Friday, May 29, 2015

3 Slick Tricks for Pulverizing Neck Pain

Got a pain in the neck that just won’t quit? This trio of simple actions will put you on the fast track to freedom from distress:

Practice the complete breath. This yoga exercise opens up airways and is a surefire way to relax and soothe the sore muscles in your neck. Visit the American Yoga Association's website  for the how-to.

Keep your work at eye level. Looking down or reaching up for long periods of time is guaranteed to give you a sore neck. Adjust the height of your desk, chair, or computer monitor so that you’re looking straight at the screen. If you do a lot of reaching up — for instance, to pull supplies from shelves — use a stool, stepladder, or elevated platform to bring you even with your targets.

Change your habits. Poor posture puts a huge strain on neck muscles. So do seemingly innocent activities, such as washing your hair in the sink, cradling a phone receiver between your ear and your shoulder, or falling asleep in a chair and winding up with your head at an awkward angle. Identify and change behavior patterns that keep your neck in unnatural positions for any length of time. And for Pete’s sake, do what your mother (or your drill sergeant) always told you: Stand — and sit — up straight!

While it’s true that most neck pain is the direct result of stress and muscle tension, it can be a sign of far more serious trouble. Make a mad dash to the ER in any of these instances:
  • The problem was caused by a fall or other accident.
  • The pain radiates down your arms and legs.
  • Your neck discomfort is accompanied by a headache, numbness, tingling, or weakness.
  • Your vision is disturbed in any way.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Congestion = DWI?

If you think a head cold is just a nuisance, think again. Recent research shows that driving when you have a cold is just a dangerous as driving when you’re drunk. That’s because common head cold symptoms reduce your reaction time to the same level as drinking four beers. But that’s not all! Consider these findings from a study at Cardiff University in Wales:
  • A cold or similar minor malady reduces your overall alertness by one-third.
  • Under-the-weather drivers tend to follow cars more closely than they should and take longer to stop.
  • A single sneeze takes your eyes off the road for up to three seconds. That’s long enough to travel more than 300 feet at highway speed or breeze through a stop sign on a local road.

And that doesn’t take into account any meds you may be taking that make you drowsy, woozy, or light-headed. So do yourself and your fellow motorists a favor: When you’re feeling under the weather, stay home — or at least have someone else take the wheel. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

10 Steps to a Stronger Immune System

Nothing short of sealing yourself up in a bubble can keep you germ-free. But you can make yourself a less likely target for infectious diseases — and better your chances of making a complete recovery when you do fall sick with anything from a common cold to strep throat, or even hepatitis. How? By building and maintaining a robust immune system. Here’s your to-do list:

Stop smoking! Of all the ways to suppress your immune system, smoking tops the list. One example: Smokers get the flu more often — and are more likely to die from it — than nonsmokers are.

Toss the toxins. Limit your exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, chemical pesticides, and secondhand smoke. They can severely compromise your immune system, and may contribute to life-threatening autoimmune diseases.

Sleep tight. Too little or poor-quality sleep impairs overall immune system function and reduces the number of germ-killing cells in your body.

De-stress. Chronic stress causes a measurable downturn in your system’s ability to fight off or recover from diseases.

Get happy. Even mild sadness can weaken your immune system, and the more negative and pessimistic you are, the more likely you are to get sick. Cheerful, optimistic souls have an army of battle-ready, infection-fighting T cells in their bodies.

Get a move on. A recent study compared people who took almost-daily brisk walks to folks who were inactive. The non-walkers took twice as many sick days as their strolling counterparts.

Pal around. The more human connections you have, and the more you get out and about, the better you can fight off illnesses.

Eat well. Good nutrition strengthens your immune system. Poor food choices are major immunity busters.

Yuk it up. Laughter decreases stress hormones and raises your supply of immune-boosting hormones and endorphins.

Limit antibiotics. While they are sometimes necessary, they can suppress your immune system and make you more likely to become sick again. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

3 Vinegar Sore-Throat Soothers

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of Mother Nature’s most potent sore-throat relievers (whether the pain is caused by strep or a virus). You can put this valiant vanquisher to work in three ways:

Drink it. Mix 1 tablespoon each of ACV and raw honey in 1 cup of warm water, and sip the potion slowly. Repeat as desired once or twice a day.

Gargle it. Mix 2 teaspoons of ACV in 8 ounces of warm water, and proceed as follows: Gargle a mouthful of the solution, and spit it out. Then swallow a mouthful. Keep alternating until the glass is empty. Wait 60 minutes, and go at it again. Continue as needed until you’ve put your pain out to pasture.

Wear it. Just before bedtime, saturate a soft cotton cloth in a solution made from 2 tablespoons of ACV mixed with ⅔ cup of warm water. Ring out the cloth, put it on your throat, and secure it with a strip of dry gauze or an elastic bandage, and leave it in place overnight. By morning, your throat should feel much better. Repeat as necessary.

NOTE: For this and any other medicinal purpose, always use raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (available in health-food stores and in the health-food sections of most supermarkets). The clear, filtered kind that’s generally found with the salad dressings in the main grocery store aisles has been stripped of the enzymes and friendly bacteria that give ACV its miraculous healing power.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Beastly Bedbugs

Until not so long ago, most of us thought “Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite” was just a catchy rhyme originating in earlier times. Well, now we all know that not only are these diminutive demons still around, but they’re on a coast-to-coast rampage. The reason is twofold:
  • Bedbugs that survived the onslaught of now-banned pesticides in the years following World War II have rebuilt their populations.
  • Thanks to today’s nonstop-movement of people and goods around the globe, bedbugs that have never been eradicated in other countries can hitch free rides to here, there, and everywhere.

Bedbugs dine mostly on human blood, and they leave welts that itch like crazy. The good news is that bedbugs don’t transmit diseases — at least, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), none that we know of yet. The bad news is that the pesticides in use today have very little effect on the beastly buggers.

If they’ve come a-calling at your house, follow this good riddance plan:

Get help. Bedbugs are highly creative at finding hiding places. They also move at lightning-like speed. So at the first sign of trouble, call an exterminator who uses integrated pest management (IPM) techniques. These pros know where to look for the wily devils, and they will use the least toxic methods possible to actually get rid of them — not merely send them scurrying to other hidey-holes, as any DIY attempts are likely to do.

Go on a cleaning spree. To minimize the amount of pesticides the IPM crew will have to use, give your bedroom a thorough cleaning. Take your bed frame apart, and scrub it with a stiff brush to dislodge eggs. Clear out and clean everything that was stored under the bed, and take them elsewhere. Vacuum carpets and furniture, and vacuum and seal cracks in walls and floors that allow the bugs to move from room to room. Wash your bedding in hot water, and dry it on high heat.

Seal up your mattress. Special casings will kill any bedbugs inside your mattress and box springs and keep their relatives from moving in.

Make your bed an island. Move your bed to a spot where no part of it touches a wall, and keep it isolated until you’re absolutely certain that all the bedbugs are gone. If you have a bed skirt, remove it, and tuck your sheets and blankets securely under the mattress so they have no contact with the floor. 

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.