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Nurse Bridgid

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cold and Flu Prevention

Cold and flu season is now upon all of us, even where I was just all warm and cozy out on the West coast, and as I come back here to the cool East side, I see the sickies all over the place.  We are all at risk, and we all know that we should be getting flu shots, especially if you are considered high risk, and ideally you should get the flu shot before December, when flu season starts to hit its hardest. The flu can be a very devastating illness and can lead to complications of other medical issues and cause death.  Colds?  You just don't want to feel crappy, so we should really try our best to prevent both, right?  Prevent illness in yourself and others, and you will be a MUCH happier person this winter!

The Flu Virus

Who is considered High Risk?
Per the CDC (Center for Disease Control) it is:
Pregnant woman
Children 5 and under
People with chronic medical conditions
People older than 50 years old
Anyone living in a nursing home or long-term care facilities
People who care for those at high risk (healthcare workers, caregivers for elderly or very young)

What else can I do to prevent colds and flu?
Get adequate sleep: I have certain unnamed friends that claim exhaustion if they get less than 10-12 hours of sleep a night, I am really happy with the average person if they get 7-8 hours of sleep; because that will refresh your body and help to keep your immune system strong.  And, if you are sick, then try to get more like 10 hours of sleep, and relax as much as possible, your body is trying to tell you something, and you need to let it recharge.
Keep your hands off your face:  Try not to bite your fingernails, wipe your nose on your hands, touch your eyes, or anything of that nature; it can spread germs all over your face, and increase your risk of getting a cold or the flu.
Beware of others: Wash your hands (or use and antibacterial gel) after shaking hands, and clean others belongings before you use it yourself (like phones, clothes, etc)  You never know how well other people clean things, and even something as benign seeming as borrowing a pen, can end up in a cold later on!  Plus, if someone is sneezing or coughing (showing any sign of illness), I would keep away from a big bear hug and be a little more wary of spending time in an enclosed space with someone who seems under the weather.
Eat Fresh: Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet of fruits, veggies, proteins can support a strong immune system, and if you aren't eating all that well, pop a multi-vitamin to keep your immune system working optimally, and try to prevent illness as best you can.
Get your sweat on: Working out regularly keeps your immune system strong, and your body working like a well oiled machine, not to mention that you look good and feel good too.  So, despite shorter days, and cooler weather, make time to exercise and get your body moving.
Quit smoking: Just another reason to ditch the butts, it creates changes in your respiratory tract, and decreases your immune system, leaving your lungs as prime target for viruses and bacteria to attack and cause illness.  Yuck! (Really, as if I needed yet another reason to get on my soap box about quitting smoking!!)

If you do get sick?
Keep it contained to yourself and try to sneeze or cough into your elbow area, as to prevent the spread to others. Use fresh tissues at all times; I mean I always thought it was a little creepy that my Nana would use a tissue, then shove it in the wristband of her sweater for later, but as an HCP, I now know how truly germ-y and gross that is, and you can actually reinfect yourself by using dirty or old tissues!  Drinks lots of water (and coconut water to replenish your electrolytes), and get plenty of rest and sleep. I know easier said than done, but don't overstress yourself when you are ill....make some "me" time, for sure, and stay away from work!  And, if you start to get really high fevers, and the illness doesn't start to get better after a couple of days, see your HCP to make sure that it isn't something more serious.

There is always an excuse NOT to work out and eat healthy, but there is no reason to want to get sick. So be proactive about your health: live a healthy lifestyle, and you will be a healthier person.  You'll thank me!

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What's on Your Cell?

Cell phones can be amazing little hand held computers that my life revolves around, I can barely get through a day without using my cell phone for a bunch of crucial searches (Internet, email, etc) and I sometimes wonder how I used to organize and live my life without it.  A sadder statement, I have never made, but it's true! What we don't realize about these things that we are all attached to is that they can also be little petri dishes for some nasty bacteria that no one wants on (or near) their hands or face.

 There was a decent sized study from the UK, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, that looked at our cell phones and what bacteria are carried on them.  They studied around 390 cell phones and took swabs from the phones and from people's hands. The biggest culprit of bacteria?  E. Coli!!  E. Coli is the bacteria that is most often found on fecal matter and can live on hands and other surfaces for hours and hours before dying.  So, not only is it gross that there is E. Coli on people's phones BUT that means that people are either not washing their hands after using the bathroom or they are texting or talking while using the bathroom!  You have no idea how much that creeps me out! I am literally shuttering as I write this. Really?  Pooping and texting at the same time?  I mean, I totally understand multitasking, but sometimes you just need to take a moment for yourself, and I think whilst pooping, it should be your "me" time.  Merely, a suggestion!

The study also looked at people's hands and they found that 92% of the phones they swabbed were coated in bacteria, while 82% of the hands they swabbed had bacteria on them.  16% of each of those swabs were positive for E. Coli (from human and animal poop), and despite the one theory that people are pooping and texting, the other thing is that people may not be washing their hands.  When they surveyed those studied, most people felt that the water was too cold, or they didn't "soil" their hands (because they couldn't "see" dirt on them), or they felt that they were adequately washing their hands when the obviously weren't.

We obviously have a three-fold problem: people not being able to disconnect from their phones, a lack of hand hygiene, and a no cell phone cleaning.  I think that these are all pretty easy dilemmas to solve!  First, give yourself some time away from your phone, just completely disconnected, and leave your phone outside the bathroom.  Second, PLEASE wash your hands after every time you use the bathroom whether you think you dirtied your hands or not, I promise you, they need it.  And finally, clean your phones! You can purchase cell phone cleaning kits OR just get a lint free paper towel or cloth and use rubbing alcohol to clean areas that sweat and bacteria can build-up (on and between keys, mouth piece, ear piece, etc).

Taking these steps will not only prevent you from getting sick, but it will prevent other people from getting your germs and bacteria, so make these choices not only to prevent illness but to be proactive in a healthy lifestyle!

So ditch your phone at the door, and clean those paws!!

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A good way to get more Vitamin D...and protect your heart!

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we all need to help us absorb calcium and adhere it to our bones so they are healthy and strong, and keep up that bone density.  The problem with Vitamin D is that it is present in very few foods, but we can take it in supplement form, and it is activated through Ultraviolet (UV) rays.  I know there is always this internal fight I go through whether I should forgo sunblock for a few hours to get in my Vitamin D or slap on the sunblock, pop a supplement, and hope for the best!  The good news is that a new study form Harvard has just come out and it gives an alternative!

What's the Deal?
It has been long since known that people who run, jog, play sports, bike, etc all have a lower risk of cardiac disease, and they decrease their risk of heart attack by 22%, as long as they keep up that exercise for 3 or more hours per week.  These people that have such great exercise regimens have been found to have higher levels of the "good" cholesterol and also higher levels of Vitamin D.  Three hours of vigorous exercise a week leads to a 38% increase in HDL (good cholesterol), and they also showed increased levels of Vitamin D and lower levels of Hemoglobin a1c (a predictor for diabetes).

But Why?
It ends up, that people who tend to work out a lot, spend a lot of time outside, and regardless of sunblock use, these people are spending at least three or more hours out in the environment, getting UV rays, absorbing them, and activating it faster due to increased metabolism (from running/biking/whatever your little butt off!)  They found through their study that most people who vigorously exercise, tend to spend their time exercising outdoors, and it is better for your cardiac health!  I knew there was a reason that winter, spring, summer, fall, in these crazy New England weather patterns I was outside running like crazy...and now instead of saying that my ADHD makes me go bonkers on the treadmill, I can just claim that I knew all along how much more Vitamin D I was absorbing and how much healthier my heart is for it!

I am not telling everyone to go crazy like me and run outside regardless of what the weather is doing, but I always do encourage people to go outside and walk to do errands when possible, park far away, and just take some time outside of the four walls of your gym to exercise.  We now know that Vitamin D is cardiac protective, and taking a supplement, along with UV ray absorption can help to boost your cardiac health and being outside will boost the activation and help strengthen your bones and muscles!

So go outside to get your exercise, you may not "see" the benefits but your heart will!

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Put the healthy stuff in the fridge last!

I must say that as hard as I try to eat my six meals a day, sometimes I am so busy at work that I really don't have time to space them out properly and especially at the end of the day when I have had a rough day and eating my snack will keep me at work an extra 15 minutes?  Sorry to say I usually chug some water to subside my hunger and walk home to get some puppy love and make all right with the world once again!  And usually after my 15 minute walk home, getting the dogs out of their crates, getting some love time in, and then feeding them....I am starving!! And when I am starving, I want quick and easy, not to cook up (or even chop up) and amazing meal.

What can I do?
A new study from Cornell University found that people are more likely to eat the first thing we see in our fridge, cabinet, or on the counter than the 5th item we see.   Which really makes people the reason that we fail at dieting or being healthy: if we have a bowl full of cookies or snack food out, we are going to reach for them first, but if there is a bowl of fruit on the counter, you will reach for that instead.  Not only will grabbing into a fresh fruit bowl get you great vitamins, filled up with something good for you, and you will feel better about yourself by doing something healthy. And put all the healthy stuff at the front of your fridge, so when you open the door, you see healthy foods and grab them first.

How did they actually perform this study?
100 people had pictures of their cabinets taken, and described their diets.  Then the researchers went into their homes, moved items in their cabinets/pantries and had the participants, again, submit a food journal. They also concluded that our environments have an effect on how much you eat as well; for example if you have a pantry stocked full of oreos, and you start eating one package, you are more likely to eat more if you have another package in your home.  If you only have one package, you may eat fewer; having on overabundance of your favorite foods can encourage you to overeat.

What does this mean?
Well, this is bad news for people like me who have very little time for grocery shopping and tend to go when they are starving and buy a whole bunch of crap at one time...But you should try to shop for the week and load up on good, healthy stuff.  And if you are someone who is really busy, take Sunday (or whatever day you have free) and make a bunch of meals and refrigerate or freeze them, then you can quickly heat them up as soon as you get home from work.  That way, you don;t have to search for what to eat, it's all ready to go!

How to do I prevent this?
So, interestingly, I used to buy a lot of really healthy stuff, because I always start in the fruit and veg aisles first, and I felt like I was so super healthy, that I could load up on ice cream, candy, etc but my cart looked overall healthy.  Well, I wasn't. So, now I go backwards, and I try to keep around the perimeter of the store as much as possible, because it is where the healthiest items are kept, and I feel too guilty to put the crappy stuff in my cart first, so I tend to buy less (if any at all) and then stock up on all of my healthy foods, and feel so much better leaving the store. And plus, now that we have learned that our environment dictates how and what we eat, keeping lots of healthy stuff around, increases the rate of me eating a healthy snack instead of gorging on crap....which I would do!

So, make your environment dictate a healthy lifestyle and you will be able to live one; try the backwards trip around the grocery store, and putting healthy foods in the most visible spots in your home, it seems silly but it works ;)

Yours in Good Health

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Depression? Coffee? Is there a link?

I feel like I have been talking a ton about depression and about coffee lately, so I apologize to those who don't drink coffee and who don't care about depression...I promise this will be my last for a while on these two subjects. BUT with every change of season, especially into the colder, shorter, days people who are susceptible to getting Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the rates of depression do increase, and I think that it is important that people know the symptoms of depression, and ways to combat it.

What are the symptoms of SAD?
Well, when the weather changes to winter, longer days that are darker, and you have these symptoms, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder:
-Loss of energy
-Loss of energy
-Social withdrawal
-Difficulty concentrating
-Loss of interest in activities you usually like
-Appetite changes
-Weight gain

Can Coffee Help Fight Depression?
A 10 year observational study looking at over 50,000 older women found that women who drank 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day had a 15% lower rate of depression than those who only drank coffee sparingly ( a few cups a week).  And, women who drank 4 cups or more per day had a 20% lower rate of depression.  Other studies have shown that if people drink more than 7-8 cups of coffee per day they have an increased risk of suicide (that is, people suffering from depression).  So I think that the take away point is that if you are depressed or suffer from SAD, increasing your coffee consumption a bit to offset some of the symptoms of depression (low energy, exhaustion, etc)is helpful, but limit the coffee intake to 4 cups or less per day.  Honestly, that seems like a lot of caffeine to me, but I am a minimalist with caffeine, and it is safe to use to ease your symptoms.  With that much caffeine, I would be hopped up all day!

There is nothing that will prevent SAD, or depression in general, but anything that you can do to keep yourself on a regular schedule and keep you motivated to do things that interest you, get you socializing with with your friends, and get your energy up can help.  So, you can try to offset the symptoms with coffee and pure self will, but if that doesn't keep you inspired, or you still feel that you are falling into depression, see your HCP and they can help you with a medication regimen OR get you set with some alternative therapies (Omega 3's, SAMe, and or Melatonin supplements) along with yoga, mediation, and UV therapy.  The further you are from the equator, your higher risk of SAD, so be prepared, drink caffeine to help you feel peppier, and be cognizant of the symptoms of depression, and get help when you need it!

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Best Diet Advice

I get a LOT of emails from people telling me that their diet is pretty good and they exercise, but they aren't losing weight. They want to know what exactly to eat so that they can lose weight and get back into shape.  I have done numerous blogs about various healthy foods, different foods that can speed up your metabolism, and I really do stand by the fact that the best diet is a healthy diet and exercise. We all know that to keep your metabolism revved up throughout the day,you need to get at least 30 minutes of cardio in (daily) and eat a small meal/snack every 3-4 hours throughout the day.

Anything else you ask me about: the grapefruit diet, no carb diets, paleo diets...I think they are all unhealthy because they limit you from eating food that can be nutritious and what your body needs to run efficiently. Also, these diets aren't sustainable over long periods of time. You will see many people "yo-yo" with their weight because they will go on these fad diets, lose weight, then think they look fabulous, and go back to their normal diets and gain all that weight back.

Interestingly, a new study looked at what is the most important reason that keeps people sticking to their healthy lifestyle changes.  They studied commitment to health, confidence in ability to make healthy behavior choices, and belief of importance of healthy lifestyle change, to find out what helped people keep their healthy behavior choices over long periods of time.  The study was performed on 499 manufacture workers, that were surveyed before making a healthy lifestyle/behavior change (such as a low fat diet) and then re-surveyed at certain lengths of time after making the change.  And the study also looked at the length of time that the workers consistently kept to their healthy lifestyle change.

Commitment to a healthy lifestyle change was the most profound reason that people kept to their change and helped them to make the change and stay with it for the longest period of time (some indefinitely).  To some of the participants the importance of the lifestyle and healthy behavior change was able to keep them on track for a lesser amount of time. And the participants that originally made the change that were confident that they could make the change easily, had the highest failure rate.

Which goes right along with the idea that fad diets DON'T WORK!  You won't have the commitment or feel that it is an important healthy lifestyle change because it isn't.  Making sure that you are eating a well balanced diet, lay off the fats and processed foods, you can treat yourself every now and again (like once a week) with a special treat, but stick to fruits, veggies, and lean proteins.  Make sure that you are getting in exercise: skip the elevator and take the stairs, take a walk/run with a friend either before or after work, try to get up and walk to talk to someone (at work) instead of an email, and join a gym or just make a commitment with a friend to get more exercise, that way you can't just skip out, you'll be letting someone down!  There are so many ways that you can get healthiness into your life, and you know what they are, so stop looking for these quick ways to drop weight fast, because you know it will come right back and make you feel horrible.

Make a commitment to being healthy, and a commitment to a better you!

Yours in Good Health,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

There really are flesh eating bacteria...

I know that there is always that scene in a horror or Sci-Fi movie where someone is getting their flesh eaten off, and every now and again we hear about flesh eating bacteria in the news, and everyone always thinks that is could never happen to them. The reality is that it CAN happen to you, and it is rare, but the way it occurs is pretty innocuous; it doesn't always occur because people are in the middle of a rain forest and bitten by a random bug, it occurs to people all over the US and all over the world.

What is necrotizing fasciitis?
It is, in fact, a bacteria that destroys the skin, muscle, and surrounding tissues.  It is usually an infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, and the reaction is fast and can be deadly. The bacteria enters your skin through any form of cut, scrape, wound, or any other opening in the skin, and it begins to spread and release harmful toxins as it grows, which kill your flesh.  So as it grows, it is killing you.  Literally! The toxins kill your tissues, impede blood flow to the area, and spread rapidly.

What are the symptoms?
You may just have a small red colored bump on your skin, that may be painful when you touch it.  It will quickly grow larger and turn to more of a purple color, then turn black and appear to die. It may become fluid filled and start to weep (or ooze) fluids.  All of these changes will happen in about an hour after becoming infected, and you will just feel crappy, have a fever, chills, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and you can go into shock very quickly.

Are there any tests? How do I know I have it?
If you have any of the symptoms, go see your HCP, and they usually will diagnose necrotizing fasciitis (nec fasc) using CT Scans and form your symptoms.  Because it is so fast spreading and can quickly cause death, most likely, they may take a fluid sample to send to the lab for testing, but if nec fasc is suspected, you will be taken to the OR quickly, and the lab may not even have the results yet.

Is there anything I can do to prevent it?
Clean all cuts and scrapes thoroughly, use an antibacterial ointment, and hope for the best.  Really, there is nothing else to do.

The recovery can be very tough, a some people will make it through the surgery, in which the infected tissues are removed, but their body is so damaged from the infection they cannot fight it off, despite lots of IV fluids, antibiotics (broad coverage), and sometimes limbs need to be amputated (removed). If you are ever worried that you have nec fasc, get to an Emergency Department immediately and seek treatment, it is a medical emergency and it occurs quickly and it is deadly.  So please learn the signs, and know that any small cut or scrape can be an entrance for a killer bacteria.

Yours in Good Health