Health in a Minute



Food for Fuel

Whether you’re headed to that 6 a.m. spin class or your daily post-work run, you know your body needs proper fuel to power through your workout. Skipping a balanced meal or snack before exercising can leave you feeling nauseated, lightheaded, or lethargic. But what exactly should you be eating before a workout, and when?

The simple answer is this: Consume a mix of carbohydrates and protein anywhere from one to three hours before hitting the gym. Carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy and will improve your performance, while protein works to build and repair muscle. Classic carb and protein combinations to try include:

  • Banana and a spoonful of peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt topped with berries and granola
  • Fruit smoothie (may include yogurt, nut butter, spinach)
  • Oatmeal topped with blueberries
  • Hard-boiled egg and toast

If you only have 30 minutes, stick to something simple, like a piece of fruit or a granola bar. Try to avoid spicy foods, generous portions of fiber and fat, and sugar bombs (like fruit juice) right before exercising. Fat is digested more slowly than carbs and protein, leaving you feeling sluggish, while too much fiber can cause an upset stomach – the last thing you want during Zumba class.



If the Shoe Fits

Marilyn Monroe once said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” Well, the right shoes have to have the right fit – here are three signs you might need to make a switch.

You’re developing blisters, calluses, or bruises. If you’ve noticed any of these formations on your feet, it’s likely a sign that your shoes are too narrow or tight. Over time, that pressure can cause your skin to harden and affect your joints. Consider getting your shoes stretched, or opt for a larger pair.

You’re experiencing aching arches. Arch pain can be indicative of several issues, including flat footedness and injury. But shoes that are too big, or lack the proper support, can also put excessive strain on your arches – which may eventually lead to plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia, fibrous tissue located along the bottom surface of the foot). So if you’re straining with every step, it’s time to find a different shoe.

Your toes touch the tip of your shoes. Feet swell throughout the day, which can make some shoes too snug by evening. As a general rule, there should be space (between 3/8” and 1/2”) from your longest toe to the tip of your shoes when standing. Always go shoe shopping late in the day for the best fit!


 


Reading to Infants:

Is It Worth It?

Reading aloud to your child is one of the most beneficial practices you can begin, and it’s never too early to start. In fact, pediatricians recommend that infants be read to from birth – here’s why!

The Benefits of Reading Aloud: 

  • Stimulates early brain development
  • Provides a head start on language skills and literacy
  • Introduces different speech patterns, tones, and inflections
  • Builds listening and memory skills
  • Strengthens parent-infant relationship

Where to Start:

  • Set a time aside every day, whether in the morning or before bedtime, to read aloud; this can help create a routine and foster your baby’s interest in reading. Hold your baby in your lap, and allow them to see the pictures on the pages.
  • Choose books that are easy to hold. After a few months, your baby will be able to touch, grasp, and even chew on the book – that’s normal! This is a great time to introduce books with more texture (soft, scratchy, crinkly).
  • Focus on reading slowly, exaggerating the words, naming all the characters, and pointing out pictures to your baby. Newborns won’t understand everything you’re saying, but they will enjoy the repetitive text and rhyming words. You can increase the length and complexity of the books as your baby grows.


Coping with Colic

The dreaded “C” word among new parents is a mystery still waiting to be solved. Here’s what we know about this frustrating diagnosis:

The term colic is defined as a healthy infant who cries for three (or more) hours a day, at least three days a week, for more than three weeks. Colic typically manifests in the few weeks after birth, reaching its peak around six to eight weeks, and is mostly gone at three to four months. Colic isn’t dangerous to babies, and the condition has no long-term health consequences.

While the cause of colic is unknown, many theories suggest that stomach issues, such as indigestion, may play a role. As there is no concrete cause, treatments are aimed at comforting the crying baby and eliminating any factors that may cause crying to worsen. Tips to try include: avoiding bright lights and sounds, using motion (like a car ride) to calm your baby, changing your feeding routine, and swaddling or rubbing your baby’s back.      

Colic can be especially distressing to a new mother. When caring for a colicky infant, ask a family member to watch your baby while you decompress out of the house. It’s also okay to leave your crying baby in their crib for brief periods, allowing you time to regroup.

 



Kids in the Kitchen

Asking your child to help in the kitchen is not only a great way to bond – you’ll be introducing them to a basic life skill! When cooking together, you can discuss kitchen safety and nutrition, all while fostering confidence and healthy habits. Plus, by involving your child in the process, they’ll be much more likely to try a new dish or unfamiliar ingredient.

When deciding what tasks to assign your assistant chef, first consider their level of maturity as well as their capabilities.
Here are some age-appropriate suggestions:

Toddlers
Stick to the basics and start with small tasks such as stirring batter, pouring ingredients, and putting toppings on sandwiches and pizza.

School-aged
You can introduce more kitchen equipment at this age (with supervision, of course). Have them try scrambling eggs, grating cheese, and boiling pasta.

Preteens
Following recipes is a core skill to learn by this age. Expand your child’s repertoire by baking muffins, roasting vegetables, and cooking soup.

Teens
Assign your teenager one night a week to cook, and encourage them to experiment with recipes and explore new cuisines! Teens can master more advanced skills (pan frying, grilling) and kitchen appliances (food processors, blenders).



Easing Back-to-School Butterflies

It’s normal for your child to feel a little nervous about the start of a new school year. Help make the transition easier with these three tips.

Talk it out. Find out what is specifically concerning your child, and address it. They may be anxious about making friends or just worried about finding the right school bus. Assure your child that it’s okay to feel nervous, and try to focus on the positives – like brand-new school supplies!

Get into a routine. Start your back-to-school routine at least a week prior to your child’s first day. Figure up the amount of sleep your child needs (nine to 11 hours is recommended for school-aged children), and set a bedtime based on when they’ll need to wake up for school. Then, practice picking out clothes and packing school lunches. You may also want to set aside time each day for reading or projects.

Visit the school. This tip is especially beneficial for first-timers. When setting up the visit, see if your child could meet their new teacher. Show your child their classroom and any other important rooms, such as the cafeteria and gymnasium. Familiarity with the school, as well as their bus route or class schedule, will help to reduce anxiety.


 


The Truth About Blue Light

Move over, standing desks – blue-light-blocking glasses have become the latest office sensation. These lenses filter out the blue light from electronic devices, and because more workers are spending hours staring at their computer screens, the interest in this protective eyewear is growing.

But are blue-light-blocking glasses worth the hype? Turns out, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that overexposure to blue light will cause significant, long-term damage. In fact, during the day (when most of us are at work), exposure to blue light is a good thing: it boosts alertness and regulates our circadian rhythm, letting us know that it’s time to be awake.

When these lenses come in handy is at night, while the body is preparing for sleep. Since blue light promotes wakefulness, experts recommend lessening exposure in the few hours before bedtime. To do this, you could purchase a quality pair of blue-light-blocking glasses to protect your eyes. However, switching your devices to a nighttime setting, or simply avoiding electronics altogether after 8 p.m., may be just as effective for a good night’s rest.



Pick Your Poison:

Identifying Poisonous Plants

Before your next campout or afternoon hike, brush up on the basics of identifying poisonous plants. The following plants have a common denominator: urushiol, a toxic oil that leaves a blistering, itchy rash upon contact.

  • Poison Ivy – This plant’s leaves have pointed ends and grow in clusters of threes. Poison ivy is green in the summer and turns to a yellow/orange color in the fall. It can grow as a vine or shrub.
  • Poison Oak – Poison oak is another “leaves of three” plant, although some varieties display clusters of five or seven leaves. The leaves have a wavy appearance with more rounded edges. Poison oak is generally found as a low shrub.
  • Poison Sumac – Fern-like in appearance, this plant has anywhere from seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets sprouting from a red stem. Poison sumac grows as a tree or tall shrub.

If your skin comes in contact with any of these plants, immediately rinse the exposed area with running water and soap. Most mild rashes caused by urushiol can be treated at home, but a doctor’s appointment is recommended if the rash is widespread or near the eyes. Severe reactions, including nausea, fever, or shortness of breath, require a visit to the emergency room.


 


Losing Your Family Pet

Pets bring joy and companionship into our lives, so the death of a furry friend can be a significant loss felt by every family member. These steps can help through the grieving process.

Acknowledge your feelings. Sadness,
loneliness, shock – there are a number of feelings that the loss of a pet can produce. You shouldn’t ignore or be ashamed of your feelings, but instead express your grief through writing or talking with a family member or friend.

Remember that everyone grieves
differently.
The loss of a pet may be your child’s first experience with death; some children will process the death by asking questions, while others will cope through tears and other outward displays of emotion. Allow each family member to grieve in their own way. Be present and communicate often.

Recognize the Loss with a small  ceremony. Create your own family service to commemorate the life of your pet. If they want, children may share their favorite memories or a poem. Other rituals could include planting a remembrance tree and compiling a scrapbook with treasured photos.

When the time is right, decide on a new pet as a family. While a new animal won’t replace the one you lost, it can be a unique companion that your family will cherish.



The Seriousness of Secondhand Smoke

The statistics are startling: Each year, around 3,000 deaths are caused by lung cancer – and thousands more by heart disease – as a direct result of secondhand smoke. Maintaining a smoke-free environment is essential to the health of your loved ones. Here’s what you need to know:

Secondhand smoke contains approximately 4,000 chemicals. Fifty of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and any time your loved ones breathe in secondhand smoke, they’re exposed to them all.

Secondhand smoke affects everyone. It can lead to miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women, put infants at a higher risk of SIDS, and cause ear infections, respiratory problems, and tooth decay in children. Long-term effects for exposed children may include lung cancer, heart disease, and poor lung development.

Secondhand smoke exposure isn’t limited to the home. Your loved ones can still be exposed in a car, at a babysitter’s house, at sporting events and concerts, or on the playground. In fact, chemicals from smoke can still be identified on the surfaces of rooms days after a smoker was present.

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