Thursday, May 22, 2008

Preventing Tick Bites And Lyme Disease

StatePoint - They're popping up in backyards, gardens and campsites nationwide, and spreading the country's fastest growing chronic disease.

They are ticks -- small arachnids that readily attach themselves to people, pets and livestock. Ticks are potential carriers of Lyme disease, an often misdiagnosed illness that can cause symptoms ranging from rash to flu-like feelings to joint, heart, lung and nervous system abnormalities.

"Tick bites occur virtually year-round, any place with grass, plants, bushes or trees. The good news is there are steps you can take to protect your family from tick bites and Lyme disease, and even to reduce the potential number of ticks in your yard," said Constance Bean, author of the new book "Beating Lyme: Understanding and Treating This Complex and Often Misdiagnosed Disease."

According to Bean, a former coordinator of health education at MIT, you can help safeguard loved ones by dressing them appropriately when they are outdoors, by vigilantly checking for ticks and by correctly washing both people and clothing.

Here are some tips from her book "Beating Lyme" on what you can do to protect against tick bites when spending time outdoors:

* Since ticks hide in collars and folds of clothes, clothing should be removed and examined closely after exposure to tick habitats.

* To make ticks more visible, wear light-colored clothes, socks and shoes.

* Examine skin frequently, even after two or three hours, while you are outdoors to discover any tick attachment.

* Clothes worn outdoors should be put into the dryer for at least twenty minutes, preferably a half hour, at high heat. If the water in your washing machine isn't hot enough they can survive, but are vulnerable to dehydration in the dryer.

* Ticks are difficult to spot in hair, on the hairline, behind knees and ears. They prefer inaccessible places such as the groin or under the arms. After time outdoors, take a shower and wash your hair. However, showers only will remove ticks that aren't yet attached to your skin.

* Shoes should be carefully examined or left outside the door. Examine them again before putting them back on.

* Consider spraying outer clothing and exposed skin (not the face, however) with a tick repellent containing Deet or the pesticide, permethrin. You can find such products at your drugstore or supermarket.

Ticks prefer shaded, protected, moist locations, and even can be found on outdoor seating. With this in mind, there things you can do to reduce the number of ticks in your yard and around your home. Bean advises:

* Keep grass cut and shrubs trimmed. Remove brush and leaf piles. Keep woodpiles away from play areas.

* Use woodchips around recreation areas and as a barrier between yard and woods.

* Avoid sitting on tree stumps, wooden park benches and stone walls.

* Be aware that kneeling amid foliage while gardening exposes your head and neck to ticks.

* Remember that pets may bring ticks into your home.

"If you are bitten by a tick, don't panic. Remove it and save it in a plastic bag for your doctor and ask about taking a preventive course of antibiotics," said Bean. "Remember not all ticks carry Lyme disease and, if caught early, Lyme disease usually can be cured quickly."

For more information on avoiding tick bites, recognizing symptoms, and learning how to treat and cope with Lyme disease, speak with your family doctor or read the new book, "Beating Lyme," written by Bean with Dr. Lesley Ann Fein.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

During Older Americans Month, American Specialty Health Offers Seniors 10 Tips On How to Stay Active and Fit

PRIME NEWSWIRE -- The millions of baby boomers set to turn 65 years old this decade are leading a vast wave of aging adults that has been called the "Silver Tsunami." By 2030, the number of boomers aged 65 and older will more than double to 71 million older Americans, according to The State of Aging and Health in America 2007 report. Seniors will comprise roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population at a time when the nation is facing a shortage of geriatricians, nurses, primary care doctors, physical therapists, and home health care workers.

"Older adults can do a lot to preserve their health, level of fitness, and longevity just by changing a few simple things in their lives today," said Dr. Douglas Metz, Chief Health Services Officer for Silver&Fit(r), a fitness program that provides seniors with unique fitness, nutrition, and health education classes and events. "We suggest the following tips to help seniors stay active, healthy, and fit for a long and happy life."

Ten Tips For Better Health:

1. Commit to an exercise program that suits your lifestyle and needs.

Say the word "exercise" and most people's eyes glaze over. But exercise comes in all kinds of packages -- from fun and social, to private and reflective, to challenging and regimented. If you like being with others, consider activities such as dancing, golfing, biking with a bike club, or playing tennis. If you prefer exercise that is more private, how about walking, jogging, gardening, or yoga? For people who want something more regimented or challenging, an aerobics class at a local gym or running a 5K or some other competitive event may be better options. The key to a successful exercise program is to do something you enjoy so that you'll stick with it for months or years to come. If you haven't exercised in awhile and you're thinking of starting a new program, check with your doctor first to see what level of exercise best suits your current health status.

2. Include weight training in your exercise routine.

Research has shown that doing weight-bearing exercise helps prevent or reduce osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, and helps enhance muscle tone, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.

3. Eat a healthy diet with plenty of water.

Eat foods from all food groups, but eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit fat, cholesterol, salt, sugar, and processed foods to decrease your risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated and keep skin healthy.

4. Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Most everyone knows that being overweight can increase your risk of chronic diseases such as heart and circulatory diseases, diabetes, and high blood pressure, but did you know that being overweight increases your risk of cancer? Research shows that overweight is linked to high incidences of many kinds of cancer. A healthy body weight can help you manage, prevent, or decrease your risk of many chronic diseases and injuries.

5. Manage stress.

Stress has been linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, compromised immune system, and depression. Decrease stress by keeping your mind and body active, practicing relaxation techniques through classes or tapes, avoiding high stress environments and people, getting enough sleep, and asking for help when you need it.

6. Live a tobacco-free life.

Free your body from nicotine. As soon as you quit, you begin improving your overall health and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

7. Get enough sleep.

Sleep supports your immune system, helps you cope with stressful situations, and allows you to feel alert and prepared. If you have a hard time sleeping eight hours a night, take short naps during the day to relax and rejuvenate your body.

8. Drink alcohol only in moderation (or not at all).

Drink in strict moderation: one drink per day for women, two for men. One drink is one 12-ounce beer, one five-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor.

9. Live safely.

Learn and practice safe living habits. Don't drink and drive, abuse alcohol, or use drugs. Wear a seatbelt when driving, wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle, and use sunscreens and cover-ups to protect your skin from the sun.

10. Get regular medical and dental care.

Have regular physical and dental exams, get appropriate screenings and preventative tests, and talk to your doctor or dentist about any symptoms or health problems.

"Getting and staying fit today is an investment that will reap a future of good health, happiness, and independence," added Dr. Metz.

Silver&Fit is a no-cost fitness and healthy aging program designed to help older adults achieve better health through regular exercise. Silver&Fit provides: access to local participating fitness clubs, with such amenities as cardiovascular equipment and weights, whirlpools, exercise classes, and saunas, where available; customized exercise classes for seniors; access to many online interactive tools including an online health library; health monitors; and a health store. Seniors receive support from Silver&Fit's toll-free member services hotline and Web site. Unless required by their health plans, Silver&Fit members pay no copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles to participate in these activities. Seniors can ask their Medicare plan if Silver&Fit is available to them in their area.

Silver&Fit is offered by American Specialty Health Networks, Inc. and Healthyroads, Inc., subsidiaries of American Specialty Health.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How Can I Get My Kids To Eat More Fruits And Veggies?

(SPM Wire) Getting kids to eat healthfully is all about having the right foods available and making them fun and interesting.

Here are some tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on how to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables:

* Keep a bowl of fresh fruits on the counter. Refrigerate cut up fruits and vegetables in small bags for easy snacks.

* Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal. Add grated or cut vegetables into entrees, side dishes, and soups. Top off cereal with fruits or add frozen fruits to smoothies.

* Set a good example. Snack on fruit and order low-sodium, low-fat salads, soups, or vegetable sides when at restaurants.

* Pack the refrigerator, freezer and cupboard with pre-cut, frozen and canned vegetables so it's easier to prepare meals and snacks that include vegetables.

* Challenge family members to reach their daily fruits and vegetable goal. Reward the winner with a prize.

* Ask that fruits and vegetables be offered at school functions, after school programs, and in vending machines.

* Let children choose which fruits and vegetables to serve and how to incorporate them into their favorite meals.

* Make them fun. Dress up sandwiches with faces and smiles made from fruits and vegetables.

* Keep trying. For some foods, it may take multiple times before a child acquires a taste for it.

* Encourage friends or relatives to offer vegetables and fruits to your children.

For more tips, visit

Friday, May 09, 2008

Mood and Food: Five Tips to Avoid the Blues

Think cake will cure your crabbiness? Or baked goods will beat the blues? Probably not.

Whether you're suffering from an irritable mood, a case of the blues, or even full-blown depression, you may benefit from incorporating certain foods into your diet while avoiding others. More information is available at

Studies have shown that food affects the chemical composition of the brain by altering the production or release of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry information from one cell to another. Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that motivate or sedate, focus or frustrate.

Similarly, blood sugar levels directly impact our moods. We feel good after we eat, because our blood sugar increases. However, when blood sugar levels sink, we get hungry and our mood takes a dive as well. Classic symptoms of low blood sugar are feeling impatient, irritable, angry and aggressive until we can eat again.

Despite the complexity of the relationship between food and the brain, following a few simple rules will help to provide your body with stable blood sugar and mood mellowing nutrients.

Five Tips to Avoid the Blues:

1. Eat fruit and vegetables that are high in fiber and low in sugar/starch. Fiber provides stable blood sugar and consistent energy by slowing the rate at which nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. Choose apples, blueberries, cantaloupe, carrots, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, dark green lettuce, and red bell peppers. Limit sugary food and alcohol since both are low in nutrients and cause rapid blood sugar swings.

2. Eat lean protein at each meal. Protein stabilizes blood sugar and provides the brain with the amino acids essential to feeling alert. Choose fish, lean beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese, nuts and legumes (beans and peas).

3. Drink water. Choosing water over sugar-laden soft drinks and fruit juices will keep you hydrated and stave off food cravings. Drink eight to ten glasses of clean water daily. Replace soda and fruit juice with herbal tea and sparkling water.

4. Consume "good" fats, like olive oil and those containing omega 3's. Studies have shown that a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to depression and mood swings. Restoring the body's natural balance of omega-3s may help alleviate (and prevent) many types of depression, even for those who don't respond to traditional antidepressants. Consuming healthy fats also reduces the release of leptins, hormones produced by fat cells that signal hunger, thereby reducing food cravings. Choose avocados, nuts, olives, olive oil, fish, grass-fed beef, nut butters, and omega-3 enriched eggs.

5. Avoid fast food and chain restaurants. These are stocked with highly processed, sugary foods containing "bad" fats that can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and mood. When you do eat out, try to make the healthiest choices available. Choose greens and proteins, a turkey burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun, lemon juice and olive oil over commercial sauces and dressings, a fruit plate instead of a sugary desert. Avoid white bread, potatoes, rice and pasta.

Sample mood-balancing menu from Insulite Laboratories:

Breakfast: Bowl of sweetness. Mix together 1/3 cup of chopped mixed nuts (pecans, cashews, macadamia and almonds), 1 tbsp. melted butter, cinnamon, ginger, 1 cup blueberries (and/ or sliced strawberries), 1-2 tsp. cream.

Snack: California style. Half an avocado with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.

Lunch: Lamb chop special. Grilled lamb chop, 2 cups shredded green or red cabbage, with olive oil and 1 tbsp. cider vinegar. (OR one bunch steamed kale with soy ginger sauce).

Snack: Mediterranean evening. Olive puree: 1 cup Kalamata olives, 2 tbsp. feta, and 2 tbsp. olive oil. Blend all ingredients in food processor. Serve with celery or cucumber slices.

Dinner: Super shrimp salad. Grilled shrimp on a romaine lettuce salad with bell peppers, avocados, cashews, and dressing.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Get Your Body Beach-ready with Portion Control

ARA - It's time to get your beach body back. Although rising food costs and the demands of everyday life can make it difficult to adopt a diet plan, these advance planning and portion control tips from the Reynolds Kitchens ensure a healthy meal or snack choice will be available whenever you need it.

Understand the Basics.

Restaurants are notorious for serving massive portions. Use these comparisons as a general guide to determine how much to eat and what to take home for a second meal:

* 1 cup fruit = one baseball
* 3 ounces grilled fish = a checkbook
* 3 ounces meat = one deck of cards
* 1 cup lettuce = four leaves
* 1 ounce cheese = four dice

Requesting a half-order or sticking to the kids’ menu is a helpful (and sometimes less expensive) way to stay on track.

Double Up.

Double your favorite healthy dinner recipe on Sunday night, separate into appropriate portions and freeze for serving later in the week. The Reynolds Handi-Vac Vacuum Sealing System has a handheld vacuum sealer that virtually eliminates freezer burn, ensuring frozen meals will taste as fresh as the day they were made. These good-for-you meals are perfect to take to work or for kids when they get home from school.

Do the Math.

Many people avoid buying fresh fruits and vegetables – healthy meal staples – out of the fear that a large portion will go to waste. Take advantage of “two for one” sales and other promotions in the produce department. Vacuum and freeze whatever won’t be used in a week. Doing so saves money and ensures that your favorite fruits and vegetables are always available.

But Buy Realistically.

Certain foods fare poorly in the freezer no matter how well they’re packaged. Tomatoes, celery and potatoes lose their crispness and get watery, sour cream separates and avocados are only recommended to be frozen when mashed (not whole or sliced.)

Believe in Snack Packs.

One serving may be 11 potato chips, but it’s easy to lose track of how much you consume when you eat right out of the bag. Measuring economy items like pretzels, nuts and cereal into single servings ahead of time helps fight the temptation to eat more and teaches children how much food is appropriate for a snack.

Know Your Triggers.

Is it difficult to stop eating your favorite food even when you’re full? Some of us plan to eat a cookie or two, but find it nearly impossible to stop until the bag is gone. It may be best to avoid foods you know bring temptation – at least while it’s bathing suit season.

Courtesy of ARAcontent