Friday, April 24, 2015

The Cheap Seat Delusion

If you spend much time on commercial airlines, for business or pleasure, you’re no doubt well aware of a condition called deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), in which blood clots in your legs can travel through your bloodstream to your lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. You may have heard that these potentially deadly clots are brought on by the cramped legroom in the economy-class section. Well, according to new findings by the American College of Chest Physicians, it just ain’t so. What causes blood clots to form is not lack of space — it’s lack of movement.

So here’s what the docs recommend when you’re on a flight of four to six hours or longer:
  • Whenever possible, opt for an aisle seat, which gives you increased mobility over a window location.
  • Stand up frequently at your seat, and walk around the cabin at least once an hour — every 20 to 30 minutes is better. Stretch your calves as you go, and do a few waist bends and arm circles if you can.
  • When you can’t leave your seat, at least move your feet and legs every 20 to 30 minutes. Flex your feet and ankles, and lift your knees toward your chest so that your feet rise slightly off the floor.
  • If you’re at high risk for DVT, wear below-the-knee graduated compression stockings (available online and in most pharmacies and medical supply stores).

If you have a heart condition or circulation problems, consult with your doctor before you take a long flight. After you reach your destination, even if you’re in the pink of health, watch for signs of a blood clot in your legs. Get medical help if you notice pain or tenderness, warmth, redness, or swelling in your calf. And if you experience shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, stabbing pain in your chest, or an unexplained cough, hightail it to the ER — those are all symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

3 Dangerous Delusions about Treating Cuts

Are you still patching up cuts the same way your grandma did? It’s time to change your ways — those old-time techniques might be doing more harm than good!

Delusion #1: You should clean a cut thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol.
FACT: Both of these cleansers can damage healthy tissue around the wound and delay healing.

Delusion #2: You should apply a topical medication, such as iodine, Mercurochrome®, or Merthiolate® to fight germs.
FACT: Ultra-strong antiseptics can interfere with your body’s natural healing mechanisms. Instead, look for a product that contains natural ingredients, such as St. John’s wort, calendula, or vitamin E oil.

Delusion #3: You should keep the cut dry and let air get to it so that a scab can form.
FACT: Keeping wounds moist and scab-free helps them heal more efficiently and minimizes scarring.

Medical gurus recommend this four-step plant for treating cuts:

1. Stop the bleeding. Cover the injury with clean padding, and apply firm, even pressure.

2. Clean it right. Rinse the cut under running water, or wipe dirt away with a wet cotton ball or pad, moving from the center of the wound outward.

3. Apply a natural antiseptic. Cover it with a nonstick bandage.

4. Keep it clean. Every few days, clean the wound with a mild saline solution (2 teaspoons of salt per quart of boiling water, cooled to room temperature.)

Some cuts are too serious to treat at home. If any of the conditions below describes your gash, get to the ER fast!
  • Blood is spurting out and/or doesn’t stop within about 10 minutes.
  • You can see yellow fat or red muscle tissue.
  • It’s wide and/or jagged; gravel or other debris is embedded in the wound.
  • The cut is on a joint or your face.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Doggone Purrfect Secret to a Healthy Heart

Over the years, a huge body of scientific research has shown that, by and large, pet owners are happier and healthier than folks who do not share their homes with furry companions. And now, after examining scads of studies, the American Heart Association (AHA) has issued a statement saying that owning a pet can reduce your danger of cardiovascular disease and improve your odds of surviving a heart attack. There are four reasons:

1. Increased movement. Dog owners who walk and play with their pets are 54 percent more likely to get the level of physical activity recommended for good heart health. But having a cat in the household also demands that you get up off the couch and move your body around — and every step helps.

2. Lowered key numbers. Owning a pet, whether canine or feline, has been directly linked to lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and a lower likelihood of obesity — thereby mitigating three of the major risk factors for heart disease.

3. Reduced stress. Research shows that simply looking at a beloved pet calms you down in two ways: Your body releases a powerful feel-good chemical called oxytocin and, at the same time, decreases its output of the stress hormone cortisol.

4. Social interaction. This is an especially important factor if you live alone because study after study has found that interacting with animals (just as with people) leads to better health — including a stronger heart — and a longer life. Plus, when you have a dog, in addition to benefiting from his companionship at home, you get daily opportunities to boost your social time by taking Fido out to mix and mingle with human neighbors and passersby.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Shop with Care!

If you want to get all of the health and beauty benefits of dried herbs and spices, do yourself a favor: Avoid the little jars at the supermarket. Not only are the contents far from their peak of freshness (and highly overpriced), but in most cases, they’ve been irradiated to destroy and bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that might be present. Unfortunately, that process also destroys vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other nutrients. What’s more, it can actually create damaging free radicals.

In short, you’ll be defeating the whole purpose of using herbs and spices in the first place! So always buy them in bulk from health-food stores, herb shops, or reputable websites that specialize in organic herbs and spices. Besides getting the active ingredients you want, you’ll save a small fortune!

Then, once you get them home, don’t make the mistake of storing them anywhere near your stove. After a month or so, those herbs — which should taste fresh and delicious — will have hardly a smidgen of flavor left. Always store dried herbs in air-tight glass or metal containers in a cool, dark place. Left in a warm, well-lit spot, their flavor and aroma will go downhill fast.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

Walk On!

It’s finally warm enough to get outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine! So start fitting a daily walk into your schedule. Do you think your knees or hips are too stiff and sore to handle it? Think again — taking a nice, gentle stroll will send blood flowing to your aching muscles and help relieve that nagging pain.

One of the best ways to make walking easier on creaky joints is to simply do it more often. Here are 7 simple solutions to help your sneakers see a little more action:
1. Take the stairs. Take it easy at first and stick to jaunts of just one flight. Before you know it you’ll be walking right past the elevator and flying up three or four flights.
2. Go for an after-dinner stroll. Twenty quick minutes is all it takes, and it’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the day.
3. Commune with nature. Stroll through a nearby park or nature area a few days a week.
4. Make a date. Meet friends at a public garden and go for a stroll instead of meeting at a local cafĂ©.
5. Try a lunch combo. Spend half of your lunch hour eating, and the other half walking. You’ll get 30 minutes of extra exercise in — and feel energized for the rest of the day.
6. Watching TV? March in place while you watch your favorite program.
7. Take a break. Anytime you feel drowsy, angry, bored, or stressed, go for a five-minute walk. You’ll work out emotional issues while you “work out” your joints.

Don’t forget to hydrate before, during, and after you exercise. You can down one of many commercial products — or make your own DIY sports drink at a small fraction of the cost.

½ tablespoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of table salt
¼ teaspoon of potassium-based salt substitute*
1 quart of water
Unsweetened Kool-Aid® powder or other flavoring to taste

Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly, and drink up frequently.

*such as Morton® Lite Salt™ Mixture or Morton® Salt Substitute

Friday, March 20, 2015

Your Pills Can Kill You

Whether you’re battling heart disease, high blood pressure, or any other condition that includes a daily dose of meds, you need to be aware that each year 106,000 people die in American hospitals from “adverse drug reactions.” But the actual number of victims is higher, because many hospital deaths that are attributed to various diseases are actually caused by the meds patients were taking to treat the condition.

Overdosing ranks high on the list of reasons for death by medication. Other prime culprits are allergic reactions and the interaction of various drugs with each other, or with natural remedies. But even used as directed, a great many “miracle” drugs, both Rx and OTC varieties, deliver potentially fatal consequences, ranging from liver damage to nerve disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke — as well as known disease triggers like insomnia and weight gain.

Don’t get me wrong here, folks — I’m not suggesting that you fire your doctor and start dosing yourself with who-knows-what concoctions that you find on the internet! Modern drugs can — and do — save lives. But it does pay to take these precautions:
  • Find an MD who understands the benefits of natural remedies and can help you reduce your need for certain drugs, or decrease their side effects, by making lifestyle changes and upping your intake of natural remedies.
  • Whenever you see a doctor, take along a detailed list of everything you’re taking, including prescription and OTC drugs, as well as herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, and even your daily multivitamin pill.
  • Ask the doc about possible food interactions with the drug(s) you’re about to get. For instance, garlic has adverse reactions with blood-thinning meds.
  • Never talk to a nurse or pharmacist who is getting medications ready for you. Even the most careful and highly trained professionals can make big mistakes when they’re distracted by chatter.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Great American “Gums” Fight

It’s important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Otherwise, you’ll open up a whole heap of trouble, including tooth decay, inflammation, and other serious health problems. Caring for them takes more than just regular brushing and flossing after meals. Follow these tips for the healthiest gums in town:

Stay away from tobacco. Smoking adds to tartar build-up on teeth and gums and hewing tobacco can lead to ulcers and sores in the mouth.

Get plenty of vitamin C. It repairs connective tissue and stimulates bone growth. Dark green vegetables and citrus fruits are excellent sources.

Don’t forget about D! Get plenty of sunshine, and include fish, eggs, and dairy foods, in your diet for a healthy dose of vitamin D.

Stop stressing. You would be surprised at how much constant fretting can increase the plaque build-up on your teeth. Calm yourself by finding an exercise routine that you enjoy, and do it regularly.

Eat plenty of cranberries. The sweet-tart gems are known to prevent gum disease by keeping plaque from sticking to the teeth.

For a quick and easy way to get cranberries in your diet, try whirling these ingredients in a blender with 2 or 3 ice cubes for a “good for the gums” cranberry smoothie:
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup nonfat milk