Navigating The Holidays

As the holidays approach, many of us start planning menus for our holiday dinner or special gathering. Then, there are the additional invites that inevitably come our way, i.e. office parties, dinners, family get-togethers, pot-lucks, etc. Many of us see weight-gain, in our near future. It’s the holidays, we tell ourselves. It happens. But if you have a Chronic illness that requires healthy eating, like Diabetes, you can’t take a cavalier approach. You can’t afford to.

The holidays can be a daunting journey, for diabetics. Temptation is everywhere. Life becomes more hectic, in a myriad of ways — affecting their blood-sugar levels. And before they know it, they’re losing control of their disease. The key to navigating the holidays is balance. And the best way to maintain balance, while celebrating the season, is by planning ahead!

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If you or a loved one is diabetic, consider these simple steps:

  • Avoid making the holidays solely about food and drink. It’s part of the festivities, but it isn’t the heart of them.
  • Focus on the reason for the season. Here lies the real importance of what you are celebrating. Enjoy the company of those around you, decorating, caroling, etc. That’s how memories are made.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself by scheduling more activities than you can possibly handle. This will help you to maintain your stress levels.
  • Remember to get your rest.
  • Make exercise part of your holiday routine. A quiet walk, a yoga class, a trip to the gym, etc., will help you to keep feeling your best.
  • Think before you eat or drink. Then, make wise choices.

When you are planning a meal, consider implementing healthier recipes. It will help you to stay in control. Sugar is everywhere; isn’t it? Candy. Cookies. Cakes. Pies. But Diabetes management is more than watching your sugar intake. So, watch your carbohydrates. Keep them consistent. Remember that snacking adds up, whether it’s while you are preparing a meal or attending a party. Second helpings just aren’t worth getting off-track. Every diabetic has their limit. You most likely know yours — respect it. If you’re taking a covered-dish to a gathering, think healthy. You won’t be the only one who can benefit from, or enjoy, the option. Remember to check your blood-sugar, often. During the holidays. With so much going on, it’s a smart move. Take your medication, as directed. And if you’re going to drink alcohol, remember that it contains sugar and calories too. It’s best for diabetics to limit their consumption, i.e. one moderately-sized drink per day for women, two for men.

When you plan ahead, make wise choices, etc., you aren’t denying yourself or taking unnecessary health risks. You’re “celebrating smart”! That’s the best way to navigate through the holidays. Think of it this way … a cruise without proper navigation wouldn’t be a pleasurable cruise. And the last thing anyone wants, at the holidays, is misery. So, “celebrate smart”. There’s joy in it — better health, too. And that’s something we can all appreciate!

 

References: 

https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/general-health-issues/maintaining-your-health-during-the-holidays/

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/sweet-holiday-tips-diabetics#1

https://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesmanagement/index.html

*Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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Experiencing The Advantages Of Tai Chi …

Here we are, deep into the Fall season, with the holidays and winter quickly approaching. For many who live with a Chronic illness, the thought of colder weather is a cruel reminder of the pain … stiffness … even lack of mobility … that winter brings. If you are one of these individuals, it may feel as though your body has placed you on house-arrest. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Low-impact exercise can help you to feel better and significantly reduce the symptoms that are making you miserable. And none are better at doing this than Tai Chi!

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Unlike other low-impact options, Tai Chi requires slower motion. And this slow motion can loosen your body in ways that others cannot. With Tai Chi, you must concentrate on what you are doing. Think of it as a meeting of the body and the mind. You are focused, yet relaxed. Your breathing is easier — calming your senses. Even the movements of the Tai Chi exercises … from the shifting of your weight … to the flowing motions of your arms … articulate every joint. You can actually feel better, after just 8-10 minutes of Tai Chi. As you strengthen your core, you may want to do longer sessions. And you can do Tai Chi in so many places, i.e. inside your home, in your yard, at a park, on vacation, etc. The winter weather cannot keep you from enjoying the benefits, even on the snowiest of days.

Aside from flexibility and convenience, Tai Chi is an excellent way to improve your balance. That is something anyone, at any age, can use. Tai Chi is also helpful for circulation. As with any exercise program, discuss Tai Chi with your doctor before starting. But given its reputation, he or she will probably encourage you to take the initiative. And, just in case you are wondering about expense, Tai Chi is as affordable as purchasing a DVD. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, or a gym membership. If you would prefer a class, there may be locations in your area that offer them. You can also obtain information from The Arthritis Foundation (call 1-800-283-7800, or visit http://www.arthritis.org). You can even find Tai Chi on YouTube. Perhaps, the best thing about it is that you don’t have to be good at Tai Chi to reap the rewards. You just have to be willing to try!

 

 

References:

https://www.energyarts.com/tai-chi-worlds-best-low-impact-exercise/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/tai-chi-and-chi-gong

*Photo by Mark Hang Fung So on Unsplash

The Great Pumpkin …

When autumn brings cooler days and colder nights, we pull out our sweaters and hoodies. We huddle under blankets, at ballgames. We rake leaves. Then, we rake even more. We decorate our homes, inside and out, with festive decorations. Some of us tediously carve jack-o-lanterns into works of art. Summer has slipped away from us, like a ship leaving port in the night. Yet, we don’t seem to mind. The joys of Fall abound. From apple cider to corn-mazes, we immerse ourselves in the new season. We enjoy the harvest from our own gardens — canning, freezing, cooking, baking. And by October, our minds always focus on pumpkins. The two are synonymous with each other. So much so, that we cannot seem to experience Fall without buying one. But we seldom talk about the actual benefits involved. That, my friends, is about to change.

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Pumpkins are a super-food. In other words, a pumpkin is a nutrient-enriched food that is considered beneficial to our health and well-being. Canned, cooked, or raw, pumpkin is a must-do, for this time of year. And the seeds are actually part of the treasure. Just one ounce of pumpkin seeds provides us with so many essential minerals and nutrients. They’re also incredibly easy to roast and they taste great!

Pumpkins provide us with fiber, for digestion. They’re low-calorie. Pumpkins are also loaded with beta-carotene (that’s where that bright orange color comes from). Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A. And that’s good for eye health. Two antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin), found in pumpkins, also guard against cataracts. They may even help to slow macular degeneration. But the benefits do not stop there. Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin C. That’s great news, for our immune systems. The potassium, found in them, can lower our blood pressure. And the other minerals, i.e. manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper as well as calcium, can do even more. Many patients with Chronic illnesses can reap the rewards of this amazing fruit. Yes, according to botanists, pumpkins are a fruit! 

It’s Fall. Nature is exploding with color and bounty. So, let’s think beyond the lattes and scented candles. Let’s do something that’s really good for us and festive, too. Let’s take a moment to incorporate pumpkin into our meals and snacks. Let’s savor every new-found recipe. Or better still, let’s share them with others. Eating healthy has never been so easy, so inexpensive, or so good. Enjoy!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/6-surprising-health-benefits-of-pumpkin#1

https://www.health.com/family/fall-superfood-spotlight-pumpkin

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279610.php

https://nutritionstripped.com/food-index/pumpkin-seeds/

https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/pumpkins-fruit-vegetable-difference-two

*Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

A Patient Has Rights

When you or a loved one is sick, there’s a lot to juggle. Tests. Medications. Sometimes, surgical procedures. There’s endless questions to ask. Answers that are desperately needed. And no matter how earnestly you address this upheaval, you are bound to forget something. In healthcare, your crisis is just another day at work. But for you as well as your loved ones, it’s life-altering. Scary. Often times, it may seem easier to just nod and follow along. You may find yourself even doing so, despite the concerns that are keeping you awake at night. Perhaps, you just don’t want to make a fuss? Appear difficult? Take up too much of the doctor’s time? Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with a Chronic illness understands your hesitation, confusion, fears. You want to get well — not make waves. But this isn’t Obedience Training for a new puppy. This is your life — your health. And you have rights. It’s important to know them! 

 

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Back in the summer of 1970, a grass-roots organization called The National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) drafted a document of 26 requests regarding healthcare treatment. This became the first Patient’s Bill of Rights. Their action came on the heels of a revision to hospital standards, by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. After several months of negotiation, many of the requests were included in the revised hospital standards by JCAH. In 1972, the American Hospital Association adopted a Patient’s Bill of Rights for operational use. By 1988, all 50 states had adopted a form of the Patient’s Bill of Rights to protect patients. The American Medical Association (AMA) followed suit, a year later. In 1992, the Patient’s Bill of Rights was acknowledged Federally and updated. Another revision took place, in 2010, on the Federal level. And most recently, at the Federal level, a revision was added this year to include the “Right To Try” for terminally-ill patients. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most nations have a form of a Patient’s Bill of Rights that stem from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). They may vary slightly, but all were created to protect the patient. This is something to remember, when traveling abroad.

Yet, despite these many actions, Patient’s Rights are still violated. In 2016, the National Institute for Patient Rights (NIPR) conducted a study to see just how well the system works. Their findings comprised a list of the Top Ten violations of Patient’s Rights:

  • The failure to communicate
  • Adequate presentation of treatment options.
  • A lack of respect for advance directives.
  • Miscommunication.
  • Conflict between medical team & patient/advocate.
  • The right to know hospital charges and payment methods.
  • The right to review the patient’s bill.
  • Knowledge of hospital resources, including the complaints & grievance process, patient representatives, or ethics committee.
  • The right to know the identity & professional status of those working on the patient.
  • The right to review medical records, account information, etc.

It’s difficult trying to juggle the overwhelming news of a diagnosis, treatment, etc. But the process will be easier, in the long run, if you aren’t afraid to ask questions. Patients have rights. It’s a matter of professional ethics and law. Caregivers, advocates and/or family members can help by discussing a patient’s concerns with them. Make notes. That way, questions will be answered to the satisfaction of the patient. And if they aren’t, take action. Your health, or the health of a loved one, is too precious to leave to chance.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/38/17.33

http://www.nationalhealthcouncil.org/resources/nhc-publications/principles-patients-rights-and-responsibilities

https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Federal+Patients%27+Bill+of+Rights

https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/Health-Insurance-Market-Reforms/Patients-Bill-of-Rights.html

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/104767-president-obama-unveils-patients-bill-of-rights

http://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/389514-right-to-try-is-a-win-for-patient-rights-and-president-trump

http://techfeatured.com/automotive/1430/patient-rights-top-ten-list-of-most-violated

https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/patients-rights-i-origin-and-nature-patientsrights

http://www.who.int/genomics/public/patientrights/en/

* Photo by Mariano Rossi on Unsplash

I’m Gonna Soak-up The Sun …

We have all been warned about too much sun exposure and harmful ultra-violet rays. In the process, awareness and prevention turned into absolute fear for some people. Yet, we rarely hear anyone talk about the benefits of sunshine. And the benefits do exist. The sun IS  healthy. In fact, WHO (World Health Organization) has noted that over 3B people worldwide are possibly suffering from ailments that are the result of very low levels of UVR (Ultraviolet Radiation). These maladies include many Chronic illnesses and musculoskeletal disorders. So whether you currently have a Chronic illness or not, you need to indulge in its warmth. Because moderate sun exposure IS a good thing!

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Personally, I find it difficult to select the best benefit from sun exposure. There are so many. But one of the most significant is Vitamin D. Unlike other vitamins that we need, Vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin through a reaction that is initiated by UVB radiation. Just 30 short minutes of sunlight, while wearing a swimsuit, can release up to 50,000 IU into the body! And Vitamin D plays a helpful role with so many Chronic illnesses, i.e. Cancer, Cardiovascular diseases, Diabetes, Auto-immune diseases, etc. It is one of the most essential nutrients that we need to maintain good health. 

Another important benefit of sunlight is the positive effect that it has on our mood. It has long been known that higher levels of serotonin equate to having a better mood, i.e. happy, satisfied, calm. Lower levels are linked to depression and anxiety. A medical study, done in Australia, found that our bodies actually have more serotonin on sunny days than on the dreary ones. Hence, the basis for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) a type of Depression. Serotonin is also linked to weight loss. Still, there’s more …

If you suffer with joint pain, then you know that the warmth of the sun is literally soothing to your body. Warmer weather seems to always bring greater mobility and less pain. Would you like to lower your blood pressure? Research has shown that nitric oxide in the top layer of our skin actually reacts to sunlight. This reaction causes blood vessels to widen as the oxide moves into our blood. And the result is a lower BP! Exposure to sunlight has been linked to getting a restful night of sleep, as well. We can all use that. And many skin disorders, i.e. eczema, acne, psoriasis, have a positive response to UV light treatment.

Summer is here, in all its glory. So take advantage of what the sun CAN do for you. Get outside. Use an SPF of 15 or higher. Remember that moderation is imperative. Nobody needs to overdo it, so stay hydrated. Take your MP3 player or a radio … turn-up the volume … enjoy your favorite music. Read a book on the chaise lounge. Go for a walk around the block. Swim a few laps in the pool. Hit a bucket of golf-balls on the driving range. Wiggle your toes in the sand. Have fun. And soak-up the sun!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/benefits-of-moderate-sun-exposure

http://time.com/4888327/why-sunlight-is-so-good-for-you/

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20021205/unraveling-suns-role-in-depression

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440113/

* Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

When Pests Attack Your Garden …

Every gardener, whether they are a seasoned pro or an insecure novice, has gone head-to-head with some type of pest, i.e. mosquitoes, ants, beetles, etc. With luck, vigilance and supplies from the local garden center, the gardener is usually victorious. But our lives are gardens too: remember? When a pest like the Deer Tick attacks your garden, the result can be Chronic Lyme Disease (CLD).

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Lyme Disease is a caused by a bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi). Patients are infected from a tick bite. Because the immature ticks, or nyphms, are extremely small many people don’t even realize that they’ve been bitten. So the tick can literally attach itself and feed for days, unnoticed. And the longer it is attached, the more likely it is to pass Lyme and/or another pathogen into the body.

With summer activities and trips on the increase, it’s important to take notice and precautions. Lyme Disease has been found on all but one continent. It has been found throughout the U.S., but it has substantially higher numbers in the Upper East Coast, the Midwest and along the West Coast. Not all ticks carry Lyme. The Deer Tick, also known as the Black-legged Tick, is the culprit. These ticks can also transmit the disease to pets. Researchers have found the bacterium in other blood-sucking insects, i.e. mosquitoes. But there is no evidence that they are capable of spreading Lyme Disease.

Ticks enjoy wooded areas … grassy fields … brush … even your backyard. They live on animals as well. To help prevent a tick bite, treat your clothing and gear for camping or hiking trips. Use EPA-approved insect repellents that contain DEET. However it is important to avoid using repellents on babies, under 2 months of age. Examine your clothing, gear and pets. Shower after being outdoors. Carefully, check your body. All of these things will greatly reduce your risk of a tick adhering to your skin.

If you are bitten, do not panic. Remove the tick with tweezers, as soon as possible. You will see a small, red bump. This isn’t unusual. The symptoms of Lyme Disease will appear, from 3-30 days after a person has been bitten. So, stay alert. If a rash appears, often in a bull’s eye pattern, you have probably been bitten by an infected tick. The rash may not even be painful, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Flu-like symptoms are also common, i.e. chills, fever, fatigue, headache, etc. If you experience any of these, you should contact your doctor. Untreated, the symptoms of Lyme Disease will worsen. The rash will become more widespread on your body. Other symptoms will appear, i.e. joint pain, neurological issues, etc. Heart, Eye and Liver problems have also been known to occur. And no two cases are exactly alike.

There are two tests that are widely used to confirm Lyme Disease: the ELISA test (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and the Western Blot test. The latter is administered, if the ELISA is positive. This confirms your diagnosis. Other tests may also be implemented, i.e. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and Antigen Detection. Lyme Disease is initially treated with antibiotics. It may be done orally, or by an IV.  Treatment lasts from 10-28 days. And for most patients it is effective.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s statistics, there are approximately 300K cases of Lyme Disease diagnosed in the U.S. each year.  And the numbers are increasing. About 30-40% of these cases will result in Chronic Lyme Disease, or Post-Treatment Lyme Disease (PTLD) as it is also known. These patients are profoundly affected. Patients with CLD suffer with quality of life issues that are worse than many other Chronic illnesses, i.e. Asthma, Depression, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, even Congestive Heart Failure. Approximately 75% of the patients surveyed by lymedisease.org reported at least one severe symptom. And 63% reported two or more. Of those surveyed, 40% reported that they were unable to work. About 24% have received disability, at some point. Children with Lyme Disease may have special needs. They may have difficulties in the classroom. This isn’t the common cold. This is a long-term illness.

If you or a loved one is living with Chronic Lyme Disease, then you know the battle all too well. It is important to communicate changes in your symptoms to your doctor. Keep appointments. Take your medications. Rest. Try to maintain a level of optimism. Every victory, no matter how small, is worth celebrating. You are not alone, in this fight. But you may sometimes feel that way. Let’s be honest, your new normal feels anything but normal. Anyone with a Chronic illness can relate to that. Many Chronic illnesses are marked by flare-ups, when symptoms worsen. It’s never convenient, but you CAN do it. Adjusting to your illness isn’t easy, but it will help you to manage it. Connecting with support groups/organizations can also help, either in meetings or online. Yes, you have Chronic Lyme Disease. But you also have a life. You have plans. Dreams. Ideas to share. Places to go. So, enjoy every day to the fullest. This is your garden and it’s beautiful. It’s unique. It’s you!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-basics/ticks/about-ticks/

https://www.bayarealyme.org/about-lyme/what-causes-lyme-disease/

https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/on_people.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20374651

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374655

https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-basics/lyme-disease/chronic-lyme/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/study_shows_evidence_of_severe_and_lingering_symptoms_in_some_after_treatment_for_lyme_disease

https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_dg_lyme_disease

* Photo by Andreas Ronnigen on Unsplash

A Time To Laugh …

When you are diagnosed with any form of Chronic illness, it’s no laughing matter. On behalf of those who have experienced the situation, I can assure you that it’s pretty sobering. One might even call it a come-to-Jesus moment. Life suddenly isn’t as easy as it was, in the past. It’s harder. Scarier. For some, their faith becomes stronger. For others, it’s when faith is sought. The unknown has a way of diminishing one’s ability to smile, let alone laugh. Yet, Scripture teaches us that there is a time for everything — even laughter. And modern medicine has actually proven that it’s good for you!

 

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens …”                                                                      — Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

 

Laughter has the wondrous ability to heal and renew the body. When you laugh, it enhances your intake of oxygen. It stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles. Laughter increases endorphins in your brain. It even burns calories. And all of this helps you. With every giggle, you will relieve tension … fight stress … and relax. But that’s just the short-term benefits!

In the long-term, laughter improves your immune system. It helps to relieve pain. And it increases your level of personal satisfaction. Laughter improves your mood — including your outlook on life. You might even say that laughter sows seeds of optimism. And we all know how essential that is, when living with a Chronic illness. Laughter improves your relationships. It aids in good mental health, i.e. providing joy, relieving anxiety and strengthening resilience. A study conducted in Norway even found that people with a strong sense of humor outlive those who don’t laugh as much!

Today, the medical community is embracing Humor Therapy, also known as Complementary Therapy, to assist in the treatment of many Chronic illnesses. This therapy implements the use of laughter exercises, comedy movies, books, games, etc., to help patients cope with their disease. This has proven especially useful for Cancer patients. So, consider the benefits. 

Life is precious. And any Chronic illness is serious. But laughter really is good medicine. Indulge in it. Tell a joke. Watch a funny movie. Smile and giggle your way through a good book. Laugh. There’s no better time for it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/humor-therapy

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_laughter_brings_us_together

* Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash