Is texting good for your mental health?

Hannah Natanson shared in The Washington Post that texting gets a bad rap. It’s blamed for everything from fostering social isolation to increasing teens’ risk of ADHD to driving down adolescent self-esteem to damaging the spine — a phenomenon known as “text neck.”

But some technological and medical experts say the negativity is unfair and overblown. Texting can and should be a positive force in people’s lives, both in terms of emotional and physical health, they say — so long as it’s used correctly.

“I have a reputation as sort of being the Darth Vader of anything that has to do with texting,” said MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, author of “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.” “Which, of course, is not really what I have said or am saying — the problem really isn’t that people have this new, interesting, intimate way of touching base … the trouble is what happens to a face-to-face conversation if your phone is always there.”

If done well, Turkle and other experts said, texting can improve interpersonal relationships, help people deal with traumatic events and bridge intergenerational gaps.

Research backs this up: A 2012 study conducted by psychologists at the University of California at Berkeley found that sending and receiving text messages boosted texters’ moods when they were feeling upset or lonely. Read more

Train With Your Kids

Vicky Hallett shared in The Washington Post that parenthood comes with countless surprises. Most involve bodily fluids.

Like, for instance, the sudden lack of opportunities for Mom and Dad to sweat.

“We both used to get up in the morning and just go exercise,” says Amanda Holliday, a dance fitness teacher whose son was born in 2016. “That’s not happening anymore.”

Even if it’s possible to tote the kid along for a workout, there’s a lot more to consider beyond your number of reps — and a lot more to cram into your gym bag.

And although it seems it should get easier to carve out me-time as tykes turn into tweens, don’t count on it, says Jennifer Lungren, 44, who’s been teaching suburban fitness classes for moms for 15 years. Thanks to her four kids (ages 8, 10, 13 and 15), every afternoon, evening and weekend is a blur of shuttling between activities.

If you don’t want to take an 18-year break from exercise, consider these strategies to make workouts work for families.

Parents of infants

Congratulations, you now have a weight that probably will cry and scream if not held constantly.

This can be an opportunity, suggests Holliday, 30, who quickly discovered that her son was happiest when snuggled and swayed in a baby carrier.

Rocking him to sleep at 3 a.m. got boring, so she experimented by adding in some salsa moves. He was such a great partner that she created a baby-wearing dance fitness class, Baby Mombo, which she started teaching when he was just 8 weeks old. Think smooth steps and belly dancing to get the heart rate up and work the core, plus squats and lunges for toning. Read more

Solve Food-borne Outbreaks

The Center for Disease Control asks, “Do you know you can help disease detectives find and solve foodborne disease outbreaks? Learn some ways you can help protect others from getting sick?”

Foodborne Illness Basics

Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, is an enteric (gastrointestinal) infection caused by food that contains harmful germs, such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, or Listeria. Most illnesses happen suddenly and last a short time, and most people get better without treatment. Anyone can get food poisoning, but certain groups of people are more likely to get sick and have a more serious illness.

Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

Each year in the U.S., about 1 in 6 people (or 48 million) get sick from a foodborne illness. Many of these illnesses occur one by one, but some are part of outbreaks. Foodborne disease outbreaks have been linked to many different types of foods including fruits and vegetables, seafood, dairy, chicken, beef, pork, and processed foods. Some types of animals or pets can also carry these germs and make people sick.

CDC uses three types of information to solve outbreaks caused by contaminated food:

  • epidemiologic
  • traceback
  • food and environmental testing

Each piece of information provides a clue about what may be causing an outbreak.

Finding the source of an outbreak is important because the food could still be in stores, restaurants, or kitchens and could make more people sick. Read more

Zika

The Center for Disease Control shared that Mosquitoes can spread many diseases, including Zika. Although most people with Zika won’t have symptoms, infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. Learn how to protect yourself and your family from Zika.

Zika virus spreads primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito (Aedes aegypti or Ae. albopictus). Zika can also be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners. Although most people with Zika won’t have symptoms,  infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other serious birth defects in babies.

The mosquitoes that carry Zika can be found in many countries, and outbreaks of Zika are still occurring in parts of the world. Everyone can take steps to protect themselves and pregnant women in the United States.

If you’ve been to an area with risk of Zika and have symptoms of Zika after travel, see your healthcare provider.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Zika

Many people infected with Zika virus won’t know they have it because they won’t have symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild and can last for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. The most common symptoms of Zika include

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • A headache
  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Muscle pain

See your doctor or another healthcare provider if you have the symptoms described above and have visited an area with risk of Zika. This is especially important if you are pregnant.  Be sure to tell your doctor or other healthcare providers where you traveled. Even if you do not feel sick, you should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after travel so you do not spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes. Read more

Did you know these facts about high blood pressure?

The Center for Disease Control shared that high blood pressure is very common in older people and a major health problem. If left untreated, it can lead to stroke, heart disease, eye problems, kidney failure and more.

Make sure you know the facts about high blood pressure and its treatment:

High blood pressure may not make you feel sick, but it is serious. See a doctor to treat it.
You can lower your blood pressure by changing your day-to-day habits and by taking medicine if needed.
If you take high blood pressure medicine, making some lifestyle changes may help lower the dose you need.
If you take blood pressure medicine and your blood pressure goes down, it means medicine and lifestyle changes are working. If another doctor asks if you have high blood pressure, the answer is, “Yes, but it is being treated.”

Read more

5 ways to make the most of your time at the doctor

The National Institute of Aging shared that when you are planning for a doctor’s visit, these are some ways you can make the most of your time there:

1. Be Honest

It is tempting to say what you think the doctor wants to hear, for example, that you smoke less or eat a more balanced diet than you really do. While this is natural, it’s not in your best interest. Your doctor can suggest the best treatment only if you say what is really going on.

2. Decide What Questions Are Most Important

Pick three or four questions or concerns that you most want to talk about with the doctor. You can tell him or her what they are at the beginning of the appointment, and then discuss each in turn.

3. Stick to the Point

Although your doctor might like to talk with you at length, each patient is given a limited amount of time. To make the best use of your time, stick to the point. For instance, give the doctor a brief description of the symptom, when it started, how often it happens, and if it is getting worse or better. Read more

5 ways nature can improve your health

Amish Doshi, MD, an internal medicine physician with Edward Medical shared in the Edwards-Elmhurst Healthy Driven Blog that we get used to our routine surroundings — the office, our cars, our homes. Deliberately leaving those spaces and moving to natural surroundings for a while, unplugged, could seriously improve your health.The phrase “forest bathing” recently spent some time in the spotlight, and deservedly so. When done correctly, forest bathing, or spending time in nature, can provide an important boost to your mind and body.

So what is forest bathing? First, go to a nature preserve. Leave your cell phone locked in your car. Then, let go of the thoughts in your head and focus on the present; the way the tree bark feels, the way the dirt smells, the sounds of birds singing and wind rustling leaves. Take a relaxed, meandering walk that gives you time to breathe and break from the pace of everyday life.

It turns out a nature walk can actually improve your physical health, besides giving you a mental rest.

Among the many benefits, spending time in nature can:

Improve your memory. One study found a nature walk improved short-term memory by 20 percent.

Lower stress hormones. Nature has a calming effect, which allows your body to focus on improving its systems. Many plants release immunity-boosting organic compounds into the air. Forests provide shade, help filter the air and can reduce levels of stress hormones in your body.

Read more

Straws can be bad for you

5 Key Ways to Lose Weight After 50

Hallie Levine wrote in the AARP Newsletter that there’s plenty you can do to take control of your weight as you get older. Whether you’ve battled the bulge for what seems like forever — or just since your last birthday — it’s true that age can have a lot to do with the number on the scale.  As with crow’s-feet and varicose veins, you’re simply more susceptible to gaining weight once you hit the big 5-0. And it’s not your imagination: It also becomes increasingly more challenging to shed those pounds once they’ve settled around your hips.

“The two big reasons people tend to gain weight as they get older are the loss of muscle mass and decreased activity,” explains Caroline Apovian, M.D., a weight-loss specialist at Boston University Medical Center. People experience a 5 to 10 percent loss of muscle mass each decade after age 50, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. As a result, your resting metabolic rate declines by an average of 2 to 3 percent every decade.

And this means you can be eating the exact same amount that you did at 40 — not a morsel more — and still gain weight.

Becoming more sedentary with age can also skew the equation, especially if you begin to develop arthritis or other joint issues that restrict activity. “As we get older, we spend less time running around and physical activity decreases,” Apovian points out. “But as you get older, if you don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose them.”

And while these facts are sobering, there’s plenty you can do to take control. “You’re not doomed to failure! I’m 60, and I have more muscle on my body than I did when I was 30,” Apovian says with pride.

It’s true that few of us may have the time or energy to follow Apovian’s grueling workout schedule (she rises at 5 a.m. most days to either swim for an hour or run six miles on her treadmill), but we can follow her advice, as well as that of other leading obesity specialists, on how to fit into our jeans once we enter our sixth decade and beyond. Read more

Is a new spot on your skin melanoma?

Lucio Pavone, M.D.Specialty: Plastic Surgery, asked in the Healthy Driven blog, “Have you been outside more now that warm temperatures are at your doorstep?” Whether you’ve woken up early to begin gardening as soon as the sun reaches the horizon or you’ve gotten your kids outside early on the weekend for a ballgame, you may be forgetting one thing — sunscreen.

When you realize you forgot to wear sunscreen, it’s often too late. Once you feel that burning sensation on your skin, it doesn’t take long — your skin will be red and feel tight before you know it.

Exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can lead to more than just a sunburn, it can also lead to melanoma. You’ve probably been told to check your skin for any changes, like a new bump, blemish or dark, unsightly mole, but you should also check your skin for new spots since most melanoma starts from new changes in your skin and not existing moles.

In a recent study from the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, researchers found that 29 percent of melanomas came from an existing mole on the body that changed. In 71 percent of the cases, melanoma occurred in a new lesion that popped up in a new place on the skin. Read more