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Quick tips for buying packaged foods


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 »

How dry needling aids physical therapy treatment


When we overexert ourselves and damage our tissues, pain is usually an indication that it may be time to seek medical attention. If you’re suffering from a musculoskeletal injury—injury to the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments or nerves—physical therapy may be your best option for full recovery.

Musculoskeletal injuries can be caused by actions as simple as falls or direct hits to the muscles, and include fractures, sprains and dislocations. One physical therapy treatment that is growing in popularity for these injuries is dry needling. Dry needling uses a thin needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points and muscular and connective tissues to decrease pain and restore full range of movement. I tell my patients to imagine a physical therapist placing a needle directly into their muscles’ “knots” to loosen them and promote tissue healing.

Dry needling is appropriate for treatment of numerous diagnoses ranging from acute injuries to chronic conditions, and can be performed on individuals of all ages. Some of the benefits include:

  • Decreased pain
  • Decreased movement impairments
  • Increased blood flow to tissues
  • Increased muscle relaxation
  • Decreased banding (tightness) in muscles, allowing the muscle to contract with less pain
  • Decreased inflammation in the tissues

Continue Reading »

All about fennel


If you are eating seasonally, you are in luck because there are many foods grown in Wisconsin that are in season this time of year. One of my favorites is fennel.

Fun fact: fennel is a flowering plant that belongs to the same plant family as carrots. Fennel is a hardy perennial plant, considered both an herb and a vegetable. It has yellow flowers and beautiful, soft, feathery leaves similar to dill. It typically grows in the Mediterranean, but it is also grown in Wisconsin.

Smelling fennel is an experience in and of itself! It is very aromatic with a deep pungent aroma that resembles anise, similar but much richer smelling than licorice.

Fennel is also a very flavorful herb. Almost every part of the plant can be used in cooking. The dried fennel seeds are aromatic and taste like anise. Green seeds are best for cooking, having the most flavor. The leaves can be used to finish off a dish to produce a delicate flavor, and the bulb can be used as a vegetable by putting it in salads and soups. It is crisp and can be sautéed, baked, grilled or eaten raw.

Many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes call for fennel in their recipes. It is also found in some Chinese spice powders. Fennel is often used to make Italian sausage, and it is also found in breath fresheners. It can be used to make tea, which tastes much like licorice or anise tea.

All in all fennel is a wonderful food that can be used in many ways. Look for it in the grocery stores or at your local farmer’s market.

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


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.

Fire up the grill for these healthy cookout ideas


Summertime means cookout time, but just because it comes from the grill doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy! We have ideas for keeping your summer diet healthy for your heart and your waistline—all it takes is thinking a little differently about the standard grilled menu.

Go fishin’
Forgo the traditional beef griller for fish! Oily fish, like tuna and salmon, are full of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients. You could form patties or treat a fillet with lemon juice, and add your favorite herbs and spices for even more flavor. Keep in mind fish cooks fast, so you want to be attentive while you are grilling it.

Slim down your burger
If you can’t go without your red meat, use lean or extra lean beef and drain or pat off the excess fat after you’ve grilled it. Did you know that the recommended serving size for a hamburger patty is three ounces? A three ounce burger is the roughly the size of the palm of your hand. Keep your patties on the slim side, or add in finely chopped vegetables like peppers or onions to make a thick burger that’s heavy on nutrients.

Think green
Take the mixed veggie-burger one step further by grilling vegetables instead of meat. Kabobs are an easy way to grill up a variety of veggies, and they’re easy to handle, too. Fill a skewer with veggies like mushrooms, peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini or yellow squash—anything with some “flesh” to it should work well. Lightly spray the skewered veggies with olive oil and place them on the grill. For the most flavor you’ll want to keep flipping occasionally, until they are slightly blackened. You can also grill corn on the cob right in its husk; place on the grill for about 30 minutes, rotating occasionally. Let it cool for about five minutes after removing it from the grill, and before you peel the husk off. Continue Reading »

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