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Nurse Bridgid

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A hidden gem!

Everyone is always searching for new fruits and veggies from exotic places that have high levels of antioxidants, and filled with vitamins, minerals, and low calories. Well, guess what?  In about every grocery store I go to, I see guavas.  And while I realize that they are decently exotic (compared to my New England ecosystem) they are readily available in even the coldest of areas, basically year round, and they are one of these super fruits that everyone is always looking for....right in your local grocers fruit section!

What is so great about guava?
Guava fruits are a yummy fruit that are decently sweet, and have 4 times the Vitamin C than oranges, with relatively low calories (112calories per serving).  Guavas have tons of fiber 8.9grams per serving, which is pretty high for a fruit, and they also have a small amount of protein present (4.2grams) which is pretty good for a fruit, right? On top of which they have 20% of your daily needs for folic acid (all you pregnant ladies out there take note!) along with potassium, copper, manganese, and tons of minerals that are good for your body.  The red/pink versions (apple guavas) have high antioxidant values, much more than the green apple guavas (as we all have learned, the more color, the more antioxidants!!) With all of these vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and antioxidants present, no one can deny these tasty treats "super fruit" status!

What were they used for traditionally?
Many different cultures worldwide used guavas as a part of traditional medicine for many different reasons.  They have been used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, along with fevers in many countries where they are traditionally grown (Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa).  Ancient healers have also been known to try and treat diabetes with teas from the bark of the trees.  As well, the bark has antimicrobial properties, so the bark was used to clean cuts and to heal various infections.  How effective these treatments are in modern days, I am not sure, as we have many other ways to treat these ailments that are most likely superior, but it's good to know that in a pinch you can use guavas and the bark to suit your medical needs!

What are they being used for in modern medicine?
Guavas antioxidants are being studied for their use in fighting/treating cancer; extracts from the guava fruits themselves and the bark are being studied extensively.  Not only are the cancer fighting effects being studied, which thus far has been positive, but still in the study phase, but the extracts are being looked at for their use in the treatment of bacterial infections, to find out exactly what bacteria they treat, along with their effect on inflammation and chronic pain. Again, all of these are in various phases of being studied, but the preliminary information is really positive, and you all know how I like to use natural treatments, when at all possible!

These super fruits really are truly amazing, and despite none of the studies being conclusive at this point, what I do know is that eating these yummy fruits are good for you, and chock full of vitamins and all sorts of good stuff.  So, even if all of the studies are complete bunk, they are still a pretty tasty treat and you will get a power punch of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  So instead of spending tons of money on the trendiest super fruit you hear about in the media, take a peak at the fruit section at your local grocery store and add it to your cart!

Yours in Good Health

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wheatberry: What is it?

I am a huge fan of eating various forms of proteins, and obviously I love meat BUT I also don't necessarily eat meat every single day, and I need to keep my protein up, so I am always trying to find ways to add it in to my diet.  I found a simple solution: wheatberry.

What is wheatberry?
It is a small circular whole grain, and it is the entire wheat kernel (without the hull), that you usually know as ground into wheat flour.  It is the germ, bran, and endosperm all in one!  It is usually tan in color and after being cooked they have kind of a chewiness to them, like quinoa.

Why is it so good for you?
Wheatberry has approximately 6grams of protein per 1/4cup serving, which is a lot of protein for a grain to contain, so it is great to add to your diet if you don't get enough protein, or don't have time to get meat proteins in your diet all the time.  Because it has the bran and germ part of the wheat, it is a complex carbohydrate, which means that it will make you feel full and take your body longer to digest because it has a bunch of fiber, around 6grams of fiber per serving as well.  With 150calories per serving and being full of fiber, protein, and packing about 8% of your recommended daily amount of Iron, it is a well rounded and healthy addition to your diet.  And as well all know, foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat can help to lower cholesterol levels.

How do I eat it?
You can find tons of recipes online, but just boiling it and adding some fresh veggies and some salt and pepper can make an awesome side dish option.  Sometimes I use it as an alternative for rice in a dish, seeing as it is healthier and better for you than even brown rice. I used to only make black beans and quinoa, but I switch it up and make it over wheatberry now too!  People love that it is a different grain, flavor (kind of nutty), and consistency to a side dish or salad.  So play around and try a bunch of different recipes, to see which ones you like the best....and remember you can also bake them into breads, and other baked goods to add some protein, a different consistency, and protein/fiber!

Wheatberry is a great addition to your diet whether you are trying to slim down, by cutting calories and saturated fats in your diet (i.e. cut out the high fat foods but add wheatberry) OR as an addition to your diet if you are trying to add calories and protein to bulk up.  Give it a try, and let me know what you think!  I know you will enjoy the flavor and the addition to your diet

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Alzheimer's: The straight deal

Alzheimer's is a disease that causes brain damage that gradually gets worse, in which the brain cells degenerate and die, which leads to a steady decline in mental and memory function.  It is also the most common form of dementia, and it has been estimated that 36 million people worldwide suffer from dementia.  There is tons of research going on for medications and treatments to prevent and/or cure Alzheimer's disease, but as of now, it is mainly learning to live with the disease and temporarily improve the symptoms.

What are the symptoms?
Alzheimer's disease can start off with some very subtle symptoms of forgetfulness and mild confusion (honestly, some days I question myself as I search for my cell phone as I am talking on it), so you might not always notice them, an many people are good at covering it up, calling it a "senior moment" or making it into a joke.  But over time it gets worse and more noticeable by friends and family members; the person affected might have no idea that they even have these symptoms.  The memory can be affected by: repeating the same statements over and over, forget conversations/appointments/etc and have no recollection about them, put every day items in strange places and be unable to find them, and forget names/dates/places that are important to them.  They may also start to have problems with thinking/reasoning, knowing where they are, and speaking/writing.  This can lead to personality changes: irritability, depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, and wandering.  It can be a devastating process to watch and be a part of.

What causes it?  Increases my risk?
It is not truly known what "causes" Alzheimer's disease per se, but it is thought to be genetic and effected by lifestyle and the environment.  Since Alzheimer's disease also has brain shrinkage related to it, scientists are looking into the effects of substance abuse and alzheimer's disease, as other lifestyle factors also increase you risk: smoking, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poorly controlled diabetes.  As I discussed yesterday, TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) can lead to a much higher rate of Alzheimer's disease than those without.  Genetically, your risk is higher if someone directly related to you (a sibling or parent) develops the disease, and increased age is the greatest risk factor.  Most people who will develop the disease start to show symptoms in their 40's or 50's. Women have a higher risk than men of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Is there anything that decreases your risk?
Research has shown that people with a higher mental functioning have decreased risks of Alzheimer's disease.  Higher levels of formal education, a stimulating job, frequent social activities, and having mentally challenging leisure activities (like puzzles, crosswords, music, reading, playing games) can decrease your risk of getting the disease.  It is unknown why, but it is assumed that keeping your brain stimulated, creates more cell to cell connections and may prevent the changes of caused by Alzheimer's.

What are medications for treatment?
There are cholinesterase inhibitors that boost cell-to-cell communication within the brain and help to slow the progression of the disease. The cholinesterase inhibitors most commonly used are: donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne), and rivastigmine (Exelon) and their most common side effects are nausea and diarrhea. Another drug that is used, which is very similar and often used in conjunction with those listed above, is memantine (Namenda), which can cause some dizziness.

Are there any alternative treatments?
There has been research to show that Omega-3 Fatty Acids that are commonly found in fish oil can help prevent the mental decline associated with Alzheimer's disease.  As well, it is thought that Vitamin E can help to slow the physical changes (such as moving slower, inability to perform activities of daily living) but should always be taken under a doctors supervision.  Ginko was presumed to help with Alzheimer's disease but NIH funded studies showed no improvement at all.  Also, Huperzine A  is a chinese herbal supplement from moss that acts similarly to the cholinesterase inhibitors.  All alternative treatments should be discussed with your HCP to ensure there are no reactions of medications and to make sure that they are the best treatment for you/your loved one to take.

What are some of the things I can do to help my loved one?
Encourage regular exercise: not too strenuous, but to keep them active and moving.
Encourage a healthy diet: high calorie, high protein smoothies with lots of fruits, veggies, and vitamins.  Also encourage them to drink (sometimes they can forget), so stock their home with beverages they like to drink.
Keep them mentally stimulated: bring them out to lunch, involve them in small gatherings where they can talk to friends/loved ones, so they can challenge their minds and try to remember things.
Create a safe environment: make sure their are handrails on stairs/in bathrooms, remove excess clutter or rugs that can cause them to trip, make sure there are no slippery areas, decrease the number of mirrors (mirrors can frighten people with Alzheimer's disease).

What else?
You need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself, and getting help for YOU.  Alzheimer's can be more stressful to the caregivers and loved ones than the person actually diagnosed with the disease.
-Try to go to a support group for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients
-Get help from other family members, friends
-Talk to your HCP (or the person with Alzheimer's HCP) and get a week/end off using respite care (like visiting nurses for the short term, your insurance will pay, and it gives you a little break and the ability to do what you need for you).
-Make sure you are eating healthy
-Make time for your friends
-Don't feel guilty for needing "me" time, it is the only way you can stay healthy and care for your loved one in the long-term.

Alzheimer's Disease can be devastating, and while nothing can reverse it (as of now), we can try to prevent it by living a healthy lifestyle, getting in to see an HCP if you notice any changes in your loved ones memory/mental abilities.  As it can be subtle, it is worth talking to their HCP about and not being judgmental, but getting on medications that may slow the progression of the disease early, is the best treatment.  Try to keep your loved ones healthy and safe, but seek help from those around you, and make sure that you are healthy too!  There are tons of supports out there, you just need to ask :)

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Have you ever hit your head? It could be more serious...

Growing up I played tons of sports that were pretty high impact (ice hockey, lacrosse) and I was always getting knocked around, very rarely I would get a hit to the head, and only once was it pretty severe.  But many people throughout their lives due to sports, lifestyle, or just bad luck sustain a head injury.  Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) have been studied a lot recently and may be a significant risk factor to developing Alzheimer's according to a new study from Paris, France.  Alzheimer's Disease is a pretty significant form of dementia that gets worse and worse over time, significantly impairing memory and the ability to physically function.

What is a TBI and how do I know if I had one?
Technically a TBI is any injury or trauma that causes damage to the brain, and it can be in the form on your head hitting an object, and object hitting your head, or something piercing through your skull into your brain matter.  And these injuries range from mild to severe, so you may never lose consciousness (but feel a little a slight concussion) and have a mild TBI, or lose consciousness and have pretty major damage to your brain; it is all person dependent and how the injury occurs.  For any hard hit to your head, wether you lose consciousness or not, you should go to see your HCP to ensure that there is no major damage and they can work you up, because with mild TBI, you may feel fine, but upon neurological exam your HCP might find that you are a little off and you just don't realize it. So in a nutshell?  With a mild TBI you might not even know you have one, but you need to be under medical care.

What are Treatments and Prognosis?
Depending on the level of severity, the treatment may be different BUT the standard is that you will have your neurological signs checked frequently (asking you different questions, looking at your pupils in direct light, moving all of your extremities, and being asked to follow pretty simple commands) along with a CT Scan of your head to look for soft tissue damage and bleeding, and sometimes x-rays to assess for broken bone structures.  If you have any form of bleeding, your blood pressure will be controlled to ensure that you have adequate blood flow to your brain but not too much to cause excess bleeding in the tissues. As well, you will most likely be placed on oxygen to make sure that you have enough oxygen in your blood to supply your brain.  After TBIs, depending on severity, some people have personality and behavioral changes, their memory/thinking/reasoning is not what it was pre-injury, communication can change, and some of your senses can be different (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste).  Some very severe TBIs can cause people to be in comatose states and never re-gain consciousness. In the hospital, we will get you set up with different resources that can help you such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, psychiatrists, neurologists, etc.  You will have a whole team working on you to get you back to fighting form!

What does this have to do with Alzheimer's?
Well, I needed to give you some background to put this all into perspective for you! A large study in Paris, France conducted over 7 years looked at the incidences of Veterans with TBIs and their rates of Alzheimer's.  What they found was that people who had had ANY form of TBI, compared to those who had never had a TBI, had over double the risk of having Alzheimer's later in life. That is pretty significant, seeing as the study looked at over 280,000 participants and a large portion of the TBIs were not severe they were considered mild to moderate.  Research is being done now to figure out why exactly this occurs, but it is presumed that the damage is more prolonged than we originally thought and can cause further damage over time.

Due to the fact that in the US alone, the CDC reports over 1.7 Million TBI related hospital/medical visits a year, how many people are at risk worldwide?  A lot!  So please wear helmets when biking/riding a motorcycle, drive safely, and try to stay clear of major head injuries....I know no one goes out looking for them, but just be aware that any time you bonk your head hard, you should go to get looked at to make sure it isn't something more significant.  And watch your loved ones that have had TBIs closely, maybe you can spot some of the signs of Alzheimer's early and get treatment (tomorrow's post!!)

Yours in Good Health

Monday, August 22, 2011

Get a move on!

I know that I have touched on numerous topic that encourage people to exercise for numerous reasons, but a new study has just come out that was performed over a two year period in Australia looking at the risk of rectal cancer and having a sedentary lifestyle. I know that many people cannot change the biggest factor, which is being sedentary due to work; if your job requires you to sit at a desk to perform your job, there is not a lot of leeway BUT there are plenty of ways that we can get moving outside of work.

What was the study?
The study looked at around 2000 people over the course of a 2 year period studying their colon and rectum looking for any changes in the cellular make up and looking for signs of cancer.  Some of the participants had active lifestyles with non-sedentary jobs and the other population had sedentary job for at least 10 years.  Sadly, it was found that the population that had sedentary jobs had over two times the risk of getting a colorectal cancer than the active group. From this study we can gather that long term sedentary work, leads to a much higher risk of colon and rectal cancer.  That's pretty scary and makes me want to walk around as I am writing right now!!

What can I do?
If you have a sedentary job, make time to get up and walk around and try to change your position frequently.  I know that your empoler might not like wheat I am going to tell you, but people who smoke take frequent smoke breaks, so why can't you take a frequent walk break?  Sometimes when I have a day where I have to be at my desk a lot, I just drink a ton of water so that I remind myself to get up and get active (hey, walking to the bathroom is better than just sitting there and powering through work!)  Take walking lunches, or stand to change your body position and get blood flowing.  Really try to get a good 30minutes of cardio exercises in per day, which I know can be hard to do, but if you can take the time to watch TV after work, you can take the time to go for a brisk 30 minute walk, do yard work, garden, park really far away from stores when you are doing errands.

Being active is not only healthy, it is preventative medicine as you are preventing bad things form occurring to your body by doing what is natural, walking around and keeping your body moving.  I hope that this encourages everyone to include working out, and I'd love if we got a few runners ;) but I would be happy if everyone could just make a commitment to make being active a priority in their lives, you will feel better and your body will thank you for it!

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are you sure you want to eat THAT?

Sometimes people have super strong cravings and urges to eat things; I know when I tell myself that I can't have like cake, or ice cream, I really want them, but some people have these intense urges to eat things that are not real foodstuffs.   When people have these intense urges, and give in and eat these things such as dirt, animal feces, clay, hairballs, ice, paint, paper, and sand, it is known as pica, and it can be a pretty serious issue.  Most times when you are really craving something, it is because you need the nutrients in that food; with pica the "food" you crave really isn't nutritious at all.

What is the deal with Pica?
Truly pica is when people eat any of the aforementioned foods and it is usually due to a nutritional deficit.  Most often the cause is iron deficiency anemia  and zinc deficiency, but some people just like feeing a certain texture in their mouths, so they eat these different items.  If this behavior of eating non-food items lasts more than one month, it is designated as pica because there are no tests to diagnose it.

Who is usually affected?
The groups at the highest risk for pica are children and pregnant women.  It is estimated that between 10-36% of all children in the 1-6 age group have pica. This can be a serious risk for lead poisoning if children are eating paint and paint chips, so your HCP should test their lead levels.  And for pregnant women, if they have a nutritional deficit, which can tend to be iron, they will have pica to try and replace the missing nutrient that their babies need.  Anyone who has a poor diet and is lacking in nutritious food is at risk for pica.

What are the risks?
As mentioned above, some children can have high lead levels from eating paint which can lead to mental disorders and death, but some other complications are:
*Bezoars (a mass of undigestible material trapped in the body- stomach usually)
*Intestinal obstructions
*These usually require surgical intervention to treat

What are the treatments?
All underlying medical conditions need to be treated (like those listed above) and there also needs to be a level of behavioral therapy.  Like any other behavior people get used to in their lives, or bad habit, it needs to be broken.  Sometimes a negative consequence for eating a non-food and a positive reinforcement when healthy food is eaten can work, or just feeding nutritious foods can lead to the cravings to diminish and the behavior will go away on its own.

Depending on the cause of the pica, your HCP will be able to help guide you through the treatment and how to reshape behaviors to ensure that you are eating healthy food and preventing this from occurring in the future, and teach you the signs to look for when you start having these urges/cravings and what to do.

Some people feel very "freak"-ish because of pica, but it really isn't something to be ashamed about, and it is usually a simple treatment.  I wouldn't encourage my friends to have a bowl of sand when they come over for dinner, but I would look for it as an opportunity to explain this condition and how to treat it. If you are worried at all about you or your children, go see your HCP and get treated.

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It is more common than you think

One of my friends told me that she was having a problem with diarrhea and stomach pain, and she was cutting things out of her diet, changing when she ate, and her whole routine before finally getting a diagnosis from a Gastroenterologist: "giardiasis".  Giardia is one of those parasites that I always think is always present in third world countries without running water, and could never happen in a place where we eat organic (or at least try to), wash everything in fresh water, and are super freaks about cleanliness, right?  Wrong!  Apparently it is a pretty common cause of diarrhea in the US and other countries.  Yikes!

What is Giardia?
It is a parasite that colonizes and reproduces in the small intestines of humans and other animals causing cramping and diarrhea and can take 1 to 2 weeks from time of first infection until you see symptoms.

How do I get it?
Giardia must be swallowed to cause an infection and you can get it if you ingest food or water which has been contaminated with the parasite.  Also, since it lives in the small intestine, the parasites can also be spread through bowel movements by changing diapers, using toilet paper, etc. So, people who don't wash their hands after using the bathroom, then smoke, bite their nails, etc. can infect themselves.  Also, if you get the parasite on your hands, you can spread the parasite when preparing foods and spread to other people.  Giardia can be spread quickly in daycare centers with children and in nursing homes, where people require care with bowel movements.  As well, in areas where fresh water is tough to come by, if a water source is infected with any form of raw sewage, it can easily infect others.  It is an infection that requires reporting to the Department of Public Health in your city (in the US) because the risk of spreading is so high.  And it can also be spread through the stool of animals!!

What are the symptoms and how do I know I have it?
The most common symptoms are:
Foul-smelling soft stools
Abdominal cramping
Increased gas
Loss of appetite
Weight loss
If you have these symptoms and they are not going away, you should see your HCP who will order studies on your stool and will test for the parasites or they may do an invasive study (enteroscopy) to look at the small intestine, but mot commonly the stool samples will produce a positive test if you have the infection and you can begin treatment.

How do I treat the parasite?
Some of the infections go away on their own, but most times the infection needs to be treated with with metrodiazole (flagyl) which is an antibiotic and antiprotozoal agent to kill off the parasite and make the area inhabitable for the parasites.  You might also need Intravenous fluids for dehydration and diarrhea, and a lighter diet might be required (like leave out the dairy or heavy foods) while your stomach is cramping and feeling unwell.  Sometimes even with treatment, if you have had the parasite infection for a while, even after the infection is gone, you may still have symptoms for a while.

How do I prevent it?
Prevention is key here, for certain!  If you have a water source that may be contaminated (like if you are hiking or receive a notice from your towns reservoir, etc) you should try to decontaminate water by boiling it, using iodine treatments, or filtration systems before drinking, cooking, or in any way ingesting the water.  As well all healthcare workers and daycare center workers should be vigilant about washing their hands with antibacterial soap after helping with patients/children using the bathroom and with any contact with fecal matter.  Also, after walking your dog, touching any animals, make sure to wash your hands and if you can't rush to get your hands cleaned off, don't touch your hands to your face/mouth.

If you have any of the symptoms or are worried that you may have giardia, it is worth a trip to your HCP for a stool test to make sure that you don't have the parasite, and if you do, getting early treatment will make you feel better faster.  Just be aware that this infection can happen to anyone who lives in developed and undeveloped countries alike!

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Do your work outs need a boost??

I know that I have talked a LOT about chocolate and how good it is for you, primarily dark chocolate, and despite my sweet tooth for milk chocolate, I think that any science telling me to eat chocolate, is good science!  But there is a new study from the University of California, San Diego looking at the benefits of boosting your ability to exercise.  Eat chocolate and get a better workout? Count me in.  

How does this work?
Cacao's main ingredient is epicatechin, which is a flavanoid that is thought to help with all of the positive effects of dark chocolate (like lowering blood pressure and decreasing stress).  And in these studies, sedentary, middle aged male mice were made to work out daily and half were given the purified form of epicatechin twice a day and the other half were just fed water.  Their workouts were watched and studied, to see which mice were able to work out longer and, based on level of baseline cardiovascular shape they were in.  So some mice were encouraged to walk on the treadmill, some at a faster pace of longer timeframe, and some for really very little exercise at all.

What was found?
After 15 days of this treatment, the mice were given a treadmill test. The mice that were more sedentary yet given two doses of epicatechin were far superior to the other mice in working out; they had higher stamina at a faster pace, while being less "in shape" than the other mice.  The researchers biopsied the back leg muscles of the animals and what they found was kind of amazing.  The muscles of the mice that had taken the epicatechin had new capillaries growing in their muscles (small blood vessels) so they had more blood and more energy to their muscles than the mice without it. The mice with eipcatechin created mitochondria, and mitochondria are structures in the cells that produce energy; the more mitochondria a muscle has, the less fatigue it will have and the healthier it is.  That is truly amazing!

How will this translate to humans?
Well they are now going to study the effects on humans, but it is presumed that 5grams (one half a square) of dark chocolate a day will have these effects on the muscles in the body, and it is also hypothesized that the muscles actually have receptors for the epicatechin, but eating too much can undo the effects that occur.  Epicatechin is present in chocolate with the least amount of processing; milk chocolate has very little (if any) of the flavanoid.

While it is still being studied, it is still a cool thing to try to see if it boosts the energy in your workouts, but stick to the purest dark chocolate you can and only to 5grams a day.  See if it makes a difference, and let me know if you can workout harder and longer!

Yours in Good Health!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The importance of listening

I just wanted to take sometime to talk about the true importance of listening to other people.  I know that there is a LOT of chatter in this world and people talk a lot (I am a major culprit of that), but how often do we really listen to what they are saying?  Have you ever had a conversation with someone and is may have struck you in the middle of the night or the day all of a sudden it strikes you that they may have been asking something of you and you totally didn't get it because you weren't fully engaged in the conversation, or had a thousand other things on your mind?  I know that it happens to me, not a lot at work, but when I talk to people in my outside life, if I am not completely engaged, I can miss some crucial parts of conversations.  More importantly, you can mis the signs of a friend or loved one asking or help, or letting them know that they need you.

How can I become a better listener?
It is actually more difficult than it seems, and you need to basically re-learn behavior.  Most of us are taught how to talk and how to best use words to get our points across, but not many of us are taught to actually sit and listen. But here are some tips on how to better engage in a conversation, and after some time of consciously working at it, this behavior will become second nature:
-Keep conversations, as much as possible, in areas without a lot of other noise, stimulation (turn TV's/radios off) and close doors when possible to allow for your full attention
-You will be as open as your body sits physically, so try not to cross your arms, but appear and be open
-Concentrate on the person and what they are saying
-Make eye contact, or give the person encouragement to speak by looking at them
-Don't interrupt; sometimes it can be hard to formulate the word or correct working in particularly tough conversations, so give time to allow that to happen.
-If you are not sure about a certain point, or need clarification, repeat a point back to the other person and ask open ended questions to allow for a more in depth answer.
-If you are tired or unable to fully concentrate, get a cup of tea/coffee and try to stay engaged best you can
-If someone asks to talk to you ("Hey can I to talk to you about something when you have a minute?") make time for that as soon as you can.
-Don't rush to fill a silence, sometimes people just need a moment to think about things and let ideas/statements settle.

I know that these seem like silly little tips, but it really is a skill you have to learn to focus on people when they are talking and really listen to them.  I had to learn it as an HCP and it is a skill that has helped me in real life immensely, but every now and again, I wake up int he middle of the night with a thought that I had a missed moment with someone; I wasn't fully engaged because I was thinking about a billion other things, and I may have missed a moment to help out or allow someone to tell me something that has really been bothering them.  In an ideal world, we would all be very blunt and say exactly what we are thinking....but, in the real world, that just doesn't happen!

Try to keep your mind clear, ears open, and really allow yourself to hear others; your relationships will be stronger, and you will feel more connected to those around you, plus it gives you some time to get out of your own head (which can be a nice little stress vacation!)

Yours in Good Health

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What lovely nails you have!

Most people see long, painted nails and think: how beautiful! I see long, or acrylic, nails and think: Good gravy, I wonder what is growing under those! Moreover, when I see people biting or chewing on their nails, I get super grossed out.  It made me think  that the average person does not know what is lurking under those nails, and how to truly get them clean.  Nails are just dead protein, keratin, like the hair on our heads, and they grow faster in summer because of the warm weather, we are more active, thus raising our metabolism, and allowing our nails to grow faster.  But these beautiful nails that we have, whilst helpful in texting, typing, and giving a good scratch, they can have breeds of bacteria under them, and be a source of infection for our bodies!

What kind of bacteria is lurking?
So many different forms of bacteria have been found under peoples nails when they are cultured ranging from Staphylococcus Aureus (the bacteria responsible to skin infections, flesh eating bacteria, toxic shock, etc) to Klebsiella (can cause skin infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, etc) to Candida parapsilosis (a yeast that can cause very serious and difficult to treat skin, wound, and GI tract infections).  Also, if people do not wash hands properly after using the bathroom OR after changing diapers, Salmonella and E. Coli has been found under nails.

Why is this so important?
These bacteria found under nails are obviously really important to know for healthcare workers, to prevent the spread to our patients, but think about every single person you come in contact with every day, that somehow their fingernail cleanliness can affect you: a cashier giving you change (transfer can occur on money), a food worker (what if their long nails poke microscopic holes in their gloves? your sandwich is now a breeding ground for bacteria), a client that you shook hands with (quick transfer).  And, all the while, you have a bug bite on your leg that you then scratch at: transference of all of those bacteria go right into your skin.  Gross, right?  I don't want you all to be total germophobes, BUT I think that we do all need to think about hand-washing way more than we do.....

What can I do to prevent it?
Keep short (under 3mm), natural nails that are well taken care of (no jagged edges, no biting, etc) and wash your hands for 20 seconds then rinse your hands for 20 seconds EVERY time you wash with antibacterial soap.  When you are washing your hands, pay attention to your nails and really get them clean.  If you have longer nails, you can use an orange stick to scrape out dirt/debris from under the nails while washing, then toss the stick.  But really focus on washing every aspect of your hands, including your nails (an area most people miss).  And wash your hands after using the restroom, changing diapers, and before you are going to eat or use your hands to put things to your mouth, especially if you have been out touching thing in public (like on the subway or a bus).  Keep in your mind that these bacteria are everywhere, and you want them off before they get into you; the best way is to wash, wash, wash!

So steer clear of those long, luxurious, artificial nails that seem beautiful to most, but look like roving petri dishes to me!  Keep them short, clean, and away from those beautiful teeth of yours- not only does it put stress on your teeth that can lead to breakage and stress fractures, but it can put that bacteria right into your mouth.  Yuck!  Keep them short, and keep them clean!

Yours in Good Health