth and development.
5. Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications
     Taking certain medications during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects, but the safety of many medications taken by pregnant women has been difficult to determine. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should not stop taking medications you need or begin taking new medications without first talking with your doctor. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal products. 

6. Prevent infections
         Some infections that a woman can get during pregnancy can be harmful to the unborn baby. Learn how to help prevent infections. 

7. Talk to your doctor about vaccinations
          Many vaccinations are safe and recommended during pregnancy, but some are not. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep a woman and her baby healthy. 

8. Keep diabetes under control
          Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chances for birth defects and other problems for the baby. It can also cause serious complications for the woman. Proper healthcare before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects and other poor outcomes. 

9. Reach and maintain a healthy weight
          A woman who is obese before pregnancy is at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy. Obesity in the woman also increases the risk of several serious birth defects for the baby. If you are overweight or obese, talk with your doctor about ways to reach a healthy weight before you get pregnant. 

10. See a health care professional regularly

A woman should be sure to see her doctor when planning a pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as she thinks that she is pregnant. It is important to see the doctor regularly throughout pregnancy, so a woman should keep all her prenatal care appointments. 

As American icon G.I. Joe would say, “…knowing is half the battle,” and although January may raise your knowledge of the prevention of birth defects, information can only get you so far. It still may be difficult to obtain the prenatal vitamins and medications you need to sustain a healthy pregnancy

However, FamilyWize is here to help. Partnered with over 61,000 participating pharmacies across the United States, the free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card provides you with discounts and savings on your prenatal vitamins and medications. Based on your doctor’s recommendations and the prescriptions you are given, visit the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool to see the discounts FamilyWize may offer.

Derek Slichter
Contributing Writer

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hero Pets

From rescue dogs to furry companions who curl up beside us when we feel all alone, pets have a way of being there when it seems that the rest of the world has walked out. Pets are often used as therapy for people in need, such as the elderly or terminally ill patients. Their unconditional love and acceptance provide comfort and companionship to many of us.

Healing Pets

A speech therapist in California takes her pet, a pot-bellied pig named Buttercup, right into the classroom where she helps special-needs students to come out of their shells. Many children, and adults, feel an instant bond of trust with animals, which can draw them out when they might not be trusting enough to talk to other kids or adults. Buttercup helped one little boy to start talking to other students in his class for the first time.

Many rehabilitation centers and nursing homes keep pets on site for their patients. This is especially helpful when people are undergoing painful treatment or therapy. A little girl who suffers from an autoimmune deficiency and receives painful treatments is able to talk to the dog, Vi, who lives on site. She can tell the dog things that she isn't able to tell anyone else. Her parents also have a dog at home for her and she is able to share her stories with him.

Pets for the Elderly

It might seem crazy to think that talking to a pet who cannot understand us or respond in our language could help us, but sometimes it's just the sense that someone is listening that helps the most. Sometimes we all need someone to just listen, without giving advice or their own story, just someone to sit beside us and let us get it all out.

Lizzie, mom's cat, is what companion pets are all about.
She sits with my mom, listens to her and gives my mom a
feeling of being needed.
My mom suffers from dementia and expressive aphasia, she is unable to articulate the thoughts she has in her head. It can be very frustrating for both of us when we are trying to communicate. Mom often says the beginning of a sentence perfectly, but then messes up the last word or thought, the part that would make the whole statement make sense! I often hear her talking to our three cats and just telling them whole stories that make no sense to me, but the thing is, they don't need it to make sense. They just give my mom that room to talk and tell her story her way and they curl up beside her and listen to her without judgement or questions. Companion pets offer more than pet ownership, they are there with her when she needs someone to just sit by her side and let her talk.

Elderly people who adopt or save dogs through a rescue often report feeling less lonely, have improved morale, feel more independent and get more exercise. They may also experience lower blood pressure because pets can help people to manage stress more effectively. To find a local animal shelter, just enter "local animal shelter" plus your city and state in your browser's search box. Shelters might ask you to meet certain criteria before allowing you to adopt, for example, they might want to know the name of your veterinarian and some recent pet ownership, if available.

Hero dogs are good therapy for people recovering
from illness or injury.
When my uncle Ed suffered a heart attack that resulted in his being in a coma for nearly two months, we were not sure what his life would be like if / or when he regained consciousness. The doctors could not predict how much brain damage might have been done. When he came to, he made a lot of progress, but he needed to stay in a rehabilitation center to learn how to walk and move muscles that had atrophied during the time he was in the coma. He always talks about the day his family brought his dog, Choco, to the rehab for a visit. Choco was a rescue dog who had been abused by former owners. He was missing one eye and was easily startled by people. When my uncle adopted him, they became each other's best friends. For my uncle, knowing that Choco was waiting for him at home and looking forward to his return, gave him the extra incentive to get better.

Pets for Vets

Medical research shows that, for some sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), pets can help to relieve stress, raise self esteem and increase satisfaction with life. Returning veterans may experience symptoms of PTSD such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, many vets also experience a high rate of family abuse, unemployment and a loss of interest in life. Companion pets may be able to help service men and women who are dealing with PTSD.

Pets for Vets is an organization that rescues dogs and cats and adopts them out to service men and women in need. This gives hero dogs and cats a second chance at life who might otherwise be euthanized, and helps some of the nearly 20% of veterans who suffer from PTSD. Patriot Paws trains and provides service dogs to veterans at no cost. These dogs can get help if there's an emergency, pull a wheelchair or even open a door!

If you're wondering how you can make a difference in the life of a returning veteran or an elderly neighbor or family member, remember the Power of Paws! If you have a dog, ask an elderly neighbor to come with you on your walk, or volunteer your time with a local agency that trains companion pets. Remember, our furry friends are happy to lend a paw to someone in need.

Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Foods that Improve Your Mood

You may have heard the old saying you are what you eat. Have you ever given it much thought? The food you eat becomes a part of you, but take it a step further and you might find that the foods you eat can also improve your mood!

When I was pregnant, I felt the healthiest I've ever felt in my entire life. I felt truly happy, blessed, and amazing, for starters, plus I had a very good pregnancy. But I also tried to eat healthier and, except for some cookies and chocolate chip muffins here and there, I found that I often felt healthier than ever before, even though I was a bit more tired at times.

Chocolate is known to release endorphins that
can bring about a temporary good mood.
You may have heard, or experienced, that chocolate impacts the brain’s release of hormones, specifically endorphins and serotonin. This release of endorphins and serotonin bring about feelings of pleasure and comfort. Almost any woman can vouch for the power of chocolate! Some researchers attribute this to the small amounts of caffeine found in chocolate.

Of course, if you go about eating chocolate all the time to stay happy, you may find yourself dealing with other problems, like skin breakouts and a sugar rush that has you bouncing off the walls, or even a sugar crash an hour or so later, where you can barely keep your eyes open. Take some time to explore the best options in food to improve your mood.

How to Improve Mood with Food

If you find yourself easily
frustrated and moody, food may
improve your mood.
Eating some healthier foods can improve your life in a number of ways. First, you may notice improvements in your weight and body image. If you are watching your cholesterol and blood pressure, eating foods lower in fat and sodium will help your numbers. That in itself can improve your mood! However, a variety of special foods may also result in a mood change, giving you a more optimistic point of view and a happier perspective.

Some research suggests that vitamin D can increase serotonin levels, which may result in an improvement in mood for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Some top Vitamin D foods to boost your mood may include egg yolks, fish with bones, and low-fat milk, to name a few. Foods rich in omega-3 fats also seem to have a mood-lifting impact that might chase away depression. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids, as are walnuts, canola oil, and ground flax seeds, among other nutritious foods.

Folic acid (folate) and Vitamin B Complex also offer tremendous health benefits for improving your mood and your health in general. Consider foods like broccoli, beets, oranges, sunflower seeds, fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, and oatmeal, as well as lean meats, shellfish, low-fat yogurt, and eggs, to get your food and mood on the right path.

Many people take medications containing serotonin for depression relief and to uplift their moods. Some foods for serotonin production include those with B vitamins and those with tryptophan, such as turkey, soy products, and bananas. You can include other foods to improve your mood and ensure your diet is healthy, balanced, and rich in these elements. Increases in serotonin and food choices rich in vitamins and healthy nutrients can dramatically impact your state of mind. Knowing when and what to eat for snacks as well as mealtime may give you just the right mood boosting benefits to make a real difference in your life and your perspective.

Remember to limit refined carbohydrates, like white rice or bread, while increasing your consumption of healthy proteins as you are able. Choose desirable carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, beans, and brown and wild rice to get your carb fix. Enjoy poultry, veal, seafood, eggs, and other healthy protein options as a great step in improving your mood with food.

The next time your mood leaves something to be desired, don’t reach straight for the junk food. Consider chowing down on some of these more nutritious snacks to help boost your frame of mind.

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tinnitus - Can Exercise Help?

A Ring of Truth to It

If you’re plagued by a constant ringing sound coming from inside your ears, you may be suffering from tinnitus. Recent research is revealing a surprising solution to getting rid of that ringing in the ears: Exercise!

What is Tinnitus?

jaw exercises
Ringing or buzzing in
the ears can be a sign
of tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a medical term for a ringing, swishing, or buzzing sound in the ears. By “in the ears” doctors mean that there is no external outside-the-ear sound causing it. In fact, Tinnitus is sometimes described in medical journals as the perception of sound in the head because, technically speaking, no outside sound is present so it is not a sound wave that causes the apparent noise. But whether or not the sound you hear is a noise or a perceived noise, the sound is not imaginary, and can be a serious problem to those who have more severe cases of it. So, after you've verified that the sound you’re hearing is not your alarm clock or some other noise from your environment, it’s time to consider getting your ears looked at by a physician.

One of the first things your doctor will tell you is that tinnitus is not a disease. Rather, it is commonly considered a symptom of an underlying condition, which is why it’s important to look at the known causes, both for diagnosis and for prevention.

What causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be brought on by hearing loss.
Hearing loss brought on by loud noise is considered the most common cause. Those who frequently listen to music with in-ear headphones at high volume, or those who work in loud environments often experience tinnitus. But there is a variety of underlying causes, including foreign objects in the ear, nasal allergies from blocked passages, neurological damage, severe or lasting ear infections, and more. The inner ear contains countless tiny hair cells that vibrate in the presence of sound waves. Damage to the receptor cells that capture the incoming sound waves is believed to be a common cause of the ringing sound.

Who is at risk?

According to a 2007 study, Prevalence of tinnitus and audiometric shape, Tinnitus is quite common, with about 20 percent of those between the ages of 55 and 65 reporting tinnitus symptoms when asked on a general health questionnaire. Ringing sounds in the ear are likely experienced by everyone at one time or another – but for most it’s often just a brief period of mild ringing or other sounds in the ear. It might be mild enough that, unless the person is in a soundproof booth, they may not even be aware of the ringing.

That said, there are certain individuals who are at a higher level of risk. This includes smokers, the elderly (since most cases of tinnitus come from hearing loss that often accompanies aging), and those who live or work in environments with loud noises, resulting in acoustic trauma (hearing damage). Other risk factors include whiplash injuries or a significant impact trauma to the ear or head, as well as excessive bike riding with the neck in a hyper-extended position, blood flow issues, high blood pressure, nerve problems, and many diseases.

How can exercise help? 

There are many treatments suggested for tinnitus. Exercise is a relatively new treatment. Other tinnitus treatments or tinnitus management techniques may include tinnitus maskers, hypnosis, electrical stimulation, counseling, sound machines, biofeedback, and relaxation therapy.

The connection between tinnitus and treatment by exercise came about as doctors noticed that nearly half of those who suffer from tinnitus also suffer from temporomandibular joint disease, which (thankfully) is also referred to as simply TMJ. TMJ is a disorder of the jaw joints and connective tissues. As you may have already considered, your ears are right next to those joints and connective tissues. According to the American Tinnitus Association, symptom relief may be available by employing certain physical therapy jaw exercises and facial exercises that are often prescribed for people with TMJ.

Exercises to Relieve Ringing in the Ears

LiveStrong has identified several therapeutic exercises that may help alleviate the inner ear symptoms of tinnitus, which are summarized below.
  • Max Opening - techniques to widen your mouth opening capabilities.
  • Assisted Opening - expands on the max opening exercise by using your fingers to extend the opening further.
  • Lateral Movement - increases your jaw’s flexibility from side to side.
  • Midline Exercise - develops linear alignment of the jaw.
  • Feel-Good Teeth Tap - tapping your top and bottom teeth gently together while smiling. This exercise is also reported to be useful to reduce stress.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Homemade Cleaning Products to Save Money

vinegar to clean
Remove stains with homemade cleaning products.
Cleaning products can get very expensive and there seems to be a costly product for every little cleaning project you have. The cleaning industry has been pushing products for years and every year there seems to be a new cleaning product that works better than the last. They have brainwashed all of us into thinking we need a different cleaning product for every little germ that we come across in our house or work place!

Why waste all that money on 20 different cleaning products when you can make your own and only have a few bottles in the cupboard that take up less space? It makes more sense to me to de-clutter your cabinet with unwanted cleaning products and save money at the same time. Not to mention you will have fewer irritating fumes and harsh chemicals roaming through your house.

I put together a list of alternative cleaning solutions that you can use to make your own household products. Most of the products come straight from your cupboard and can be used everyday for homemade cleaning. If you are wondering how to get stains out or get rid or those pesky tub rings all of these household products will do the trick. I have added a link for each product that tells you its best use.
cleaning products
Buy bulk to save money.

  • Baking Soda - Baking soda can be used in so many different ways and it is very cheap to use. From making homemade car wash soap to getting coffee and tea rings out of cups this will be the cleaning product that you will use the most.
  • White Vinegar - White Vinegar is very mild and acidic; it dissolves dirt, soap scum, and hard water deposits on smooth surfaces. A lot of people are starting to use vinegar to clean and its popularity is growing. It is also a natural deodorizer and absorbs those pesky animal odors you may have in your house. What I love is that it also removes crayon stains and it is still gentle enough to clean my hardwood floors when I make a solution with it.
  • Bleach - Bleach is a little more harsh than some other cleaning products but is also the cheapest and disinfects the best. It is a popular homemade cleaner and it is the most common in many households. You don't have to use much to conquer your hardest cleaning project. Use it in small doses and be careful not to wear new clothes while cleaning with it or they may become a little whiter than expected!
  • Borax -  Borax has been around for years to remove stains. It was first discovered in 1872 and has been going strong ever since. It is most commonly known to be used for your laundry and gets tough stains out, but it does so much more. I have even used it to make slime for my preschool. The kids LOVE it and they have so much fun with it.
  • how to get stains out
    The cleaner that never gives up
    and gets touch stains out.
  • Alcohol - Alcohol is most commonly used as a degreaser and it is great for cleaning windows. It cuts through all the grease and grime without leaving a heavy residue. There are different kinds of alcohol but the most common is rubbing alcohol. It usually contains a 70% solution of isopropyl alcohol and water. This is a high number and should always be used with caution, especially around children. When it isn't in use make sure it is out of the reach of children and stored in a well ventilated area.
  • Ammonia - Ammonia is most commonly used for cleaning windows and fighting soap scum. It can also be used for cleaning out drains and removing soot from fireplaces. Ammonia is a very strong smelling cleaning agent and needs to be used in a well ventilated area.
And remember, when using household products for cleaning, be very careful to read the labels for safety instructions. Be sure to never mix bleach and ammonia together because it can release toxic vapors. Even cleaning one area with bleach and a different one with ammonia can cause the vapors to mix, so don't use them in the same room together. Make sure any room where either product is used is well ventilated.

Here are also some last minute Cleaning recipes that you won't want to pass up. Happy cleaning and I hope these tips put a little extra buck in your pocket and keep your cleaning closet a little more organized.

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Monday, January 7, 2013

National Blood Donor Month

blood donation


It is a New Year and a new beginning for us all. Did you know that January is National Blood Donor Month?  Have you ever donated blood to a blood bank in your hometown? Do you ask yourself WHY SHOULD I DONATE MY BLOOD TO SOMEONE ELSE? Donating blood is really a pretty simple and a very generous thing to do.
Blood donation is a voluntary procedure.You agree to have blood drawn so that it can be given to someone who needs a blood transfusion.You might have a loved one who is facing surgery and who might need extra blood. Millions of people need blood transfusions each year. Some may need blood during surgery while others depend on it after an accident or because they have a disease that requires blood components.  Blood donation makes all of this possible. You can also donate your own blood for a future medical procedure where you might require some additional blood on hand for yourself.  
There are a few steps you should take to prepare to be a blood donor
Prior to your blood donation, you should eat a healthy meal. Avoid fatty foods. Also, you should get plenty of sleep the night before you plan to donate. Be sure to drink 16 ounces of water prior to your donation, to make sure you are hydrated.
If you are a platelet donor, remember that your system must be free of aspirin for two days prior to donation. Otherwise, you can take your normal medications as prescribed.
Provided by American Red Cross
There are several types of blood donation:
Whole blood. This is the most common type of blood donation, during which approximately a pint of whole blood is given. The blood is then separated into its components — red cells, plasma, platelets.
Platelets. This type of donation uses a process called aphaeresis. Aphaeresis uses a machine that collects the platelets and some of the plasma, and then returns the rest of the blood to the donor.
Plasma. Plasma may be collected simultaneously with a platelet donation or it may be collected without platelets during an aphaeresis donation.
  • In good health
  •  At least 17 years old — the minimum age varies by state with some states allowing 16-year-olds to donate with parent permission; there's no upper age limit
  • At least 110 pounds
  • Able to pass the physical and health history assessments

The eligibility requirements are slightly different for double red cell donation. Check with your local donor center for specifics.

Blood donation is safe. New, sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there's no risk of contracting a blood borne infection by donating blood.

Most healthy adults can donate a pint of blood without endangering their health. Within 24 hours of a blood donation, your body replaces the lost fluids. And after several weeks, your body replaces the lost red blood cells.

Before you can donate blood, you will be asked to fill out a confidential medical history that includes direct questions about behaviors known to carry a higher risk of blood borne infections — infections that are transmitted through the blood. All of the information from this evaluation is kept strictly confidential.
Because of the risk of blood borne infections, not everyone can donate blood. You will also have a brief physical examination, which includes checking your blood pressure, pulse and temperature. A small sample of blood is taken from a finger prick and is used to check your hemoglobin level, the oxygen-carrying component of your blood. If your hemoglobin concentration is normal and you've met all the other screening requirements, you can donate blood.
You will have your blood tested to determine your blood type — classified as A, B, AB or O — and your Rh factor. The Rh factor refers to the presence or absence of a specific antigen, a substance capable of stimulating an immune response, in the blood. So you're either Rh positive or Rh negative, meaning you carry the antigen or you don't. This information is important because your blood type and Rh factor must be compatible with the blood type and Rh factor of the person receiving your blood. One of the most common types of blood and one in great need is O positive. 
You can go to the and read the many stories from many generous donors. There are a number of reasons why people donate blood. Many have a personal reason because of losing a loved one or have had needed a transfusion themselves. Giving blood is a Gift of Life, and that gift is often needed by a mom or dad or child. My 90 year old father-in-law has been donating blood to the Houchin Blood Bank in Bakersfiled, California, for over 50 years. He started as a young man who donated blood for his father and he has continued to donate since then. He has earned the distinction of belonging to the "25 Gallon club". If we all follow his example, we may be able to overcome the shortage of blood we so often hear about. Give like your life depends on it! Someday your life or the life of a loved one might!


blood transfusion

Cindy Foley

Contributing Writer

Friday, January 4, 2013

Wacky January Holidays

OK, so we all know that January 1st is the big holiday that brings us all a new beginning for a new year.  Many of us will celebrate with family, friends and loved ones to say goodbye to the old year and bring in the New Year with a bang. 

Hot Tea Month
New York City's Times Square is alive with excitement
on New Year's Eve.
New York City's celebration in Times Square, where people gather to watch the big ball drop at midnight, has been a New Year's tradition since December 31, 1907, and is attended by thousands of people every year.  

Many of you will be making New Year’s resolutions that some of us end up breaking after a few short weeks. However, there are some of you that will be diligent and honor those resolutions, and to those that do, I salute you! I am not a “Resolution Maker” and never have been. I guess I realize that I would be one of those that would fail after a short time, so I just avoid the failure all together.

Did you know that there is a day designated in January as Ditch your Resolution Day?  On January 17th, if you are so inclined, you can give up your New Year’s Resolutions without guilt! This day is set aside for just that purpose. So go ahead and dump your resolutions without the guilt!

There are lesser known holidays in the month of January that might just slip by you. For instance,  January 3rd was the Festival of Sleep Day.  Did you sleep in late, go back to bed after breakfast (that is unless you have to go to work) or take an afternoon nap? You are allowed on this little known January 3rd holiday. If you missed it, keep it in mind for next year.
The month of January is also designated as Hot Tea Month. Now this is a celebration I can get into. There is nothing more soothing that a cup of hot tea on a cold afternoon. I am a big Hot Tea drinker. I try to drink at least three cups of hot green tea daily. It is really good for you and is high in antioxidants. I was actually not aware of Hot Tea Month until I researched wacky January holidays. I am glad that it is and I plan to celebrate. There is absolutely nothing better when the weather is frigid outside than a nice cup of hot tea! What is your favorite tea?
Celebrate Hot Tea Month and
Bubble Bath Day during cold
Another fun January holiday comes on January 8th.  It is classified as Bubble Bath Day! Bubble baths are so relaxing and fun. Take some time to unwind and fill the tub with nice hot water and lots and lots of bubbles! Best of all this is a day that can be fun for both kids and adults alike. Just fill your kids' tub with lots of bubbles and toys and they will turn into prunes! For the adults it is very soothing and relaxing. It is a great way to unwind after a long hard work day. Light some candles, put on some soft music and lie back and relax! Oh, and don’t forget your Rubber Duckie!
If you are a “doubting Thomas” January 13th is your day! This is the International Skeptics Day.   Perhaps the earth isn't really round!? Maybe, the sky isn't truly blue!? Does he(she) really love me!? ........These are the words and questions of the classical skeptic. You can go ahead and doubt anything you hear. Feel free to express your doubts on this day and don’t feel guilty about it. If you are inclined to doubt things that you see or hear, then International Skeptics Day is for you!  

Don’t despair though as this is also celebrated on October 13th and on the first Friday the thirteenth of the year! So don't be skeptical about your options to observe International Skeptics Day.
National Popcorn Day
National Popcorn Day is a family favorite!
One of my favorite lesser known holidays is January 19th which is set aside as National Popcorn Day! Now, I LOVE popcorn. I could eat popcorn for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then still enjoy an evening snack! I just don’t get tired of Popcorn. It is really an addicting food, but it's pretty healthy as snacks go too, unless you bury it in butter! Try a little cinnamon on your popcorn.  Pretty good stuff. Get creative and add your own toppings! On National Popcorn Day, I suggest you pop up some fresh popcorn, kick back and enjoy!

I think the last one I would like to make you aware of is Compliment Day which is January 24th.  This is a great day to say something nice about everyone you come in contact with.  Even if you have difficulties with someone, try to turn it around on them and pay them a compliment.  I think you will be amazed at how their attitude changes. Remember the saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all?"  Well, on January 24th make sure you say something nice! If you miss it in January, you get another chance on March 1. 

Celebrate throughout the whole month of January. Pick your holiday and have a great time. Happy New Year and enjoy those Wacky January Holidays! They will go by in a hurry!

Cindy Foley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Walk Your Way to Health

If you've got a New Year’s resolution to get in shape or lose weight, but aren't sure you’re up to the rigors of a strenuous running or fitness center program, walking may be the perfect solution for you. 

How good is walking for you?

Walking has substantial health benefits. It lowers blood pressure. It lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) rates, the "bad" cholesterol; while raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol. Some studies indicate that it also reduces type 2 diabetes risks. A 1999 Harvard study showed that a moderate walking pace of about three or four miles per hour, for as little as 30 minutes a day can reduce heart disease risks up to 40 percent.

Because walking can be a very gentle introduction to physical fitness, and you can build new challenges gradually (walking faster, walking further, walking with altitude, etc.) as your health permits, walking programs can be very successful. Walking is a great way to get started on a routine for many individuals; compared to starting a running or jogging program, which takes more effort to get into and keep up with.

Ready, set, go!

To make sure you succeed at your new walking resolution, it’s important to:
Look for good traction and protection from the
impact of pavement-pounding when choosing
a walking shoe.
  • Get ready: Make a plan and get the right things together.
  • Get set: Know what to do before you set your feet in motion each day.
  • Go: Understand a few important things to ensure a safe and effective walk.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

Get ready:  How to prepare a walking plan

Here’s an 8-step plan to get yourself ready for success.
  1. Set a goal.  As with any new challenge, your chances of success increase if you know exactly what you want to accomplish. Your definition of success should be realistic but challenging.  For example, “Losing 200 pounds by March” would be a dangerous overreach, either setting yourself up for failure or putting your health at risk by trying to reach it.
  2. Break it down.  Once you know what your goal is – achieve X pounds of body weight loss by the end of X month, or get your resting blood pressure down to X, for example – then you can set that plan in motion by breaking it down into bite-sized challenges. For example, “Walk enough to lose a pound a week” is much less overwhelming than “Walk enough to lose 20 pounds by summer,” even though they are essentially the same thing.
  3. Make an action plan. Now that you have your goal “actionable,” build an action plan from it.  You can find calculators online that will give you a general idea of how many miles of walking at a certain pace burns how many calories.
  4. Avoid sabotage! Consider your overall lifestyle, not just your walking plan. For example, adding 12 miles of walking to your week to lose weight cannot succeed if you are already regularly gaining weight from overeating. Eat healthy while adding exercise to your lifestyle.
  5. Get a checkup. Before starting any new exercise program, it’s best to consult with your doctor to make sure that you’re up to the task.
  6. Build an accountability network. Whether your friends are online or next door, make sure you have people who know your plan – someone who will see your progress. A good online community I've used for accountability is Or you can search for walking groups in your area on Facebook or by searching walking groups + your location in your browser's search box. The idea is not to have others telling you what to do; it’s about you knowing that others are counting on you to follow through. You're less likely to call it quits one mile into a planned two-mile walk because the weather is less than ideal. 
  7. Join or form a group. Another great way to build accountability is to not do it alone. Join an existing group of walkers or form one from one or two of your friends, and then build a schedule that you can all do together. Knowing that your friend will be knocking on your door for the morning walk ensures that you don’t get distracted from your walk by life’s conflicts.
  8. Get the right attire. The main thing is good shoes to walk in. What makes a walking shoe a good choice for walking? Good traction and adequate protection from pavement-pounding.  Seek advice from a reputable athletic supply store. Also get some loose-fitting clothes of varying degrees of warmth, so you’re ready for any kind of weather.

Get set: How to prepare for your walk

It can be discouraging to step out the door for your walk only to find yourself drenched from a heavy downpour before you've gone two blocks. Prepare for your walk by checking the forecast the night before, which also helps prepare your mind to the challenge. If the weather may be cold or wet, dress in layers. Remember that the more vigorous the exercise, the more your body heats up. By peeling off layers as you warm up, you can stay comfortable and enjoy your walk.
calories burned walking
Consider dog walking to make your
walk more fun!

Go! – How to walk for health

Start slow, especially if you've just recently woken up, or were sitting for an extended time. Your heart and muscles need time to warm up. If necessary, allow a moment to do some gentle stretching of the muscles you’ll be using on your walk. Once your heart rate is ready for the task, then slowly pick up the pace.

To make your walk more enjoyable consider dog walking – Fido benefits too! Use walking music, audio books, or radio programs to keep you motivated.

Walking distance: How long should I walk?

That depends on your goal. According to LiveStrong, a 160-lb. person who walks for an hour at 3.5 mph burns about 275 calories, but a 240-lb. person who does the same walk burns about 415 calories. Carrying weights can help you burn more calories with fewer miles, as can walking faster.   There are many charts available online that can show the calories burned walking according to speed of walking and body weight.

Good luck with your walking goals, and consider sharing your goals, plans, or successes here!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

National Folic Acid Awareness Week

vitamin deficiency
Folic Acid supplements can help you
prevent vitamin deficiency.
Folic acid — it doesn't sound like a riveting conversational topic, does it? Maybe not initially, but just as the old adage says you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you should not judge this vitamin by it’s mundane name.

In fact, this week is the perfect time to start talking about it. National Folic Acid Awareness Week is from January 6th until January 12th this year. It is purposely set within January, which is also Birth Defects Awareness Month.

So what exactly is the connection between folic acid and pregnancy? Prevention. Maintaining healthy levels of this water-soluble B vitamin prevents a variety of birth defects, including Spina bifida (in womb, when the baby’s spinal column does not close to protect the spinal cord) and Anencephaly (when the majority or entirety of the brain does not develop, resulting in death either before or shortly after birth).

The National Council on Folic Acid (NCFA) states that maintaining proper folic acid levels before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of these defects by up to 70 percent. This is because folic acid is a necessary ingredient in the development of the human body. It aids in the production of DNA. Because of the important role that folic acid plays in the early development of the fetus, women of a childbearing age should protect themselves against folic acid deficiency.

Even if you aren't planning on getting pregnant any time soon, this information is important to you, if you are of a childbearing age. Did you know that in the United States, half of all pregnancies are unplanned?

Folic acid awareness
Folic acid is important in order to prevent
birth defects.
Because folic acid is needed by the fetus so early, by the time you know you are pregnant, it may be too late to supplement a defect-causing vitamin deficiency. So even if you are not planning a pregnancy, play it safe and make sure you are getting enough folic acid. The recommended dosage for women 18 years and older is 1000 mcg/day. The dosage varies by age and health condition. Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding may take different amounts of folic acid. It is best to check with your health care professional for the dosage that is right for you. Healthy levels of folic acid can aid in the prevention of heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease. 

The NCFA also points out that the Hispanic community in particular needs to raise folic acid awareness. Among racial and ethnic groups, Latinas have the lowest consumption and awareness of folic acid, resulting in Hispanic babies having 1.5-2 times greater risks of these birth defects. Initiatives such as the National Folic Acid Awareness Week hope to help change that statistic.

Now that you know all about the merits of folic acid, you are probably wondering, “Where do you get folic acid?”  Known as folic acid in its man-made form, WebMD says that folate is naturally found in the following foods:

  • Leafy vegetables
  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Beans
  • Yeast
  • Mushrooms
  • Orange juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Many cereals are also good sources of folic acid.

Although folic acid foods that are high in natural folate are helpful, the body absorbs the man made folic acid best. Therefore, changing your diet is not enough; a daily supplement is needed. Check with your doctor if you are on medications or have preexisting conditions. If already pregnant, prenatal vitamins should already have a sufficient dosage of folic acid; check the label and consult with your doctor to be sure.

With all of this knowledge, we have the opportunity to be proactive. Making sure we are getting enough folic acid goes beyond even taking care of yourself — it’s protecting the health of unborn children. We can all do our part by sharing this information with the women in our lives. 

Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year from FamilyWize

new year

2013 is upon us! It's a time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the new year. Throughout the past year, FamilyWize, with the help of over 1,000 United Ways and America's Promise Alliance Partners and communities all over the country, distributed the FamilyWize prescription savings card

familywize program
Free Rx discount cards.
The free Rx discount cards are accepted at over 60,000 pharmacies nationwide and have saved more than five million customers over $400 million so far. Believing that no one should have to choose between buying food, paying utility bills or purchasing necessary medication, FamilyWize strives to help families afford prescriptions. The FamilyWize card can be downloaded right from their website or even to your phone. Just text the word "family" to 700700 and show the card from your phone the next time you fill a prescription! Pharmacists can read the card right from the phone. It doesn't get much easier than that!

One out of every five people in the United States has no prescription drug coverage. Without coverage, many people go without life-saving medications or ration their medications in order to make ends meet. When people do not take prescriptions as directed, their chance of worsening health issues increases. The result is more costly medical care, hospital stays and longer recovery time. Prescription drug card customers are able to save on costly medications, and adhere to their medication directions. 

The FamilyWize website has tools to look up your pharmacy and do some comparison shopping with the drug price look up. You can save up to 75% on prescription costs, depending on the medication and the pharmacy. 

Formed in 2005 by Dan and Susan Barnes, the Familywize partnership sets the goal of saving families, children and individuals $1 billion by the end of 2015. We hope to build stronger communities by helping to build healthier and happier families. 

new year resolution
FamilyWize attends community event
to raise awareness of medication
adherence and give our free discount cards.
During 2012, FamilyWize participated in community events, along with participating United Ways, and distributed the FamilyWize discount drug card to students, moms and dads. Many people got cards for a family member or friend in need. Along with distributing this great way to save, FamilyWize spread awareness of the importance of prescription drug adherence. Due to high cost, many people do not fill or refill prescriptions, or they ration medications to reduce cost. This can cause worsening health conditions that become more costly for the patient and the health system at large. 

And we don't stop there! The FamilyWize blog is written by staff members, subject matter experts and guest bloggers and covers subjects like saving money, nutrition and exercise, goodwill and family safety tips. Our daily blog receives hundreds of hits per day and provides informative links to valuable sources of information. 

This year, why not make it your New Year Resolution to help a friend or family member in need to save on prescription costs? Download a free card for yourself and for a friend. Place a link to the FamilyWize website on your websites and web pages. 

We can make a difference together! Happy New Year from all of us at FamilyWize to you and your families. And may we enjoy better health and more happiness by spreading the savings to our friends and families!

Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer