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Surviving seasonal allergies


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?


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 »

Springtime is go time: Running tips for beginners


For many people looking to start a running routine, springtime is go time. It’s not uncommon to feel discouraged when starting a new fitness regime, but with perseverance and a few guidelines, running is a rewarding way to keep your body healthy.

Step 1: Get your gear
You don’t need much to start running, but a good pair of shoes will take you a long way and help prevent common injuries. Take a look at the soles of shoes you wear often to see where they are most worn; this will tell you where your weight is focused when you walk. Different pairs of shoes are best for different foot types, so research what matches with yours. A “flat foot” requires support and stability, while a “high-arch” needs more cushion for shock and absorption. Many stores—especially independent outlets—can help you choose the best shoe for your pattern of wear.

For optimal comfort, consider the fabric of your running clothes. While a cotton T-shirt is comfortable at the beginning of a run, the fabric retains sweat and can cause chaffing and irritation. “Tech” fabric made of fibers like Lycra, nylon or bamboo allows sweat to evaporate. You’ll often find these clothing items billed as being able to “wick away” moisture, and you’ll also find they make working out more comfortable than cotton.

Step 2: Make a plan & prepare
Don’t expect to run a 5K your first time out the door; give your body time to acclimate to your new activity! Many find a run/walk method of alternating a short time of running with a longer period of walking to be a good way to start out. Be sure to warm up your muscles before you run with dynamic movements, and practice static stretching afterwards to help improve and maintain flexibility.

Another part of preparing your body for running is what you eat. Did you know that digestion usually stops or slows when you run? That means that if you eat right before you run, your food becomes your new running buddy. Eat an hour and a half before your run to ensure your muscles don’t get fatigued but your stomach isn’t full of food while you’re exercising. Hydration is also essential; drink about 20 oz. of water about two hours before your run. Continue Reading »

More than just feeling down: symptoms and treatment of clinical depression


It’s not unusual to feel sad, lonely or unmotivated at times, especially after a loss or during a difficult time. However, when feelings of sadness become overwhelming and persist over a long period of time, it may be time to speak with your clinician about clinical depression. Many people use the word “depressed” to describe a sad mood, but depression is actually a serious medical condition with both physical and mental symptoms that prevents sufferers from enjoying a normal life. It’s also more common than you may think: up to one in four adults in America suffer from depression. Having depression does not mean you’re weak, crazy or weird. Too many—approximately half the people who suffer from symptoms of depression—do not seek diagnosis or treatment. In these untreated cases, clinical depression may worsen or lead to suicide.

Symptoms of clinical depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include:
• Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details/or and making decisions
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness or hopelessness
• Changes in your sleep pattern including: insomnia, excessive sleeping or early-morning wakefulness
• Irritability
• Restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
• Overeating or appetite loss
• Persistent or worsening of aches or pains
• Digestive problems that resist treatment methods

Any one of these symptoms would make it difficult to function normally, and combined they can be overwhelming and lead to thoughts—or attempts—of suicide. Continue Reading »

Effective ways to manage fibromyalgia


Sometimes the aches and pains of getting older are more than average body fatigue. If you are experiencing all-over body pain, increased tenderness to the touch, fatigue and problems with sleep and memory, you could be suffering from fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a non-life-threatening, chronic health problem that occurs most commonly in middle-aged women. It is less common—but not unheard of—in men as well as in younger individuals.

Aside from the commonly experienced symptoms mentioned above, individuals might also experience depression, anxiety, headaches and digestive problems. The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary in intensity, sometimes leaving the person feeling as if the pain is taking over their life.

Research is ongoing to determine the cause of fibromyalgia, but there are several theories that are currently being studied. These theories include possible genetic or hereditary links, changes in levels of brain chemicals related to stress, and possible changes in the brain’s processing system regarding pain. Continue Reading »

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