Health in a Minute


Keeping an Eye Out

When was your last eye exam? Not only do routine exams help detect early signs of vision loss, but they can also prevent the development of certain eye diseases. If you’re experiencing one (or more) of these four eye symptoms, it might be time to give your ophthalmologist a call.

Blurred Vision Blurred vision can occur in one or both eyes, and it can be a frequent, swift occurrence or last for longer periods of time. While blurred vision is often a symptom of glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it may also suggest complications outside the eye – specifically diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Red Eye  Colds or conjunctivitis (pink eye) are minor, self-healing infections that can cause both eyes to turn red. More severe, one red eye is often a sign of deeper inflammation, specifically uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye) or scleritis (inflammation of the white outer coating of the eye).

Floaters  Eye floaters, or seeing spots, tend to develop with age, but they can also indicate a more serious problem: a detached retina. Without treatment, a detached retina may ultimately result in blindness.

Eye Pain  It’s important to first note the location of your pain, as it can occur either on the eye’s surface (burning, itching, shooting pain) or in the eye’s deeper structures (aching or throbbing).  Common causes are blocked tear ducts, corneal abrasions, inflammation, and injury, to name a few. Immediate medical attention is recommended if pain is accompanied by swelling, nausea or vomiting, or bleeding.



Getting Enough Magnesium?

Magnesium is an impressive mineral. In addition to bone and immune system support and blood sugar regulation, magnesium is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body! Women need 310-360 milligrams of magnesium a day, depending on age. Consuming foods high in magnesium, like leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, yogurt, bananas, and dark chocolate, can help you meet that requirement. Experts recommend including one of these food sources with every meal.

Due, in part, to poor diet, many women are living with an undiagnosed magnesium deficiency. Signs that you aren’t getting enough magnesium might include numbness and tingling, muscle cramps, chronic fatigue, and anxiety or depression. Magnesium deficiencies have also been linked to heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. Severe magnesium deficiencies, however, are rare; older adults, and those who suffer from kidney disease or Chrohn’s disease, are most at risk.

The bottom line: If you’re feeling lethargic and believe a magnesium deficiency may be to blame, consult with your doctor about increasing your intake of magnesium-rich foods. You also may want to consider avoiding refined sugars, which can deplete magnesium in the body.

Put down the cotton swabs!

What your grandma always told you is, in fact, true. Cleaning out your ears with small objects, like cotton swabs, does more harm than good. When using a swab for ear wax removal, wax is actually pushed deeper into the ear canal, leading to super impacted wax. Other, more dangerous potential outcomes include cuts in the ear canal, punctured ear drums, and the dislocation of hearing bones.

Follow these do’s and don’ts of ear care, and trust us–your ears will thank you!

DON’T stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. If you’re worried about wax buildup, don’t be! The inner ear naturally cleans itself by pushing old ear wax to the outside of the ear and is later cleaned away in the shower.

DON’T use ear candles. Not only can this method of cleaning cause burns and infections, but doctors believe it to be ineffective altogether.

DO clean the outside of your ears. You can use a cotton swap, or simply wash the ear with soap and a washcloth while in the shower.

DO see a physician if you’re experiencing plugged ears, discomfort, muffled hearing, or itching. Your doctor can examine your ear using an otoscope, then determine the best course of action.



How to: Stop the Spread

During the winter months, it seems like germs are lurking at every turn – and they are! Every time you sneeze or cough, tiny droplets filled with germs go flying through the air. Germs can also be transmitted directly (by shaking someone’s hand) or indirectly (by picking up a used tissue). Check out these tips on preventing the spread of germs, and do your part to stay healthy and well this flu season.

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food and after going to the bathroom. When washing your hands, use soap and warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. This is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs!
  • Keep your hands away from your face, specifically your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Disinfect potentially contaminated items that you (and others) come in contact with, including door knobs, faucets, and hand rails.
  • Avoid sharing food, beverages, makeup, or toys.
  • Cover your mouth and nose whenever you sneeze or cough, either with your elbow or with a tissue. Throw away the used tissue immediately.

Above all, if you’re feeling unwell, stay home from school or work to avoid spreading your germs to other people. Get plenty of rest and up your fluid intake, and you’ll be on the road to recovery in no time.

Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers

Which Is Best For Your Baby?

One of many decisions you’ll make as a first-time parent, deciding between cloth and disposable diapers can seem overwhelming–especially with so many opinions out there. Our advice? Weigh the pros and cons of each, and do what makes sense for your family.

Cloth Diaper – PROS

  • Natural Not only do cloth diapers predate disposables, but with cloth, you avoid exposure to any chemicals, gels, or dyes.
  • Savings Once you purchase cloth diapers, they’re yours to use over and over again! This becomes especially economical if you have multiple children.

Cloth Diaper – CONS

  • More diaper changes Cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposable, leading to extra daily changings.
  • More laundry You can expect to add two or three loads of laundry to your weekly routine.

Disposable Diaper – PROS

  • Portable Traveling is a breeze when you can throw a few disposables in the diaper bag (and not worry about carting stinky diapers home!).
  • Easy to use Disposable diapers are an all-in-one product. After use, they are simply thrown in the trash.

Disposable Diaper – CONS

  • Environmental impact Disposable diapers are responsible for 3.4 million tons of landfill waste annually. They require more raw materials to manufacture than their cloth counterparts.
  • Cost Expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 for disposable diapers over a two-year period, per child. The cost of cloth diapers, including detergent and utilities for washing, will run you less than $1,000 over that same two-year period.

 


Beat a Breastfeeding Strike

If your breastfeeding baby refuses to breastfeed for an extended period of time, there are ways to find a solution. They may be rejecting this method for a number of reasons: pain or discomfort, illness, distraction, new smells or tastes (changed your soap lately?), or reduced milk supply, to name a few.

If your baby is on a breastfeeding strike, and they are not yet ready to be weaned, the Mayo Clinic offers some suggestions to help them get back to breastfeeding.

EVALUATE ANY CHANGES

Have you started a new medication or switched your shower gel? Are you stressed or hurried? Reflect on your normal breastfeeding routine to see if anything has changed in a way to make your baby uncomfortable.

TRY A NEW POSITION

Position your baby at a different angle to see if they are more comfortable. If your baby is congested, hold them in an upright position during breastfeeding.

ADDRESS DISTRACTIONS

Try breastfeeding in a dark, quiet room, or, alternatively, angle your baby toward the television or activity to stay entertained.

KEEP TRYING

Take breaks when your baby is frustrated, but continue to offer your breast for feeding. If the strike lasts for more than a few days, consult your doctor.

Valentine’s Treats for the Kids

(that aren’t full of sugar!)

First comes Halloween candy, then the Christmas goodies, and before you know it, Valentine’s Day arrives in all its chocolate-filled glory. And while the sweets can be hard to resist, all that sugar starts to add up. Experts recommend that children consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day–the equivalent of one Hershey’s chocolate bar.

If your kids need a break from the sweet stuff, try one of these ideas for a healthy, yet fun, Valentine’s Day treat!

Heart-shaped food Invest in a heart-shaped cookie cutter, and the possibilities are endless. Try it on PB&J sandwiches, pancakes, fruits, and cheeses. The sugars found in fruits and dairy are naturally occurring, so snack away!

Go red Serve up your child’s favorite red foods like cherry tomatoes, apples, and berries. Better yet, dip strawberries in dark chocolate for a delicious, and nutritious, indulgence! Berries have many health benefits, providing the body with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Valentine’s prizes Treats can be more than food! Think glow sticks, bubble wands, silly straws, Play-Doh, and more. These prizes are especially great for classroom parties.

Family craft time Valentine’s cards are obviously fitting, but get creative and find additional crafts to make together. Try heart wreaths or garlands, coffee filter roses, or even shaving cream heart art!


 


Overcoming Child Shyness

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being shy, this personality trait can cause difficulties for your child if not addressed. Shyness becomes a problem when your child struggles to make friends or worries about social situations, like school, sports activities, or birthday parties. With some encouragement and practice, you can help inspire confidence in your little one.

Practice social skills. This includes rehearsing different encounters and coaching your child on how to greet someone, make eye contact, and smile. Have your child try ordering their own meal at a restaurant or answering the phone. The more children practice day-to-day interactions, the more comfortable they’ll become in social settings.

Celebrate the small steps. Praise your child for each small step, even if it’s something as simple as waving or saying “hi.” Descriptive and specific compliments not only boost self-esteem, but they also reinforce the desired behavior.   

Model sociable behavior. Children pick up on social cues by watching others, so model the behavior you’d like to encourage in your child. Greet strangers warmly, ask for help when you need it, compliment family and friends, and politely thank people for their time.

Normalize doubts with empathy. Talk to your child about times when you feel shy or unsure, and explain how you overcome it. Reading children’s books that focus on facing fears can be particularly helpful in showing your child that they’re not alone.

Ready, Set, Race!

You’ve been training, both mentally and physically, for weeks, and the big day is almost here. Whether it’s your first 5K, or you’ve been running half marathons for years, race day is always exciting, and often a little nerve wracking. Preparing yourself in the hours leading up to a race will not only help squash those nerves, but it can also positively impact your overall performance!

Two days before: If you haven’t already, familiarize yourself with the race course and create a strategy for your pace. Since sleep the night before a race
can be challenging, hit the sack early this night to ensure you’re well rested.

One day before: Your biggest meal prior to a race should be lunch the day before. Go lighter at dinner, and skip any alcohol entirely. It’s important to take it easy this day, saving your energy for tomorrow. A light run is fine, but just a brief walk – and staying off your feet – is best.

Day of the race: When you wake, eat a normal breakfast, or whatever you’ve been eating in your training. Arrive to the race site early, eliminating any stress of being late. Warm up with some jogging and stretches, and head to the starting line. You’re ready to go!


 


Sleep Positions and Your Health

Find out more about your slumber style below, and what it could mean for your health!

We all know that Americans don’t get enough sleep (experts recommend 7 to 8 hours per night), but have you ever considered how you sleep? Depending on your go-to sleeping position, you could be causing yourself neck and back pain, headaches, and premature wrinkles.

Back position Often regarded as the ideal sleeping position, sleeping on your back keeps the head, neck, and spine aligned and in a neutral position. Benefits of back-sleeping include minimized wrinkles, prevention of back and neck pain, and reduced acid reflux. However, snoring can become more frequent or severe in this position.

Side position Also considered a healthy sleeping position, side-sleeping might be the answer for those prone to snoring. In this position, your spine remains elongated, also warding off back and neck pain. The downside? Your face stays pressed against a pillow during the night, potentially leading to facial wrinkles.   

Fetal position The fetal position is by far the most popular sleeping position among adults. If this is your go-to, try to straighten out your body as much as you can because sleeping in a curved position, like a tight ball, can restrict breathing in the diaphragm.

Stomach position Experts recommend avoiding sleeping on your stomach, as it puts pressure on your joints and muscles. But there is a silver lining: stomach-sleeping is known to ease snoring. If this is your preferred position, choose a thin pillow to help keep your spine aligned while you sleep.

Smoke Alarm Safety

With thousands of house fires occurring nationally each year, causing billions of dollars in property damage in addition to death and injury, maintaining the smoke alarms in your home is of critical importance. Keep reading to ensure you’re taking the proper steps to keep your home as safe as possible.

First, note that a smoke alarm unit should be installed in every major area of your home, including every level (even the basement). Alarms should be placed on a ceiling, ideally closer to the middle of the room and away from any corners, doors, or windows. For the best protection, the National Fire Protection Association recommends interconnecting all smoke alarms, so that when one sounds, the other alarms sound.

You should also know the difference between ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms. Whereas ionization alarms are generally more responsive to flaming, fast-moving fires, photoelectric can more successfully detect smoke or smolder. Make sure that your home contains both types, or has a dual-sensor alarm that can detect either kind of fire.

Maintain your smoke alarms by testing them once a month, replacing the batteries if needed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding cleaning, battery replacement, and maintenance. As a general rule, smoke alarm units should be replaced every 10 years.



The Power of House Plants

Need an excuse to bring home that potted beauty from the nursery? Turns out, houseplants aren’t just for interior decoration. They’re also responsible for a number of health benefits!

A Breath of Fresh Air Houseplants not only freshen the air you breathe, but they also work to eliminate harmful toxins lurking in the air. Another claim to fame, plants are natural humidifiers, which increases moisture in the air and can help prevent dry skin.

Mental Health Overhaul Houseplants reportedly boost moods, help you focus, and decrease stress levels. Also linked to improved sleep, plants kept in the bedroom lead to more restful nights, which leads to overall happiness and productivity!

Relaxing Rehab The next time you make a hospital visit, carry some lilies or orchids with you. Research has shown that patients who have plants in their hospital rooms boast a quicker recovery time than patients in plant-less rooms.

If you haven’t yet developed a green thumb, don’t be discouraged – give low-maintenance succulents, pothos, or jade plants a try. Orchids and snake plants are ideal to keep in your bedroom, as these plants give off oxygen at night. And plants known for their healing properties (like aloe, which treats burns) are always handy to have around!

Do You Need A Tax Advisor?

Tax season: For most, it’s a confusing, stressful time, especially if you try to tackle your finances on your own. That’s why many Americans are turning to tax advisors for advice and tax preparation. Read on to learn how a tax advisor could be beneficial for your family this tax season.

  • Receive every deduction you’ve earned. Tax advisors will be able to uncover every tax deduction you quality for, including deductions on charitable contributions, student loan interest, child care, and job expenses.
  • Avoid overpaying on your taxes. Overpaying is essentially an interest-free loan to the federal government, when that money could be gaining interest in your own account! Having an expert eye look over your withholdings can help prevent this common, yet financially damaging, practice.  
  • Hand over the headache to the professional – especially if it’s complicated. Business owners, new homeowners, or those who inherit property especially profit from an advisor’s guidance; major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, or new babies, can also have serious tax implications.


New Year, New Goals:

Evaluating Your Expenses

Is saving money on your mind in the new year?

If so, you can put back cash every month by making just a few lifestyle changes – including cutting these four luxurious expenses.

1. Skip your morning coffee run. Your daily dose of caffeine, if purchased from the local coffee shop, could be costing you nearly $1,200 a year. Invest in a coffee pot to make your own brew at home, or take advantage of your office’s offerings.

2. Break up with your lunch break (out). While eating out is certainly convenient, plan to make this an occasional activity – one that you enjoy only with your close friends or your spouse. Packing a lunch for work will not only save you money, but your meal will likely be more nutritious!  

3. Ditch a membership you’re not using. Whether it’s a membership to the gym, wholesale store, or food-buying club, if you’re not using it, it can be a serious drain on your bank account. For a gym alternative, try walking or jogging around the block, and research at-home exercises that can be just as effective.

4. Downgrade your premium cable. According to the Leichtman Research Group, the average cable bill recently increased to $103 per month (and that’s not including any streaming services like Netflix or Hulu). Evaluate how many of these hundreds of channels you actually watch, and make necessary downgrades.

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