Nikola

Archive for the ‘Your Health’ Category

Make Open Enrollment Work For You

In Our Guest Appearances, Your Health, Your World on November 28, 2010 at 1:41 PM

 

Image Credit Kurhan

 

 

Are you happy with your health insurance plan?  Or, are premium amounts, deductibles and copays draining your bank account? Are you paying for services you don’t need or want, like smoking cessation classes or a life coach?  And do you really know the differences between  PPOs, HMOs and POS plans?

This is the time of year when many folks are selecting  new insurance plans and reevaluating existing ones. Recent changes to health care laws make it important that you understand new policies and existing ones.

Read my full article here at Inexpensively.com.

 

Good Dental Care for Kids of All Ages

In Your Guest Writers, Your Health on September 5, 2010 at 7:55 PM

by Kelly Wilson

of

  Teaching Resource Center

Our healthy, bright adult smiles begin with good oral hygiene during our childhood years. Here are simple tips to make kids of any age enthusiastic about taking care of their teeth.

Build a Basic Routine

Teaching kids about their teeth can start when they’re babies, by rubbing a clean cloth over their gums after feeding. Once teeth appear, use a small toothbrush in the morning and the evening to help keep teeth clean. Toothpaste isn’t necessary at this stage, but there are special kinds for young children to help them get used to the idea of using it. Another important habit to incorporate is daily fluoride, if you live in an area that requires a supplement.

As your children become preschoolers, the habit of taking care of teeth has been firmly established. Your kids will know that in your family, teeth are brushed twice a day with soft-bristled toothbrushes that are replaced every three months. Floss can also be introduced at this stage, cleaning out plaque from in-between teeth.

Even as kids grow older and start school, they’ll need help brushing and flossing correctly in order to take proper care of their teeth.

Brushing Can Be Fun!

There’s a lot to pay attention to when it comes to taking care of their teeth, and kids aren’t necessarily known for their patience. To get teeth shiny and clean, we need to spend two to three minutes brushing all sides of them. I have found that taking turns with my children during teeth-brushing time helps keep them on-task, as well as singing verses from their favorite songs. Try using the ABC song to help kids keep brushing longer, singing it through more than once.

Modeling and discussion through play is also a great way to help children process a healthy-teeth habit. To help small children especially, find a doll and have your child “brush” the doll’s teeth. Have your child talk about what he/she is doing, and review the basics about how to brush properly. Research picture books and DVD’s at your local library which reinforce the basics of good oral hygiene.

Explain Why

Older kids will respond to reasonable explanations when it comes to taking care of their teeth. They especially need to know that there are long-term consequences if they don’t.

My boys are eight and five years old, and enjoy pretending that they’re Tooth Superheroes. They love to hear about how bacteria have parties on their teeth after they eat, building plaque that turns to acid. It’s the acid that eats away at their teeth, rotting them and making them fall out. My boys must fight this plaque using their Superhero Tools, which include (of course) toothbrushes, floss and fluoride.

This explanation might work for your kids too, but if it doesn’t, find one that helps explain why taking care of their teeth is important.

Get Help from the Dentist

Children, like adults, need to visit the dentist every six months for regular cleanings and checkups. Take children to the dentist as soon as you’d like. We started visiting the dentist when our children were three years old to get them comfortable with the idea, and official dentist visits with exams and cleaning started when they turned four years old.

During these visits, the dentist and dental hygienist review with my kids the best ways to brush and floss their teeth. Sometimes hearing information from other authoritative sources makes more of an impact on children – I know it works with mine! The repetition and practice will help my kids have healthy teeth for years to come!

Kelly Wilson is a mom and freelance writer with a bright, healthy smile thanks to a local dentist like this. Contact her at,  Kelly.wilson@trcabc.com

Find Out The Secrets To Saving $$$ On Your Prescription Drug Costs

In Our Guest Appearances, Your Health, Your World on September 1, 2010 at 11:09 PM

Are your prescription drug costs taking a huge bite out of the family budget?  Click here to find out how to save big bucks on your drug “habit”.

Tired of rejection letters? Then check out my post, “The Secrets to Making Your E-Query Standout Amid the Clutter” at Coffeehouse for Writers.

Phthalates: What Are They and Are They Making You Sick?

In Your Health on August 16, 2010 at 8:57 AM

Pronunciation:  THAL-ates

“More than ever, people are worried about how all the chemicals we’re exposed to are affecting our health: among them a family of chemicals known as phthalates, which are used in everyday plastics.”

-Phthalates:  Are They Safe? CBS/60 Minutes

Phthalates are chemicals that are commonly found in items made of soft plastics.  Examples include, medical and school supplies, and  household materials  like wires and cables.  They’re also found in your everyday beauty items like nail polish, shampoo, lip balms, and perfumes.    

This previously little known chemical is taking a lot of heat.  And advocates on both sides are talking to the press. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report stating that phthalates “may present a risk” to the environment and humans.  Some studies show that phthalates cause birth defects, increased risk of  cancer and disruptions in hormonal balances of pre-pubescent girls.  

Conversely, a study released on 5 August 10, by the American Chemistry Council  (ACC) found phthalates beneficial and safe to use in all current applications and dosages.  Steve Risotto, a senior director at ACC, made their position clear in a  YouTube press release.

While both sides agree that we all have phthalates cruising around our bodies, they can’t agree on whether this is good or bad. 

It’s up to you to decide what’s best and safe for your family. 

If you’re interested in reducing your “phthalate count” or just want more information, here are links to  videos and *sites that offer  phthalate-free products.

Burt’s Bees

Ecco Bella Organics

Aubrey Organics

Tom’s of Maine

Honeybee Gardens

Phthalates Are They Safe? – CBS News Video

Benefits of Phthalates – CBS News Video

Environmental Working Group  

How do you protect your health?  Do you use natural products?  Or does it really matter?

* Information courtesy of Big Green Purse

Character Development and Teens: A Winning Combination!

In Your Guest Writers, Your Health on August 5, 2010 at 8:14 AM

by Traci S. Campbell 

The road to adulthood for most teens is a challenging one. Puberty, mood swings, insecurities, and peer pressure are just some of the hurdles young people encounter as they prepare to face the even bigger challenges lying ahead for them because of the pressure to fit in and be “popular”.  I can clearly remember when the dilemma to wear my IZOD polo shirt versus my off the shoulder sweatshirt (you gotta love the 80’s) was one of my most major decisions of the day!

However, when I look back, I also remember traits and habits that were instilled in me that served as “tools” I have used to weather the storms I have faced in adulthood. These traits and habits can be summed up in two words …. Great Character. This may sound like a trivial (maybe even slightly abstract) concept on the surface, when we talk about practical life skills. But, the effect of having and being mindful of one’s character has far-reaching benefits. Character determines the course of our lives because it is simply the application of certain habits that become “fixed” in our psyche. We then begin to act like we think. And the sooner we develop those certain habits, the better off we are on the road of life.

Just think if character development was just as important and emphasized in school as, say, history or math?  We could change the whole shape of future generations, and ultimately the future of us all, by taking the issue of character development in teens more seriously. But, the good news is that we CAN take baby steps and start with the character development of your own tween or teen at home. And what’s even more good news….the road to instilling great character in your tween or teen is very simple to do:

1. Be a Character MODEL: Your teens and tweens are around you more often than anyone … well … if you exclude the time they spend on the phone or at the mall. 😉  And what they regularly see will surely rub off. Practice good character yourself and they will soak it in like a sponge!  Also practice, and openly discuss your values and morals. It will set up a firm foundation of not only being conscientious of what they do, but it will help to foster open communication between parent and teen as well.

2. Training Begins at Home:  The basic things we all learn to do at home at 10 will affect our lives at 30. Saying thank you, opening the door for an older person or lady, or making up  beds, etc.  sounds insignificant. But the enforcement of these very basic things have long reaching effects later, on how a teen or tween may view life and/or treat others.

3.  Practice Prayer Power: Regardless of your chosen religion or faith, the need for a spiritual foundation is vital to you and your teens (or tweens) mental and emotional health, (and studies have shown that those who practice some form of spirituality have a lower incident of heart disease and depression). So, why not make this an activity you do together on a regular basis?  This provides two benefits: not only will you spend quality time together, but you can grow together spiritually too.

 3. Take Action…Together:  While my own mother is no longer with me, the times I spent doing things with her as a teenager are some of my fondest memories. Make it a point to carve out a specific day and time on a regular basis to do fun things together. Make it a top priority and stick to it…no excuses and no cancellations. Memories will be captured for a lifetime and the bond between you and your teen or tween will be strengthened.

4. Credit Card 101:  While is it “trendy” to sport the latest fashions and “hip” to have the latest cell phone model, the bill that comes later is FAR from trendy or hip! Teach your teens to be a wiser consumer. Limit their spending and at the same time, teach them money management skills. And remember, how you spend and manage your money will truly influence your teen or tween. Help them to understand that they can still have SOME of the newest material things out there…but they surely don’t need to have ALL of them.  🙂

5. More Chores, Please:  Another way of looking at chores is to “assign responsibilities”.  The assignment and completion of these “responsibilities” will set the stage in your teen and tween’s mind that they have obligations to not only themselves, but to others as well.  This will go a long way in how they view their responsibilities in the future. And, like most things, responsibility begins at home, first.

6. Mean What You Say…:   especially when the answer is “NO!”  As a parent, you will be tested by your teen. All parents have experienced this phenomenon. However, stick to your guns and do not back down when your answer of “NO” is truly in their best interest. Sometimes saying “no” is actually saying “yes” to their overall safety and well being and at the same time, instilling true respect for authority.

7. Be the Boss:  Teens really WANT someone they can look up to (whether they admit it or not). They want and need someone that will make them feel protected. And they want and need someone they can get guidance from, especially during the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Establish your ground as a parent and boss…first.

Character development does not have to be complicated or difficult. But it must be consistent and made a priority in your tween’s or teen’s life. Years down the road, they will reflect (as I have) on these teachings and be eternally grateful for the positive impact it will have on their lives.

Traci S. Campbell is an author, public speaker, coach and creator of  The C.H.A.M.P Within, an interactive program that fosters strong mental, and emotional health in young people.  She  also hosts, Heros At Home Radio, a site dedicated to helping and “Celebrating Single Parent Success”.

Vitamin D-fense

In Your Health, Your World on July 5, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Vitamin C’s reign as  MVP may soon be over.  Recent studies show that vitamin D is now the most sought after player.  In fact, this year the guys at the Institute of Medicine are reviewing scientific data to determine if our daily requirements of vitamin D need adjusting. 

The science gurus have surmised that in addition to its dynamic duo role with calcium in warding off osteoporosis, the sunshine vitamin may play  key roles in preventing certain cancers, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, depression, heart disease, birth defects, postmenopausal weight gain and a host of other ailments. Pretty good news – right? 

The bad news is that according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine; worldwide more than 1 billion people are vitamin D deficient.  Scientific American estimates that three-quarters of American teens and adults are vitamin D “challenged”.  

Why We’re Lacking

  • Health care professionals tell us to stay out of the sun, to wear hats and bathe in sun block to protect against skin cancer.  However, we’re also told that we need sun exposure to help our bodies start making vitamin D.  With all the contradictory advice floating around, it’s no wonder we’re D-ficient!
  • It’s also tougher for some people to make enough vitamin D from sun exposure, like those with darker skins, folks that are overweight, and older.
  • It’s next to impossible to eat enough food to satisfy our daily D requirement. Only a handful of foods  naturally contain vitamin D; salmon, tuna, and mackerel are good sources. Egg yolks, cheese, beef and fortified milks and cereals have some D, but really don’t do much to fill the void.

What To Do

  • Prudent pill poppers seek out easy to swallow and metabolize Vitamin D3 supplements.
  • Some folks choose to catch a few rays between the hours of 10 – 4.  Studies suggest that 10 – 15 minutes of UV ray exposure are enough to kick-start vitamin D production – sorry, no sun screen allowed.
  • Those with an iron will and stomach take a daily dose of cod liver oil – one tablespoon seems to do the trick.   

Simple Ways To Boost Your Intake

• Drink at least 2 cups of vitamin D-fortified milk a day.

• Use milk instead of water in making hot chocolate mix, soups and sauces.

• Choose vitamin D-fortified yogurts and cheeses whenever possible.

• Check labels and choose breakfast cereals that are fortified with vitamin D.

• Flake tuna on top of a salad for a hearty lunch … or make tuna salad sandwiches.

• If you drink soy beverage, choose a vitamin D-fortified brand.

• Grill or bake salmon for a vitamin D-rich meal once a week 

Source:  Vitamin D What You Need to Know About the “Sunshine” Vitamin – Dairy Council of California

Recommended Daily Intake of Calcium and Vitamin D From Food and Supplements

Age Calcium Vitamin D
1-3 500mg  400 IU
4-8 800mg  400 IU
9-18 1300mg  400 IU
19-50 1000mg  800 IU
Over 50 1200mg 1200 IU

 Source: Upstate Medical University

The Verdict …

… is still out.  More studies are needed to decide the best way to get our daily fix and to confirm or deny the health benefits of vitamin D.  Until results are in, strike a balance and use common sense.  

It’s also a good idea to get your vitamin D levels measured.  If you’re like most, your level may be too low. My deficiency was discovered during a routine physical and now I take 2000IUs a day.  It’s important to have a chat with your doctor before making any dietary changes.  

What do you think?  How do you get your daily D?    Is it better to meet nutritional requirements through the foods we eat, or are supplements the better choice? 

 Additional Resources

Office of Dietary Supplements – National Institutes of Health offers information about Vitamin D

The Nutrition Source – Harvard School of Public Medicine offers information about boosting your daily multi-vitamin with vitamin D

Organic Food: Help! I’m sooo confused!

In Your Health, Your World on June 25, 2010 at 8:57 AM

 

If you’re like most folks you probably try, (or at least think about :)) taking care of your body  by eating “right”.  You may even be the type that occasionally buys foods that conserve Mother Earth’s resources.  But, if you’re like me, with dietitians, nutritionists, and green experts throwing around terms like hormone-free, free-range, natural, and organic, you don’t know what to buy or eat!

 After-all, isn’t organic just a fancy word for natural?  

After doing a bit of research, I found the answer … No!  Even though these terms often appear on food labels they don’t have the same meanings. 

What is organic food? 

Organic refers to the way agricultural products such as grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, poultry, and meat are grown, raised and processed.  For example, organic farmers don’t use conventional methods to fertilize crops or feed animals.  Instead of using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, techniques like crop rotation, adding compost and even beneficial insects are utilized.  Animals raised on organic farms are fed organic foods, allowed access to the outdoors and kept in clean living quarters.  And unlike conventionally raised livestock, they’re not given antibiotics, or growth hormones.    

In addition, organic farms and companies that process organic foods must be certified by the government that they meet United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA) organic standards.  The only exceptions to this law is are business that sell less than $5000.00 a year in  organic products. Violators face a stiff penalty of $11000.00 per  incident.

How Can You Tell If Food is Organic? 

Read the label.  Most, (though not required), certified farms and businesses label their products with USDA Organic Seal. 

Use the guide below to help identify  organic agricultural products.  

100% Organic

  • Product must be 100% organically produced; this does not include added water or salt
  • Product label must list: the ingredients when the product has more than one ingredient, the name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, etc, of the finished product and the name of the certifying agent
  • Product may display USDA Organic Seal 

95% Organic

  • Product must be 95% organic; this doesn’t include added water or salt. 
  • 5% of the product may contain non-organic products that are not commercially available in organic forms.
  • May use the word “Organic” in the product name  
  • Product label must list the ingredients, noting the organic ingredients, the name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, etc, of the finished product, and the name of the certifying agent
  • Product cannot contain sulfites  (a food preservative)
  • Product may display USDA Organic Seal 

Made With Organic

  • 70% of the product must be organic; this doesn’t include added water or salt
  • 30% of the product may contain non-organic products that are not commercially available in organic forms
  • May use the words, “Made with organic …”  
  • Wine products may contain added sulfites in the form of sulfur dioxide
  • The product label must list the ingredients, noting the organic ingredients, the name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, etc, of the finished product, and the name of the certifying agent
  • The USDA Organic Seal may not be used 

Some Organic Ingredients

  • 70% or less of the product may be organic
  • 30% or more of the product may contain non-organic agricultural ingredients 
  • The product label must list the ingredients, noting the organic products 
  • The USDA Organic Seal or certifying agent seal may not be used 

While natural, hormone-free, and free-range are important product labels, don’t confuse them with certified organic foods – they’re not the same nor are the words interchangeable. Be a smart shopper by familiarizing yourself with all these terms.  Understanding product symbols and labels allows you to make better nutritional decisions for you and your family. 

Resources 

USDA National Organic Program  

Organic.org  – Find practical educational material about “going organic”.  Also, has fun activities for kids.  

Local Harvest – Find organic farmers’ markets, and family farms in your area.

What are your thoughts on organic foods?  Are they really better for your health?  Are they worth the expense?  Or, are they over-rated?

Top Carriers For Toting Your Tot

In Your Guest Writers, Your Health, Your Home on June 6, 2010 at 9:38 PM

by Lauren Dzuris   

Image Courtesy Justyna Furmanczyk

 

When it comes to our little one, we want the best products on the market. We have safety in mind, comfort and an affordable price to look for. One thing you don’t want to go without is a baby carrier or car seat for your child. These make doing everyday tasks much easier since they are always with you and you can keep your eye on them. If you’re on the hunt for one of the best baby carriers, here are a few that are known to be the best-selling. These have the best reviews, ratings and are highly recommended by other parents!    

Baby Bjorn: This is a carrier that we’ve all heard of and love. It allows you to go about your day hands free, it is easy to buckle on, all the adjustments are made in the front for easy access, and it has wide padded shoulder straps for your comfort and easier carrying.    

Baby Bjorn Original Spirit

 

Ergo Baby: The Ergo Baby carrier is another carrier that parents are very fond of. It has padded shoulders and waist for easier carrying, it is very easy to adjust, it allows you to carry your baby on either your back or front and it also has several colors and designs to choose from!    

ERGO Baby Camel Carrier

 

Jeep 2-in-1: Jeep has several great baby products, including baby carriers. There 2-in-1 is great because it has extra wide and padded shoulder straps, a secure fit indicator to make sure your baby is locked in properly, it has a mesh air circulator to keep your little one chill, and lastly it has a reflective trim to help with night visibility.    

Jeep 2-in-1 Baby Carrier

 

When looking for a baby carrier you want to make sure it is convenient for not only your baby but you as well. Getting certain features like padded shoulder straps, the option to choose between wearing them on your back or front side, and the easy buckle adjustments make your time with your baby much easier.   

It is always a good idea to do your research, to compare similar products along with their features and to make sure you and your child are comfortable. There are a lot of great baby carriers on the market, but these seem to stick out from the rest!   

Lauren Dzuris runs FindMyCarSeat, a  website that helps soon to be parents find the right car seat for their child, while giving them tips and advice on everything from pregnancy to caring for your baby.

Are You Ready for Emergencies?

In Your Health, Your Home, Your World on May 27, 2010 at 7:17 AM

    

Emergency Escape Route

 

Preparing for the unthinkable isn’t something most people think about.  After all, bad things only happen to other people – right?    

Wouldn’t it be great to receive a cautionary note the day before a crisis occurred?     

Unfortunately, tragedies don’t understand the rules of fair play.     

While we can’t control Mother Nature, Acts of God, or accidents, we can make sure our families are prepared to survive when a crisis erupts by making preparedness a daily watchword and having  household emergency plans.    

Read the following tips, then download and copy the complete  Family Emergency Kit (PDF)   

Family Emergency Kit

 

A Few Things to Think About     

Click Image to Enlarge 

     

Communication    

Make sure every family member (including children) knows your emergency plan.  Share it with co-workers, neighbors, friends, and extended family members, in and out-of-state.  These folks act as relay systems when you need help.  Is there an infant or family member with special needs in your home?  Make your health department and emergency response teams aware of this and ask how they can help.      

Coordinate Emergency Plans    

Know your city, and hospital emergency plans, locations and warning signals.   Coordinate these plans with those at work, and your children’s schools.    

Grab and Go Bag     

If you need to evacuate your home, have a bag of essentials that you can quickly picked up and take with you.  Use a check list to make sure you have the proper items.
  • General Supplies:  First aid kit, medicine, battery operated cell phone charger, crank or battery operated radio, camp stove with fuel (only use outside), water filter, pens, paper, games and activities for your children and you.  
  • Cash and Important Documents:  Have at least $200.00 in small bills like ones, fives and tens.  It’s also important to have access to a national bank in case your local branch  or home town bank is closed. Make copies of important documents, (birth certificates, passports, deeds, insurance policy numbers, social security cards, etc.)  to keep in your Grab and Go Bag. 

Escape Routes    

Plan escape routes from your work place and home.  Know transportation routes out of your neighborhood, and city, and plan alternatives. Determine a specific meeting place in and outside your community for family members who are not at home.     

Shelter-in-Place    

Always have enough non-perishable foods, drinking water, and essential supplies  if  you are forced to stay at home.  A generator is helpful if the electricity and gas is out.    

Technology   Use available technology to keep informed and to let others know that you are OK – text messaging, internet, email, cell phones, and radio devices.     

Even though there are many national and local agencies that offer support when they are able; create your plan with the idea that no support is available.      

    

Additional Resources   

Free Med-Id Wallet Cards   

Free Pet Emergency Preparedness Information and Decals

Good to Know!

In You, Your Fashion, Your Food, Your Health, Your World on March 24, 2010 at 7:52 PM

Sit or Squat

Plug your zip code or address into Sit or Squat   to locate a public restroom anywhere in the world!  Go mobile with your IPhone, ITouch, BlackBerry and SMS text.

Red is the New Black

According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, men are more attractive to women wearing red as opposed to other colors. 

Try a New Polish

This year’s colors are bold, bright and vibrant: from neon yellows to trendy blues and metallic golds to timeless nudes

Break Out the Popcorn

A study by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that popcorn and whole grains have as many antioxidants as vegetables.

Get Your Shine On With WD-40

Spray a little WD on leather shoes and purses, then buff to a shine with a clean cloth. Also adds a layer of protection from nature’s elements.

 

Tangerine Sparkles

Ingredients: 

2Cs orange-tangerine juice

3Cs ginger ale

8 chilled glasses filled with crushed ice

Pour juice over glasses, garnish with orange or tangerine slices.