Thursday, December 29, 2011

Health Tips: Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

Lose 5 pounds this year? Spend more time with your family? Find a new job? Millions of people make New Year's resolutions, but relatively few are successful in keeping them. This is evidenced by a 2007 study conducted by British psychologist Richard Wiseman who found that 88% of all resolutions end in failure. Not surprisingly, very little research has been published on the reasons why people are successful or unsuccessful with keeping New Year's resolutions. However, that hasn't kept a number of pundits from offering suggestions on improving your likelihood of success. The following are some of the most practical recommendations that I have come across:
  1. Make one resolution only. Don't make the mistake of trying to achieve too much. For example, it makes little sense to try to quit smoking and lose weight at the same time. This is a formula for failure.

  2. Be as specific as possible. Instead of saying, you want to lose weight, aim for a specific amount of weight (e.g. one pound) each week.

  3. Focus on the positive aspects of your new behavior. For example, if you want to quit smoking, think about how much better off you will be - more respiratory capacity, fresher smelling clothing, more disposable income, etc.

  4. Wait for the most opportune time. If you have not planned in advance, New Year's Day may not be the best time to begin. If so, look to a date when you will be better able to accomplish your goal.

  5. Let others know about your resolution. Family members or friends can be a great source of support, or accountability in keeping your resolution.

  6. Take "baby steps". Break the goal into small, achievable steps. For example if a new job is the goal, the steps to success could include writing a resume, performing a needs analysis, talking to potential references, arranging for one interview a week, etc.

  7. Write down your goals. Commit them to paper and review them periodically to see where you stand.

  8. Expect setbacks. Since nobody's perfect, you may revert to your old habits from time to time. These should be considered temporary, rather than a reason to give up on your goal.

  9. Be realistic. Take time to seriously consider what you want to accomplish and don't set the bar too high.

  10. Avoid previous resolutions. This usually just leads to breaking the resolution a second time. If you do make a similar pledge, think about why you were unsuccessful and take steps to avoid a similar outcome.
One could argue about the wisdom of not making New Year's resolutions at all. Too often, they end up being something that "goes in one year and out the other". Nevertheless, positive changes in people's lifestyle, family circumstances, or financial situation can and do occur when the commitment is there. Hopefully, some of the tips above will help you reach your goals for the New Year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Social Connections, an Antidote to Holiday Stress

While researching today's topic, I ran across a related concept from blogger, Corey Allen, who wrote ‘‘my father-in-law aptly stated it this way: one of the best things about the holidays is seeing the headlights of family members coming up the driveway to visit. The second best thing about the holidays is seeing their taillights as they drive away''. Time spent with family during the holiday season can be tremendously fulfilling, but can also be a source of stress.

Images of "perfect" holidays on TV and in magazines can create unrealistic expectations and set the stage for disappointment. Since no one's life is perfect, one way of countering this is to recognize all the things and people in your life that make you feel grateful. The Roman philosopher, Cicero, said, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others." Gratitude helps us connect to something larger than ourselves, whether it is to other people, to nature, or to a higher power. Research has found that people who acknowledge the goodness in their lives have higher levels of subjective well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.

Social connections, including family and friends, also have an important bearing on our health and well-being. A number of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family and friends are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. On the other hand, depression, cognitive decline, and premature death occur more often in those individuals who have fewer social ties. One study found that lacking strong social ties was as great a risk factor for dying prematurely as was obesity or physical inactivity.

This holiday season, take advantage of family gatherings and social activities to show your appreciation to those who are important to you. Be slow to judge family members or friends, even if they don't live up to your expectations. Focus on what you like about them, not their shortcomings. Give people the benefit of the doubt and consider how it would feel to be in their shoes. Remember that they may also be experiencing the effects of holiday stress or depression. Set aside personal grievances until they can be dealt with at a more appropriate time and place. "Counting your blessings" includes the friends, family, and loved ones that make your life more complete.

From all of us at eDocAmerica, have a happy and healthy holiday season.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

For someone in the family, an electronic device, such as a smart phone or iPad, almost certainly tops the "wish list" this holiday season. If you’re searching for a healthier alternative to this type of gift, however, the following suggestions can provide benefits that will last long after the holidays.

For her:
  1. Electronic weight loss devices such as the bodybugg or BodyMedia FIT are two of the most accurate of the commercially available devices to measure caloric consumption. The bodybugg has gained recognition by being used by contestants on the reality TV show, "The Biggest Loser".

  2. Membership to a health club, yoga or Pilates studio. Often, a "punch card" can be purchased, allowing the user to attend sessions when they want without having to commit to a long-term contract. A yoga or workout outfit is the perfect accompanying gift.

  3. Food steamer or rice cooker. Steaming food is a much better alternative to frying because it preserves vital nutrients and minimizes use of fat. The convenience of a rice cooker encourages the addition of this healthy carbohydrate source into more meals.

  4. Health and fitness DVDs. Zumba, a new fitness craze, can be learned from the Zumba Fitness Total Body Transformation System DVD Set. The iGym yoga and Pilates set includes a yoga mat, gym ball and hand pump, and a workout DVD.

  5. Sudoku Puzzle Books provide exercise to help your brain to stay mentally sharp.

  6. A Juice Extractor is an easy and healthy way to get your daily nutritional intake of fruits and vegetables.

  7. Mediterranean Cookbooks offer recipes that are delicious and healthy because they limit red meat and combine fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and olive oil, a better option than vegetable oil or butter.
For him:
  1. Pedometers are the least expensive of the devices used to estimate calories burned. A popular campaign, the "10,000 step programs", uses a pedometer to help people achieve the goal of walking 5 miles each day, consuming approximately 500 calories in the process.

  2. Electronic Toothbrush for better dental hygiene. Built-in timers encourage people to brush longer and more thoroughly.

  3. Sunglasses help to protect the eyes from ultraviolet radiation that can cause cataracts. Make sure they’re labeled as offering 100% UV protection.

  4. Dumbbells or resistance bands are a great way to strengthen muscles. They cost less than weight machines, take up less space, and don’t require a gym membership. Resistance bands, such as the Xertube Deluxe set can even be used when traveling.

  5. A Zen Garden kit provides a means for stress relief and relaxation during hectic days at work.

  6. Heart rate monitors are commonly used by competitive athletes to assist with their training programs, but certain ones can also provide information on caloric expenditure also.
For teens:
  1. Active wear for teens who ski, ride bikes, or are into hiking are a great way to encourage physical activity. Consider a gift certificate so that they can pick it out for themselves.

  2. A hot-air popcorn popper allows teens to make a healthy, delicious snack.

  3. Bicycles provide teens or even College students with a means of transportation as well as a form of exercise. One type or another (mountain bike, commuter bike, racing bike, townie bike) would suit almost anyone in the family.

  4. Active Video Games such as Dance Dance Revolution, the Nintendo Wii fit, and XBOX 360 Kinect Sports, encourage teens to get off the couch and burn calories.

  5. Frisbees - The variety of flying discs is astounding these days and includes discs that light up, fly for hundreds of feet, and that are best for playing ultimate Frisbee, a highly aerobic sport. There are even "green" Frisbees that are made with 100% recycled materials.
For the kids:
  1. Bikes, roller skates, and skateboards offer a self-powered, rather than motorized, activity. With the burgeoning problem of childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes, both closely tied to physical inactivity, toys that encourage physical activity can help avoid these problems. Add a helmet, knee pads, and/or elbow pads for safety.

  2. Wagons, swings, slides, climbing equipment, and "push toys" are great for small children.

  3. Board games involving multiple players not only strengthen social skills such as taking turns, but also enhance color and letter recognition in younger children while increasing strategy and sequencing skills in older kids. Social play is promoted even more by dramatic play toys, such as dolls & doll houses, dress up clothes & action hero costumes, kitchen play equipment and puppets. These same toys also foster creativity.

  4. Balls of various types (basketballs, footballs, baseballs, etc.) come with the expectation of physical activity. Badminton, volleyball and even croquet sets are great if you have a yard and available partners for your child. Don’t forget too that you are a potential partner!

  5. Other toys which encourage social interaction as well as offering other benefits include card games (from simple matching skills for young children to more complex math skills for older ones), jump rope (motor skills), jacks & pick-up sticks (fine motor skills), and puzzles (problem solving, spatial relationships).

  6. Toys that encourage creativity often involve hands-on activities like craft projects, painting, coloring, drawing, or clay modeling. Good old blocks, Lego’s, Tinkertoys, and Play-Doh are great for young children to develop small motor coordination, as well as fostering creativity. "Pretend" activities, are also a favorite among children. Puppet theaters, toy castles, farm play sets, play stores, dollhouses, and toy kitchens are some examples of toys that encourage children to use their imagination.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winter Driving Safety

Statistics indicate that of the more than 6 million vehicle crashes each year, 24% are weather-related. Weather-related crashes are defined as those that occur in adverse weather (i.e., rain, sleet, snow, and/or fog) or on slick pavement (i.e., wet pavement, snowy/slushy pavement, or icy pavement). Data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that a yearly average of 580,000 vehicle crashes, resulting in 181,000 injuries and 2170 deaths, are related to winter driving conditions.

A large percentage of the U.S. population faces winter driving conditions each year. Over 70 percent of the nation's roads are located in snowy regions, which receivemore than five inches average snowfall annually. Additionally, many people travel from warmer to colder climates each winter for business or pleasure. It pays to have knowledge of the special challenges posed by winter driving and to be prepared for the unexpected. Here are some of the most important tips for safe winter driving:
  1. Slow down. Allow extra time to reach your destination. Stopping, turning, accelerating - practically every driving function takes longer on snow-covered roads, so leave extra distance between you and other cars.

  2. Brake earlier. It takes at least twice as long to stop on icy or snowy roads than on dry pavement. With anti-lock brakes, apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal and never pump the brakes.

  3. Check your tires. Replace them if you are getting close to the wear bars. If you are unsure if you need new or a different type of tire, consult your local tire dealer. Make sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure. Tires that were at the proper pressure in summer could be low with the colder temperatures of winter.

  4. Remove snow from the entire car, not just the windows. This will keep snow from blowing onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Side-view mirrors and all lights should be cleared as well.

  5. Service your car. You should make that it is in top operating condition. This includes checking the battery, charging system, belts, anti-freeze level, windshield wipers and the washer reservoir.

  6. Use caution on bridges and overpasses. Without the heat provided by the earth, freezing can occur on these structures even when the road is relatively clear.

  7. Avoid using cruise control on icy or snowy roads.

  8. Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive. Delay trips if bad weather is expected. If you do travel when the weather is suspect, let someone know your route and when you expect to arrive.

  9. Stay home. Sometimes the best option, particularly if you don't really have to get out, is to stay off the roads.
What if you become snow bound? The American Automobile Association (AAA) advises that if you become stuck, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. You should not try to walk in a severe storm since you could become lost and unable to return to your car. The AAA also recommends that drivers have the following equipment in a winter emergency kit:
  • A cell phone
  • Flashlight

  • Small snow shovel and brush

  • Traction mats

  • Ice scraper

  • Battery booster cables

  • Warm blanket

  • Flares/triangle warning devices

  • Heavy gloves

  • Windshield washer fluid

  • First aid kit

  • Bottled water

  • Energy bars
Additional information regarding winter driving can be found at the American Automobile
Association (AAA) website
or from Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers, at

Friday, December 2, 2011

Who should receive Hepatitis vaccine?

Almost everyone, but in order to understand why, a little background is necessary. "Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver, but most people know it as a viral infection affecting the liver. The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, each caused by a different virus. While Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not cause long-term problems, Hepatitis B and C can become chronic. Chronic Hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. Vaccines are the most important measure in reducing the number of cases of Hepatitis since there is no effective treatment for this viral infection. Vaccines are available to prevent Hepatitis A and B, but unfortunately, there is not one yet for Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A Certain groups of people are at highest risk of contracting Hepatitis A. These people including those who travel or live in countries where Hepatitis A is common, use illegal drugs, or have sexual contact with someone who has Hepatitis A. A vaccine against Hepatitis A is available that is made from inactivated Hepatitis A virus. Following an injection of Hepatitis A vaccine, the body makes antibodies that provide immunity against the virus. The Hepatitis A vaccine is typically given as 2 shots, 6 months apart. The Hepatitis A vaccine also comes in a combination form, containing both Hepatitis A and B vaccine, that can be given to persons 18 years of age and older. This form is given as 3 shots, over a period of 6 months.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that the following groups of people receive Hepatitis A vaccination:
  • All children at age 1 year

  • Travelers to countries that have high rates of Hepatitis A

  • Men who have sexual contact with other men

  • Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs

  • People with chronic (life-long) liver diseases, such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C

  • People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates

  • People who work with Hepatitis A infected animals or in a Hepatitis A research laboratory
Hepatitis B Hepatitis B begins as an acute infection, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease. Hepatitis B infection is of particular concern when it affects infants or children. Should the infection become chronic, a majority will eventually develop cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through activities that involve a puncture through the skin (e.g. accidental hypodermic needle stick) or contact with infected blood or body fluids.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that the following persons receive the vaccination against Hepatitis B:
  • All infants, beginning at birth

  • All children aged <19 years who have not been vaccinated previously

  • Susceptible sex partners of Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive persons

  • Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (e.g., >1 sex partner during the previous 6 months)

  • Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease

  • Men who have sex with men

  • Injection drug users

  • Susceptible household contacts of
    (HBsAg)-positive persons

  • Health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids

  • Persons with end-stage renal disease, including predialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients

  • Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons

  • Travelers to regions with intermediate or high rates of endemic HBV infection

  • Persons with chronic liver disease

  • Persons with HIV infection

  • All other persons seeking protection from HBV infection - acknowledgment of a specific risk factor is not a requirement for vaccination
The vaccination schedule most often used for children and adults is 3 intramuscular injections, the second and third doses administered 1 and 6 months, respectively, after the first dose.

The likelihood that a Hepatitis B infection will become chronic varies according to the age of the individual infected. Infected infants and children are much more likely to develop a chronic infection than adults. This fact highlights the reason why all infants, beginning at birth, should be vaccinated. Statistics indicate that Hepatitis B vaccination is making an impact, with new Hepatitis B infections decreasing by around 82% since routine vaccination of children was first recommended in 1991.