When It’s Not Fun For Everyone …

Well, we have made it to July 4th weekend. And many are planning celebrations for the holiday. If you are one of those people, it’s important to remember that the usual activities aren’t fun for everyone. I don’t mean these are boring. I mean they can result in medical emergencies. Let’s talk about that …

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most large-scale fireworks displays have been cancelled. Which means that many will attempt to do their own. Fireworks effect many medical conditions. As beautiful as they are, fireworks release pollutants into the air. This in turn impacts our air quality. In fact, some of the chemicals dispersed by fireworks, such as aluminum, barium, cadium, dioxins, and rubidium, are radioactive and known carcinogens. For anyone, of any age, this can be a problem. Conditions like Asthma, Bronchitis and COPD can be worsened by breathing the particulate matter or PM in the air. Even smaller fireworks that are used at ground level (Sparklers, Firecrackers) can expose individuals to metallic fumes and create breathing difficulties. Fireworks can also have an impact on people who live with Hypertension, Heart conditions, Anxiety, Epilepsy and PTSD. They’re notoriously unsettling for pets, too.

Food can also cause problems, whether you are planning a backyard barbecue or a picnic. Look at your menu. Have you thought about your guests? Do any of them have food allergies? If the answer is “yes”, then make sure you have another option available. Diabetics will be happy to see fruit like fresh watermelon, on the table. Maybe, a crisp tossed salad? Carbs raise their blood-sugar. And nobody wants to serve food poisoning at their get-together. So, here’s a few tips to help avoid that: 

  • Avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate. Clean your work-surface after each use.
  • Without refrigeration or a heat source, perishables should not be left out more than two hours.
  • Always keep COLD food cold by using a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers,a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers.
  • Packing drinks in a separate cooler is strongly recommended, so the food cooler isn’t opened frequently.
  • If you plan to marinate meat and/or poultry for several hours or overnight prior to the event, make sure to marinate them in the refrigerator.
  • To ensure safety, leftovers must be put in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerated to 40 ⁰F or below within two hours.

Last, but certainly not least, avoid large gatherings. It just isn’t safe, during a pandemic. Keep your get-togethers small. Nowadays, less really does equate to more. Practice social distancing. Wear face masks. You might even consider giving the patriotic-print ones as party gifts/favors. Yes, this is a short-notice for that idea. But many retailers are advertising them. They are available, just like flags, balloons, paper-goods, etc. So, decorate your home … your yard … and do it with a mask on. When it’s not fun for everyone, it’s not much of a celebration. Period. Take a moment to think about all of those you’ve invited to your July 4th festivities — make a list of their names and phone numbers. As morbid as this may sound today, if someone develops COVID-19 next week … your guests will need to be notified. That list will come in handy. 2020 remains, even in our moments of celebration, unusual.

Happy Fourth, y’all! Stay well!

 

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4220320/

https://healthcare-in-europe.com/en/news/the-health-impact-of-festival-fireworks.html

https://www.epilepsy.com/article/2014/3/fireworks-flags-video-games-and-driving-seizure-risks-and-prevention

Fireworks, Triggers, PTSD, and Veterans

Wrap up your celebration with fireworks, not food poisoning

https://www.lmh.org/news/2020-news/safely-celebrate-the-fourth-of-july-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

*Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

The Sweet Life: Watermelon

Few things, if any, can beat a slice of cold watermelon on a hot, summer day. It’s one of those things that can bring the kid out in you, no matter how old you are. But did you know that watermelon is actually good for you? Let’s talk about that …

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Everyone needs to stay hydrated. That’s a well-known fact. Well, watermelon is 90% water. Aside from satisfying your sweet tooth, it will actually aid in keeping you hydrated. A single cup of watermelon can even provide about 15% of a your daily needs of vitamin C too. It’s also a great source of fiber for digestion. And watermelon contains a variety of antioxidants. Your body can, by natural process, eliminate some molecules known as free radicals. But antioxidants help the body to do this. That’s important, because free radicals can lead to cell damage and various diseases. A study, conducted back in 2012, found that Watermelon reduced blood-pressure. In 2017, another study suggested that watermelon helped the body fight inflammation. Are you paying attention? That means watermelon has the ability to help patients manage numerous Chronic illnesses, i.e. Hypertension, Heart disease, Cancer, Dementia, Obesity, etc. And there’s so many ways to enjoy it!

Sure, you can eat it by the slice … let the juice roll down your chin … and revisit childhood. We’ve all done it and enjoy it, every time. But there are also terrific salads, entrees and desserts to explore. So, kick your shoes off … wiggle those bare toes … and get creative!

In fact, depending upon where you live, it’s still possible to plant some watermelons in your backyard or garden. The plants need 2-3 months above 70 degrees, well-drained soil and a spacing of 3-5 feet apart. That’s not a lot. A raised bed will do. Nobody is suggesting that you till the land. If you’ve got the space, go for it. Have some fun. Grow a few melons, this summer. Given the restrictions that we’ve had on so many things, this year, I’m all in for fun; aren’t you? So, come on … it’s time to explore the sweet life!

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886#nutrition

4 Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet

https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/a6408/watermelon-recipes/

https://www.foodnetwork.com/topics/watermelon

https://www.rd.com/food/recipes-cooking/10-savory-recipes-using-watermelon/

Growing Watermelons

*Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash

 

Spring Into Berries …

Yesterday, I ventured over to Cooley Farms in Chesnee, SC, also known as “Strawberry Hill” to the Upstate locals. Surrounded by an endless acreage of peach trees (their main crop), the shed was bustling — even on a Thursday. There’s nothing like sweet, spring berries to bring folks out of hibernation. And nothing better for you!

 

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Yes, these farms and roadside stands conjure up fond memories from our childhood. Yes, they also make us want to bake, freeze and can. That’s not a bad thing. Our grandmothers did it. Many of our mothers did, too. If suddenly, the idea of homemade jelly on a bagel or warm biscuit sounds divine … embrace it! But if you aren’t feeling that adventurous, that’s okay too. Berries are perfect for eating, on their own. No cooking required. And they are bursting with goodness!

Fresh strawberries are high in water content and low in carbs. They’re also filled with antioxidants. This means that these bright red delights are a safe choice even for diabetics. Strawberries also boast fiber for digestion, vitamins and minerals. And the taste? OMG! Bite into one and let that sweetness roll down your chin!

Blueberries are equally appealing. A serving, or 1 cup, has just 80 calories! These little, blue darlings are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. This promotes tissue growth and wound healing. And they are so incredibly versatile. From breakfast to your evening dessert, there’s endless ways to incorporate them into your diet and meal-planning!

Raspberries offer us an abundance of antioxidants that aid in brain-power, heart health, diabetes prevention, digestion, even some forms of cancer prevention. They provide vitamin C, iron, folic acid and potassium. And their sweet-tart flavor appeals to the taste-buds!

Last, but never least, are the Blackberries! I could write a book on the cobblers that my grandmother made with them — so yummy! The homemade jam, too! But blackberries are so much more than sweet indulgences. These dark, luscious berries are downright impressive, health-wise. They offer vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and manganese. One study even found that blackberry extract has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory abilities! 

If your Chronic illness has encouraged you to try the Paleo Diet, AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) Diet, or the DASH Diet, you’ll find that fresh berries are already there. If you are just trying to eat healthier, minus a conformed diet plan, why wait? There are endless ways to enjoy these gems and recipes to explore. It’s time to spring into berries and reap the healthy rewards!

 

Reference:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/strawberries

https://www.blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-nutrition/health-benefits-blueberries/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070908001613.htm

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283018

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-blackberries#health-benefits

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

The Autoimmune Paleo Diet

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

*Photo by Farsai Chaikulngamdee on Unsplash

 

 

A Furry Kind Of Healing …

Those of us who are pet owners know how wonderful our pets are. We brag on them, dote on them, etc.  Those of us, who are also parents, may even distinguish between our children as “those with fur” and “those without”. Our pets live with us, play with us and travel with us. They comfort — even mourn — with us. They are a member of our family and we love them. But did you know that these adorable pets … with their soulful eyes … precocious personalities … cunning wit … and slobbery kisses … actually have the ability to heal?

 

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The U.S. Dog Registry divides dogs (of any breed) into three categories:

  • Service Dogs help with a function/s for a person with a disability, i.e. Blind, Deaf, PTSD, MS, etc.
  • Emotional Support Dogs help people with emotional problems by providing support and comfort, i.e. Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders.
  • Therapy Dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers. They are often sent, in the wake of horrific events, i.e. mass shootings, earthquakes, etc.

But what they all accomplish is that they make a positive impact on the people that they interact with. These pets improve the lives of every human that they touch.

Children with Autism were significantly more engaged, when animal therapy was incorporated into their sessions instead of using the standard approach. The children used more language. They exhibited more social interaction. All positive. All healthful.

Cancer patients have improved from pet therapy, also known as Animal-assisted Therapy or AAT. A session of animal interaction, lasting between 5-15 minutes, provides a welcomed distraction from difficult treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It brightens their day, lifts their spirits and offers a myriad of benefits overall. In fact, AAT has proven to be so effective time and again for many illnesses that the medical community is embracing the idea more than ever before — regularly including it in patient care.

Seniors, who often live alone, also benefit from owning a pet. A pet can provide mental stimulation, erase loneliness, give them a reason to walk around the block and a companion to do it with. Pet interaction has the ability to lessen, even diminish, overall pain. 

When we are bonding with a pet, whether we have a Chronic illness or not, we are in the company of a dear friend — a confidante. As a result, our blood pressure lowers … muscles relax … stress fades. On the chemical level, a pet decreases cortisol in our blood. It can raise levels of the brain chemical dopamine that makes us feel good. We are happier and more positive. And when we reach out … touching their fur … rubbing their back … talking to them … we experience an increase of immunoglobulin A. That antibody boosts our immune system. Hormones like serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin are released, when we are rubbing that fuzzy belly or rolling a tennis ball across the floor. Our mood is lighter. We’re smiling … laughing … enjoying life.

Have you hugged your pet, today? Have you felt the nuzzle of a cold nose against your cheek? Or was it soft purring? We all should be so lucky. That furry companion, who greets us at the door, is actually good for us!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/healing-power-pets

https://www.curetoday.com/community/mike-verano/2015/12/cancer-and-the-healing-power-of-pets

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/benefits-of-elderly-owning-pets-113294.htm

https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.psychologytoday.com/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/from-cancercare/animal-assisted-therapy-enhances-cancer-care/article/372518/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342

* Photo of Whisky Macallan … my fur-baby, friend, joy and solace.

Do You Need To De-stress?

Is it just me or is life a lot more stressful than it used to be? Nowadays, it seems that everywhere I go I find people who are tired, frustrated, upset, worried, etc. Life can always throw you a curve-ball that is stressful. But when you add a pandemic … stress hits a whole new level. And stress on its own isn’t healthy. In fact, stress worsens most pre-existing or Chronic conditions. If you have been feeling the pressure of stress, you aren’t alone. According to the American Institute of Stress, about 77% of the population regularly suffers from the symptoms of stress.  Let’s talk about that …

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Stress can negatively impact your relationships at school, home and/or work. A bad day at the office somehow leads to an argument with your spouse/partner? Or vice-versa? You know what I’m talking about. Stress can also weaken your immune systems, increase your blood pressure, increase blood sugar levels, increase pain, etc. The more you allow it to consume you, the worse you are going to feel. That’s a given. And that makes you more vulnerable to other things, i.e. anxiety, depression, colds, viruses. Thankfully, we can do things to reduce the stress in our lives.

If you feel that stress is getting the best of you, try these simple yet effective ways to de-stress:

  • Limit Social Media/Broadcast Media. Yes, social media can be fun. Unfortunately, it’s also a stressor for millions. So limit your use of it. Binge-watching news and talk-shows can also have a negative impact. Select one or two reputable news broadcasts or shows, watch them and move on. You want to be informed — NOT stressed-out.
  • Meditation/PrayerIt just takes a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on something positive or calming. Likewise, reading from a devotional or engaging in silent prayer has the same soothing results.
  • Breathing Deeply. For five minutes, sit upright with your eyes closed. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Slow Down. Look around you. Admire flowers growing, a butterfly fluttering, etc. Eat slower and enjoy your food. Live in the moment and do so fully. When you focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.
  • Reach Out. Talk to others, face-to-face or on the phone. Share what’s going on with a friend, co-worker, spouse/partner before it becomes a bigger issue. It can provide helpful support and input.
  • Pull-out The Heating-Pad. Just 10 minutes of warmth on your neck and shoulders can allow your body to decompress and ease tension.
  • Laugh Out Loud. Enjoy a good joke or a funny story … at home, in the locker-room, or the break-room. Watch a 30-minute sitcom with your significant other. Laughing lowers your body’s stress hormone (cortisol) and boosts brain chemicals (endorphins) that lighten your mood.
  • Exercise. All forms of exercise, even low-impact ones like yoga and walking, can relax you. It can ease depression and anxiety. 
  • Listen To Music. Soothing music, from classical to nature sounds, can lower your blood pressure and heart-rate. You can even create your favorite playlist for relaxing!
  • Keep A Gratitude Journal. Carry it with you. Set it by your bed and read it every night. Think of the things you are most grateful for, in your life. The people and things that make your life special.

 

Last but not least, realizing that you need to de-stress isn’t a sign of weakness … or age … or illness. It’s a preventative health measure. One that we all can benefit from. So, don’t be reluctant to try it. The healthier that we are, the happier we are. That leads to the more productive we are and so on. And it’s all good. So go for it!

 

 

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201504/6-natural-ways-de-stress

https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot#3

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html

https://www.stress.org/daily-life

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/social-media-mental-health-negative-effects-depression-anxiety-addiction-memory-a8307196.html

*Photo by Jared Rice in Unsplash

On A Cold, Winter’s Night …

If you look on the calendar, winter is almost here. But for many, one glance at the thermometer says winter has already arrived. They can literally feel it. Cold weather equates to aches, pains and other issues. Exactly how or why this happens is still somewhat of a mystery. But scientists know enough to have key pieces of the puzzle in place. The main theory is that Barometric pressure ( the pressure of the air) can and does affect the joints. Arthritis patients know this all too well. But seasonal weather can affect more than muscles and joints. Many Chronic illnesses are vulnerable. Your blood pressure is higher in the winter. Why? Cold temperatures narrow your blood vessels. Migraines can also be triggered by extreme temperatures (hot or cold). And the list goes on …

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Back in 2007, a Tufts University study found that a 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with increased Arthritis pain. Imagine, for a moment, what a 20-30 degree drop feels like. Ouch! 

If you or a loved one suffer from weather changes, there are some things that you can do to manage your condition. Thankfully, these tips aren’t difficult:

  • Talk to your doctor about seasonal changes in your disease.
  • Avoid becoming a couch-potato. Exercise actually boosts your body’s production of synovial fluid. That keeps your joints lubricated & feeling good.
  • Stay warm. Remember your coat, gloves, hat, etc., whenever you go outside. And consider treating yourself indoors, too.  Flannel sheets & a heating-pad are always comfy!
  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Make sure to get enough Vitamin D, daily.
  • Consider dropping some weight. Just one pound lost eliminates 4 pounds of pressure from your knees!
  • Treat yourself to a massage. It alleviates pain and stress. 

Last, but not least, don’t let the cold of a winter day or night get you down. Address your symptoms and maintain your optimism. The weather can be frightful (yes, a certain holiday song is rolling around in my head), but there are tried and true ways to get through the season with minimal hardship. I believe it starts now, before the pain is overwhelming and your mobility is hampered. So, please, don’t ignore what your body is saying to you. Don’t assume that it won’t happen “this year”. Take a proactive approach to your health and well-being. You’ll be glad that you did!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/weather-and-joint-pain#1

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326884.php#3

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tools-resources/weather/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/health-matters/201410/does-rain-cause-pain-and-what-do-about-it

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058250

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/expert-answers/migraine-headache/faq-20058505

https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/pain-and-changes-in-weather-am-i-alone/

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/massage/massage-benefits.php

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

https://www.fishertitus.org/health/winter-joint-pain-relief-tips

*Photo by Nicholas Selman on Unsplash