Tag Archives: Health

March 2010 – Really Useful Websites

Ok, I have to admit some of these are strictly for fun and amusement…but that is certainly useful as well.  You can’t be serious all of the time…

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve included some history, some sources for coloring sheets, and other related tidbits:

  • http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day History.com does a wonderful job with the history of St. Patrick’s day (go figure!).  They also include links to related articles on traditions, facts, and recipes as well.
  • http://www.theholidayspot.com/patrick/historyofpatrick.htm The Holiday Spot is another good source of “facts”, tidbits,  recipes, songs, games, wallpapers, and more.  They even have coloring pages for kids …and ringtones.  (I can’t say that it ever occurred to me before this that I might WANT a St. Patrick’s Day ringtone!)
  • How could you possibly look for St. Patrick’s Day information and bypass http://www.st-patricks-day.com/ ?  At any rate, they include a countdown, which might be useful a little farther out from the holiday…as well as information on Irish pubs worldwide, shopping, Irish dancing, Runs and Walks, and parades and events, among many other selections.

Another seasonal topic – colds, flus, and allergies…unfortunately all three seem to be all too common at this time of year.  Sources of good tips on how to prevent/avoid/lessen the effects of that I have found include the following (keeping in mind I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV…:-D):

And now that we’re moving away from snowy days…we are moving straight to rainy days…sigh.  As the mother of a 2-1/2-year-old and a 4-1/2-year-old, I can testify that children with stretch your creative abilities.  So, I decided to seek out some ideas for rainy days.  Some are for the kids, some are for us bigger kids:

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Helping Someone Who is Depressed

Some things to keep in mind if you know someone who is suffering from depression:

  1. First of all, this isn’t a case of the blues.  It isn’t a passing mood.  Clinical depression does have its ups and downs, but the person suffering won’t just “get over it.”
  2. Second of all, the person may push you away.  People who are depressed tend, involuntarily, to isolate themselves.  They tend to think that they are affecting people around them and to avoid that, they push people away.  Don’t take it personally and don’t let it affect your relationship!
  3. Third, this is a disease.

Now then, to help someone who is depressed, you may actually have to drag them kicking and screaming (NOT literally!) out of the house.  Reach out to them, get them out of the environment that they are trying to hide in.  This may not be what they think they want, but it is very, very good to get them out, away from the environment for a while.  Many people who are depressed tend to retreat from the world and isolate themselves.  Help them fight this tendency.   Go for a walk, go to dinner, go shopping, go to a park.  If they complain, be persistant but not unkind – recognize if they truly aren’t ready but keep coming back.

When you are helping someone who is depressed, it is VERY important to remember to take care of yourself as well.  Take time to do things you enjoy, to spend time with people who are NOT depressed, to do things unrelated to depression or the depressed person.  Get your rest.

Be there for the person.  If they just need an ear, listen to them and let them pour it out.  Avoid giving advice – just be supportive.  If  you’ve done some research about depression, share what you’ve learned and emphasize it is not their fault.

Try to remain upbeat and positive and be patient.

Spend some time together around animals: puppies, kittens, at the zoo, whatever.  Animals can help reach someone who is isolating themselves.

Know the warning signs of suicide – and DON’T be afraid to ask if they are considering it.  Do NOT ignore talk of suicide; take them to the emergency room or to a doctor immediately.

Ask what you can do to help.  Perhaps you can help get the kids to school, clean the house, cut the grass.  Does the car need to be inspected?

One other thing to remember:  don’t do too much for the person.  I know that sounds silly but people do also want to help themselves.  Don’t overdo the care!

Sources of Information

If You Know Someone Who’s Depressed

Depression.com – Help Someone You Love

Depression

WebMD: Supporting Someone Who Has Depression

About.com: Relationships and Depression

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Stress Relief

I thought this might be a useful topic these days.  Goodness knows I’m feeling the stress from the economic situation!  Here are some suggestions, tips, or words of advice that I’ve gathered or put together over the years.  Each person is different and reacts differently to stress and stress relief techniques.  My recommendation is to try things until you discover what works for you, then make a note of it.  If you have suggestions of your own, please feel free to leave them in a comment!

  • Forget yesterday’s mistakes.  It is a new day.  Learn from your mistakes but move on.
  • If something unfortunate happens, decide not to let it color your whole day.  Have a “bad moment” rather than a “bad day!”
  • If you can’t think of positive things about yourself, ask someone that you trust to list some.  Then keep that list and refer to it from time to time, particularly when you feel down or stressed.
  • Make sure you eat breakfast; it is important to give yourself some fuel to get started in the morning.
  • Try breathing exercises.  One way to do this is to “breathe out the negative, breathe in the positive.”  Let go of the negative thoughts as you breathe out, focus on the positive as you breathe in.
  • Cultivate gratitude: thank people who serve you food, fix your car, fix your dinner.  Thank your children.
  • If you and your spouse are having problems – decide you aren’t going to play the blame game.  Work together to fix the situation.
  • Choose the people you surround yourself with wisely – beware of people who are negative all the time, who complain constantly, who criticize others all the time.
  • Look at the stars or the ocean.
  • Clean your desk at the end of the day; large piles and general disorganization can be stress-inducing!
  • Stretch.
  • Be a child for 15 minutes: go buy some bubbles and blow some.  Share the joy and blow bubbles with or for a child.
  • Acknowledge anger rather than stiffling it.  If you can’t express your feelings calmly, then count to 10, 20, 100, or whatever but don’t explode.
  • Sit by candlelight, firelight, or simply in dimmed lights for 15 minutes before bed.  Listen to soft, gentle music or nature sounds if you like.
  • Sometimes it is better to walk away from a situation for a few minutes and catch your breath.  Take some deep breaths, go for a brief walk, splash water on your face, or doodle on a notepad, then face the situation when you are calmer.

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Resolutions? Throw those things out!

How many years have you set resolutions in January only to give them up within the first week or two? How frustrated do you get at setting them and failing so early to complete any of them?

Something I’ve found that works better is to set goals. I know it sounds like semantics – “resolutions,” “goals,” whatever – but there IS a difference. Goals are defined as “the purpose toward which an endeavor is directed; an objective.” Resolutions are defined as:

1. A resolving to do something.
2. A course of action determined or decided on”

The problem with resolutions is that they generally simply represent a desire to do something, to achieve something, but with no plan of action. As a result, a few weeks after setting your “resolutions”, you’re off the path completely. When you set up goals, you generally also come up with smaller steps that will help you achieve the goal – a plan of action. With a plan of action, you can see when you drift off the path sooner and decide more clearly if you need to adjust your goal or what you need to do to actually achieve your goal.

When you are setting your goals for the year (or whatever time frame you chose), consider areas of your life that you would like to work on, improve, or change.  Some areas frequently on that list include Work, Personal/ Relationships, Family, Social, Spiritual, Exercise/Weight Loss.

One method I’ve found helpful in setting up goals is to make “SMART” goals. SMART goals are generally considered to be:

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

S: are your goals specific, rather than vague? If they are too vague, there will be no way to know when you’ve achieved them. To make a specific goal, make sure that you include what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by, and how you will achieve it.

M: are your goals measurable? If they are, anyone should be able to look at your progress and determine if you’ve achieved your goal. For example, “I want to learn to dance” is vague and immeasurable; most of us are born being able to “dance” (i.e., rock back and forth to music). A smarter goal would be “I want to learn to foxtrot by January 1, 2010.”

A: are your goals attainable? That is, can you achieve them realistically? It is a good thing to have goals that stretch you, that take you out of your comfort zone, but it is possible to set your goal in such a way that it isn’t realistic. For example, a person with a goal of “I want to be a professional dancer in six months” isn’t likely to achieve that goal if he’s the average person on the street. A more attainable goal for the average person would be “I want to dance a waltz at my daughter’s wedding in six months.” On the other hand, don’t set your goals too low either – a goal should challenge you to some extent, otherwise you’ll get bored with it.

R: are your goals realistic? Are they results-oriented? Are they reasonable? If they aren’t relevant to you, to your purpose in life or your belief system, then you aren’t likely to achieve them. For example, you may love commenting on football games to your friends, but do you really have the knowledge of all the positions, the training, and so forth to fill the air during a real game? Or, you may really enjoy cooking and do it well, but do you really have what it takes to run a successful big city restaurant?

T: are your goals time-based? Do you have a time frame for each one? If not, there is no motivation to get moving, no sense of urgency, no reason to take action today. An example of a time-based goal would be something along the lines of “I want to read one classic book a month for 12 months” or “I want to read one classic book each month from January to December 2009.”

Regardless of what you call them, they can really be motivating and stimulating, if done properly! Go out … and DO IT!

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Cold Drugs and Children

According to the Washington Post on January 29, 2008 (article here), more than 7000 children per year get rushed to emergency rooms due to adverse reactions to cough/cold medicines. According to the article, most of the problems occur in children ages 2-5, who got into the medicine on their own.

The researchers based their conclusions on information from a “nationally representative sample of 63 emergency rooms in 2004 and 2005.” This is coming as the FDA considers whether to further restrict the use of these products. The issues are the risks involved and the possibility that the products simply aren’t effective in young children.

Pediatricians are arguing that the drugs are not effective in young children and pose too great a risk to continue to allow their usage; the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, an industry group, says that the report shows that the problem really lies in parents giving incorrect dosages or failing to make sure the medicine is out of the reach of children. Last year, the industry voluntarily withdrew all products marketed for children under the age of two, but insisted that the products were safe for children older than 2.

The CDC said that last year at least “1500 children younger than 2 had complications in 2004 and 2005 from the products, and an FDA review noted dozens of cases of convulsions, heart problems, trouble breathing, neurological complications and other reactions, including at least 123 deaths.”

In terms of this most recent information, the researchers identified 301 cases between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2005. “Cold and cough drugs account for 5.7 percent of all medicine-related visits to the emergency room by children younger than 12. The cases did include prescription and OTC products, but researchers said that most of them involved nonprescription products.

Nearly 80 percent of the cases in the ages 2-5 involved situations in which children got into the medicine without their parents’ knowledge.

Basically, the researchers recommended several steps to make the products safer and reduce the risk. Examples include: encouraging parents to put the medicines out of the reach of children, to encourage them to keep them capped, designing better child-proof containers, and also avoiding the use of colors that make products appealing to children.

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Ok, what I really want to know here is this: are the products effective or not? I can certainly take care of keeping the products out of the reach of my children and make sure the caps are on good, but I don’t want to use them if they aren’t going to help!

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Researchers say to drink and exercise

Now here is a study I can get behind! According to Danish researchers, “drinking is healthy, exercise is healthy, and doing a little of both is even healthier.” This is according to an article published by Reuters on January 8, 2008 (here).

Obviously, you are not supposed to go out and get drunk every night – that is most definitely NOT healthy and not what is being touted by doctors. Rather, a drink or two regularly in addition to regular exercise is a healthy way of life.

According to the article, people who neither exercise nor drink have a 30-49 percent higher risk of heart disease than those who do one or both of the activities, according to a report in the European Heart Journal. “Several major studies have found that light to moderate drinking – up to two drinks a day on a regular basis – is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and some have also found this leads to a lower risk of some cancers.” The Danish study, though, is the largest of its kind to examine the combined effect of drinking and exercise, and it found there were additional benefits from doing both things. Non-drinkers had a 30-31 percent higher risk of heart disease compared to moderate drinkers, regardless of the level of activity. Moderate consumption of alcohol was defined as up to 2 drinks per day (1-14 drinks per week). Teetotalers were able to reduce their risk of heart disease by exercising at least moderately. The people with the lowest risk of dying from any cause were those who performed both activities while those at the highest risk were those who were physically inactive, heavy drinkers.

Just something to think about…and of course, you do have to wonder if a study next week or next month will find the opposite. My husband’s doctor did indeed recommend a drink a day for health benefits; he gets a kick out of telling people that he’s having a drink due to doctor’s orders.

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More on Children’s Cold Remedies

If you’ve been following the news lately (and the articles I’ve posted references to in this blog), children’s cold remedies are under fire. Now it turns out that they have been “raised questions for years”, according to the Washington Post. (Here, for now). This article was in the Post on Friday, October 26, 2007.

This situation has raised a number of questions (from the article):

  • How could the products remain on the market so ling without proof that they work?
  • Why didn’t the FDA act sooner?
  • Why didn’t the medical establishment warn parents?

It seems that about two-thirds of drugs prescribed for use in children have not been tested in children! In addition, “there are a huge number of drugs that are regularly given to children that have never been tested in children,” said Michael W. Shannon, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “I’m very concerned that many of these agents may also be inappropriate for children.” One factor in the lack of testing in children is the fact that it was considered unethical and unnecessary to test drugs in children. The dosages were extrapolated from dosages for adults.

In 1972, the FDA did organize a panel to review nonprescription cough and cold medicines; previously, their attention had been focused on prescription medicines. This panel concluded that there was enough evidence to endorce 35 of the 92 ingredients. That recommendation was based on studies in adults. In 1976, the group recommended that doses for children be extrapolated from data for adults.

“As researchers began testing some of the products directly in children, they slowly started to raise disturbing questions. The Journal of the American Medical Association published an analysis in 1993 that concluded there was no good evidence that the medications worked. The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent international project that regularly evaluates medical therapies, reached a similar conclusion in 2004.”

The article goes on to say that although many pediatricians began to counsel their patients not to use these products, some continued to tell them that they could use them. The products remained very popular. In 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics adopted a policy stating that cough medicines are ineffective. The American College of Chest Physicians produced a similar statement in 2006. However, many other organizations have never issued any formal guidance to doctors on this subject.

I have a two year old (almost two and a half) and my doctor has never mentioned any concern. I have to admit that he is rarely sick, but he has had an occasional cough/cold. I had no idea that these products had not been tested on children, that there were concerns that they were ineffective. Giving a child medicine is enough of a struggle; why would I continue to do so, if it is not going to help?

Some experts are defending the doctors’ groups, saying that they are up against a multibillion-dollar industry, a group that aggressively markets their products (spending more than $50 million a year to sell their stuff). I can understand that to a point – it is like going against the tobacco lobby and all the tobacco firms; they have a lot of money to throw at the situation. Still, as a patient, it would have been nice to have been told this. I don’t understand why more doctors don’t say something to their patients.

On the bright side, the FDA has started demanding that some prescription drugs be tested in children before they are approved. It has also enticed drug companies to conduct pediatric studies of some medications already on the market; unfortunately, the article fails to say how they enticed them. The FDA is reviewing recommendations, but it says that formal action could take years. The industry has voluntarily removed products designed for children younger than two from the market, but “maintains that the remedies are both safe and effective for older children when used properly.”

Well, I’m going to keep watching to see what happens. I want to know if the industry will police itself, if the FDA is going to wake up and take action, … I want to know if doctors are going to pass on information like this to their patients in a more organized fashion. I’m also going to do my part and be a more aware consumer.

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