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Quick tips for buying packaged foods

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What’s in a label? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering making changes to nutrition labels to include additional information that will help consumers make responsible food choices. Until then, you can identify the best foods for your diet by using these simple tips:

Find the secret ingredient. Did you know that you can find partially hydrogenated oil in many foods packaged foods? This is the manufactured form of trans fat, which experts agree is among the worst fats for your body.

Less is more. Most health experts advise avoiding foods with long ingredient lists, which tend to belong to foods that are highly processed and full of chemicals and additives. Focus on whole foods that undergo less processing.

Go to the back. The back of the package, that is. Don’t be fooled by the BIG letters or claims on the front of the package. Look at the label on the back or side panel of the package to really understand the ingredient list. Continue Reading »

Summer sun safety: protect your skin and eyes from the heat

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Cool shades and a stylish hat aren’t just summertime accessories—they can also keep you healthy in the hot summer months. It’s always important to protect your skin from the sun, and equally important to properly protect your body during hot weather.

  • Stay shady—While you might be tempted to bask in the sunshine, limit your time exposed directly to rays. Seek shaded or air conditioned areas such as libraries or malls and, whenever possible, schedule outdoor events for the cooler, early parts of the morning. The sun’s rays are at their strongest at midday, making that an ideal time to not be outside. No matter what time of day it is, wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes prior to exposure and needs to be re-applied every two hours or immediately after swimming, toweling off or sweating a great deal – many people put it on once and forget that it needs to be reapplied!

  • Stay hydrated—treat yourself to water and juice, but stay away from alcohol and caffeine, which actually dehydrates your body.
  • Stay light—if you’ve ever felt the heat rising from blacktop, you know that dark colors retain heat. Keep your summer clothes light-colored to reflect heat and lightweight to avoid getting overheated. Wear a brimmed hat or sunglasses to protect your face and eyes. In addition to preventing squint-induced wrinkles, protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays helps prevent cataracts from forming.
  • Stay sweaty—when your activities do put you out in the sun, be aware of the signs of heat stroke: altered mental state/confusion, nausea and lack of sweat. If you are experiencing these symptoms or see someone else experiencing them, seek medical attention immediately. Remember, if it’s hot and you’re not sweating, something might be wrong.

Summer fun can still be safe and include sunshine, as long as you keep the above tips in mind. What are your favorite ways to stay safe and beat the heat? Let us know in the comments.

Surviving seasonal allergies

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For many, spring and summer means spending time outdoors among flourishing greenery and cleaning out their homes after a long winter cooped up inside. For others, spring means pollen, mold spores and dust mites—some of the most common allergy triggers.

When allergens enter the nose, the immune system interprets them as a foreign substance and begins releasing antibodies to fight them off. When the antibodies attack the allergens, a chemical called histamine is released into the blood and causes classic allergy symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, coughing and itchy or watery eyes. Thankfully, there are several ways to treat seasonal allergies, with both medication and lifestyle options.

Over the counter medications
For mild seasonal allergies, nasal sprays and oral over the counter (OTC) antihistamines can be helpful. Antihistamines are exactly what they sound like: they reduce allergy symptoms by lowering the amount of histamine made when an allergen enters your body. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, so read the label carefully! Continue Reading »

Are you really eating healthy?

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I received a survey in the mail last week. You see, back in 2009 I enrolled in a cancer prevention study and have received lengthy surveys every few years or so. It is a very thorough survey that includes hundreds of questions and takes several days to fill out. The survey inquires about every aspect of health and lifestyle: information about immunizations; diet; hours spent sitting, sleeping or moving; medications taken; caffeine consumption and more.

Except for a few minor, non-life threatening ailments, I consider myself a pretty healthy person and my doctor gave me a clean bill of health during my annual wellness/preventive visit (don’t forget to schedule yours!). I was confident that my answers to the survey questions would be a no-brainer. Overall, boy, was I surprised, especially when it came to the diet section.

The survey listed every kind of fruit and vegetable and asked the respondent to indicate frequency of consumption. I thought I was a good fruit and vegetable eater, but there are some foods that I don’t eat that often for various reasons. So my consumption of kale, which I tend to eat frequently in the summer, but not as much in the winter, actually results in a low monthly average consumption overall. Likewise, cantaloupes and other melons are eaten only seasonally, so their consumption average was low. Continue Reading »

Baby’s First Foods (Infographic)

As a mother of a nine-month old, I understand the feelings parents may have when introducing first foods to your baby. It is exciting, but also nerve-wracking. Starting pureed solids is a slow and gradual process. Keep in mind that early on, most of your baby’s nutrition is coming from breastmilk or formula. Here are some tips and answers to help you get started.
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