Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back to School: Food for Brain Power and Energy

Margaret “Maggie” May, RD, RN
Diabetes Coordinator
Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center

Many studies have shown that healthy, balanced diets can help improve focus and concentration throughout the day. In fact, children who suffer from poor nutrition during the brain's most formative years tend to score much lower on tests of vocabulary, reading, comprehension, arithmetic, and general knowledge. Foods that are high in trans-fat, saturated fat and/or sugar actually slow brain function and tend to make you more sluggish, therefore it is important to read labels and avoid these types of foods.

It is also extremely important to make sure your child stays hydrated throughout the day because it’s good for circulation. Try to get them in the habit of drinking water at an early age.
Making sure your child receives a balanced breakfast and lunch, paired with healthy snacks, is especially important to keep them focused throughout the school day. Carbohydrates provide the energy children need to stay sharp throughout the school day, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help keep the connections in the brain flexible and prepared to learn.

Micronutrients and antioxidants are also important for brain function, and can be found in fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread and dairy products. Breakfast should include some form of carbohydrate, such as whole grain cereal or toast, along with a form of lean protein, such as eggs or chicken, and a serving of fruit and/or vegetables. Lunch should also include carbohydrates and lean protein, such as a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, along with another serving of fruit and/or vegetables. Snacks are also important to keep your child energized and focused. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, like yogurt, serve as great, healthy snack options.

Avoid simple carbs, as they temporarily spike your blood sugar, followed by a quick drop. This drop in blood sugar makes you feel drowsy and makes it hard to concentrate. Complex carbs release blood sugar slowly, over a longer period of time which helps you feel full for longer.

While federal regulations require that school meal programs provide nutritional food options, it may be difficult for children to make the healthiest choices in the lunch line. In general, healthy food options at school could include: salad with grilled chicken, a chicken or turkey wrap, a plain hamburger, low-fat yogurt, bean burritos or tacos, chili, fruit cups, a small roast beef sandwich and fat-free or low-fat milk. Healthy eating habits start at home, and it’s important to be an example of healthy eating habits for your children.

Sample Recipes:

English Muffin Pizza
whole wheat muffin
hard-boiled egg
tomato slice
mozzarella cheese
olive oil
Trail Mix
Raisins (or other dried fruit)
Yogurt Parfait
plain yogurt
honey/maple syrup

Monday, August 22, 2016

How Dirty is Your Device? 5 Steps to Clean Your Dirty Cellphone

Dr. Joshua Dettinger

Joshua Dettinger, MD
Family Medicine

Let’s face it. Our mobile phone goes with us almost everywhere. Many people feel helpless without it. We get directions, post selfies and communicate with each other with this little device. But have you ever thought about how dirty it is?

A few of the items cleaner than your phone would be the soles of your shoes, a pet’s food bowl and a public toilet. Studies have shown that 92 percent of mobile devices have harmful bacteria on them. 16 percent of these devices contain E.coli. In some tests, one in six phones had fecal matter on it. How does this happen? Here are some ways your phone can get so filthy:
  • Using it in the restroom – Gone are the days of reading a newspaper or magazine in the head. Now it’s digital content. Good for you for washing your hands when finished. Wouldn’t your phone carry the same germs?
  • Using it while on public transportation – After holding that handrail on the bus, are you using your phone to check in on social media? Who was holding that handrail before you? Before them?
  • Letting others use your phone – Has the generous stranger who offered to take a picture of you and your special someone washed their hands recently? How about that coworker with the sniffles who just looked at your photos from this past weekend?
  • Playing with pets – How cute is that stray dog you just gave a good belly rub? When was its last bath?
  • After a meal – Feel compelled to give the restaurant a great review on social media? Those food particles and oils from dinner are now on your phone growing bacteria. 

We cover our mouths when we sneeze, wash our hands after using the restroom and many people shed their shoes at the front door.  Why is it that one of the dirtiest things we possess gets overlooked so often? Here are five easy steps to remedy that.
  1. Power off your device.
  2. Remove your phone from the case or cover.
  3. Moisten a cotton cloth with isopropyl alcohol and wipe down your device and case.
  4. Moisten a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol and make sure to get in the crevasses and around the “home” button.
  5. Make sure the device is completely dry before restoring power.

Because mobile devices are left powered on, they are an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. These bacteria are easily transferred to your hands and are just a nose or eye rub away from making you ill. If that’s not enough, consider this: With most devices being touch screen, the area touched most by your hands is going to be against your face. Don’t you think it’s time to practice good hygiene and keep that cell phone clean?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

6 Tips for Safe Diving

Margie Moton
Physical Therapist

With the summer Olympics happening now in Brazil a lot of children will decide that they, too, want to dive in the Olympics one day.  They may sign up for diving classes, take “diving” at their local gymnastics center or just start diving off the board at the pool.  All of these are safe ways to start diving.  Diving can also be very dangerous.  

Each year, roughly 6500 teenagers are seen in the emergency department because of a diving related injury. Diving in shallow water or water of an unknown depth can cause very serious injuries such as injuries to the spinal cord, which can result in paralysis from the neck down.

Here are six tips to make diving safer for you and your family:
  1. Always enter unknown water feet-first, regardless if you can see the bottom or signs mark it OK for diving.
  2. Never dive into the shallow end of a pool.  The Red Cross recommends a depth of 9 feet for head-first diving.
  3. Do not dive into lakes, rivers, ponds – you cannot see the bottom and there are often logs and rocks hidden in these waters. 
  4. Just because you used to dive somewhere does not make it safe!  You may have grown and need deeper water or currents may have moved items in rivers, ponds and lakes.
  5. Some injuries are caused by hitting the side of the pool.  Never attempt to throw someone in a pool – they may resist and hit the side of the pool instead.
  6. Always avoid alcohol when you are swimming.
Nothing is quite as refreshing as going headfirst into cool water on a hot summer day. Just remember that every pool has a bottom and it may be closer than you think.

Monday, August 15, 2016

7 Ways Laughter Makes Us Healthier

Dr. Robyn Sanders
Robyn M. Sanders, MD
Internal Medicine
Triad Internal Medicine Associates

Some days are so stressful that you just want to scream. When you try to vent to a close confidant, he or she may tell you to just laugh it off, much to your dismay. However, this is actually great advice.

The average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day while the average 40-year-old only laughs 15 to 20 times. Is there a correlation between how much more children laugh than adults and how much more energy and vitality they possess?

The late Norman Cousins wrote extensively about laughter as a cure. He had inflammatory arthritis and claimed that 10 minutes of laughter provided him with two hours of pain-free sleep.

Research shows that laughter reduces stress levels, increases healthy hormones, increases natural antibodies and improves blood flow to the heart. The result is better disease resistance, more relaxation, better moods and a more positive outlook.

Laughter is highly effective in relieving stress, pain and conflict. The very act of laughing can relax muscles and raise alertness. It provides strong support for emotional, physical and social well-being. It is also a universal language that can help diffuse a tense situation. Here are seven ways laughter benefits us:

  1. Relaxation – Laughter relaxes the body by relieving tension and stress. It can leave your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. This can increase your energy, enabling you to refocus. 
  2. Immunity – By decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and antibodies, laughing can actually improve your resistance to disease. 
  3. Endorphins – Laughter triggers the release of endorphins. This provides the body with a feeling of well-being and pain relief. 
  4. Heart health – Laughter increases blood flow, which helps prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. 
  5. Cheerful – It is difficult to maintain a state of anxiousness, anger or sadness when laughing. Any fears holding you back seem less important. Laughter allows situations to seem less threatening or overwhelming. 
  6. Spontaneity – Laughing helps you quit focusing on things weighing you down and can ease troubling situations. It’s easy to forget about your doubts, criticisms and pre-conceived judgments when laughing. 
  7. Self-expression – Laughter is disarming and makes expressing deep emotions less scary. 

Laughter is within all of us. Seek out things that you find funny and that will make you laugh. It can be movies, books or performances. Some find great humor with children or pets. Even physical activities such as bowling, miniature golf or kickball can provide laughter. The important part is to just keep laughing. As 19th century humorist Josh Billings noted, “laughing is the sensation of feeling good all over and showing it principally in one spot.”

Monday, August 8, 2016

8 Tips for a Better Start to the New School Year

Hanna Coble, LCSW, MSW
Social Worker
Moses H. Cone Hospital

School seems to be more and more stressful, especially when children are starting a new year. Please offer some guidelines for “back to school success” for children and their parents.

Homework, soccer practice and teacher conferences mean one thing: BACK TO SCHOOL! Kicking off a new school year brings excitement, anxiety and fear as your child transitions into a new grade. But there are simple steps you can take to ensure success.

Success or failure in school starts at home. Studies link poor academic performance to factors such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, obesity and poor parental support. Thriving students show healthy habits, consistent routines and good communication. Understand that your child cannot perform to his or her best ability if he or she does not feel good or prepared to start a new school year. Here are a few tips and tricks to set your student up for success.

  1. Make an appointment for a wellness checkup. Is your child up-to-date on all immunizations and physicals? If your child plans to play a sport, don’t forget the physical exam.
  2. Attend the open house. This is especially important when your child is transitioning from one campus to another. You both will want to be familiar with new surroundings, expectations and rules.
  3. Nudge your child into a sleep routine. Bump up bed time and wake up time a few minutes each day to ensure your child will be rested and energized for the first day. Sleep is the secret weapon to school success.
  4. Encourage your child to stay in shape. Suggest a new activity such as joining the soccer team or running club. Being active every day helps lower obesity, decrease stress and helps your child make new friends.
  5. Show your excitement. Don’t wait until the last minute to fill out paperwork or buy school supplies. Make buying school supplies a special activity to prepare and excite your child, not a last-minute chore that you obviously dislike. 
  6. Organize your child’s binders, notebooks and designated homework spots. This small gesture allows kids to develop a routine, keeps them from losing supplies and provides consistency.
  7. Talk often with your child about how he or she feels. Give your child the chance to talk about anxieties, successes and disappointments about each day. Create opportunities to discuss what’s going on in the classroom and with teachers and peers.
  8. Meet with your child’s teachers and stay in regular contact. Use phone or email communications to understand, and address concerns and behaviors. This lets your child know you are interested – and watching!

When you are optimistic and excited about school, your child can’t help but be as well. Expecting your child to succeed is perhaps the most important way you show support when beginning a new year. This does not mean demanding that your child get straight A’s, be the top varsity athlete or become the best tuba player. Just let your child know you expect his or her very best. This can help your child learn to be proud of what he or she can accomplish.

If expectations and routines are clear from the beginning, children have a greater chance of success in the classroom. That means optimal learning, mental stability, resilience and a terrific start to the school year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

10 Ways to Help Your Children Through a Shot

Dr. Andres Rangoolam
Andres Ramgoolam, MD

We all want to do what is best for our children. Vaccinations, such as the flu shot, are meant to protect them from becoming very ill. Keep in mind that a little discomfort in the short term can lead to not becoming sick.

During the last two flu seasons, FluMist – a nose-spray alternative to the injected vaccine –has been shown to be much less effective for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently determined that FluMist had a protection rate of about 3% compared to a 63% protection from the injectable vaccines for patients ages 2 to 17 years.

With FluMist no longer in use, children will once again have to face the dreaded shot to receive their vaccine.

A quick shot is a better option than the flu

How do we make it easier for them? Here are 10 tips to help.
  1. Have a short wait time. If possible, avoid a long wait time. If your shot is being given at your provider’s office, ask if you can schedule an appointment during a slow point in the day. If you are visiting a clinic or mobile vaccination service, try to visit when there will not be a line. 
  2. Distract them. Let your children play with a new or favorite toy, sing them a song, allow them to use the camera on a mobile device, blow bubbles. If there is something that you know of that captures your children’s attention, use it to distract them during the shot.
  3. Try coughing. Have your children cough right before the shot and once during. This is proven to help reduce pain in some children. Exhaling helps as well. Ask them to practice blowing out their birthday candles during a shot, or have a pinwheel for them to blow on.
  4. Offer sweets. For some children, a solution of sugar water for them to sip helps alleviate pain. Your children should sip the solution just prior to the shot and immediately following it. Another idea is to provide them a rare treat, such as a lollipop following the shot. Use caution if the lollipop is given during the vaccination. Distracted children may still cry during a shot, so avoid candy that may be a choking hazard.
  5. Use anesthetic (EMLA) cream. Check with your children’s provider about what brand of cream they recommend. About 30 minutes before the shot, rub it on the location where the injection will occur. 
  6. Keep calm. Act like it is no big deal. Children who are a little older can pick up on our body language and tone of our voice. Remain calm and speak to them in a matter-of-fact way about the shot. Don’t prep children by talking about it too much. Also, it is not a good idea to surprise your children with a doctor visit as it may provoke fear.
  7. Use a pacifier. According to a University of Michigan study, pacifier use during a vaccination visit reduced pain during and after the injection. Breast feeding immediately after may also soothe children.
  8. Offer a reward. A trip for frozen yogurt, to a playground or the library following the shot can be something for children to look forward to. Tell them prior to the vaccination what awaits them afterwards. Describe the fun they will have immediately following the shot.
  9. Go early in the day. Try to schedule a shot early in the day so there will be plenty of time for your children to recover from any fear. It will also allow them to be active which will help them recover from any lingering soreness.
  10. Move on. After comforting your children upon receiving a shot, move on to other activities. Don’t let them dwell on the experience. This will be beneficial when shot time rolls around again.
Remember that having the flu means being sick for a week or more, missing school, having a fever, being achy, headaches, vomiting and even hospitalization. If you use techniques best suited for your children to get them through the experience of receiving a shot, you may be surprised how quickly they forget they even got one.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tempted to Unfriend People? 10 tips for Surviving This Political Season

Dr. Gutterman
David Gutterman, PhD
Psychologist, Clinical Director
LeBauer Behavioral Medicine

Your co-worker is awesome. He’s your go-to guy when you need help. But he supports that candidate.

You’re still close to your childhood friend who helped you survive seventh grade. The two of you have many things in common. Politics is not one of them.

It happens every four years. The ongoing political rancor in our country reaches a peak in the months before the presidential election. Discussions about candidates and hot-button issues fill our airways, emails, offices and living rooms. They can divide people who respect and care about each other.

If the buildup to this year’s election has been on a slow simmer the past few months, expect a rapid boil until Nov. 8. How do we survive and keep our relationships intact? Here are 10 tips.

  1. Look in the mirror. Much of the time, we unknowingly set the stage for conflict. We may think a political joke or offhand comment is harmless, but others see it as an opportunity to strike back and defend their position. Pay attention to your words and try to catch yourself before bringing up topics that others may find uncomfortable or offensive.
  2. Accept that it’s unlikely you’ll change anyone’s mind. You believe if people only had the facts, they’d see it your way. They probably already know what you’re going to tell them. Besides, political choices are often based on emotion, not facts. If you think sharing the latest revelation about a candidate will change anyone’s mind, don’t hold your breath.
  3. Tone it down at work. It’s almost never a good idea to start a political discussion at work unless you’re with friends who share your viewpoint. You could alienate many co-workers by talking about issues and candidates when you don’t know where they stand. Work is not the place to stand on your soapbox.
  4. If you’re a manager, insist on civility. Anyone in a position of authority has a responsibility to respect diversity — and that includes people’s political views. Remember, our country was built on diversity and respect for differing opinions. Your manager should have zero tolerance for anyone who is disrespectful to others and their beliefs.
  5. Consider limiting social media. We can’t control what others tweet or post on Facebook. Decide in advance how you’ll handle it when friends show their allegiance to a candidate you detest. It’s far easier to criticize or be hostile to someone on Facebook than in person, but don’t give in to the vitriol. You don’t want to start or participate in a Facebook war. Consider taking a break from social media until after the election, or block the Facebook news feeds and tweets of people whose political comments raise your blood pressure.
  6. You have a right to your opinion — and so does everyone else. People have differing opinions about everything from Beyonce to broccoli, and that’s good. If we respect each other for our differences and recognize the value in these differences, many of our problems — political and otherwise — would disappear. Accept it when your parents, spouse, best friend or boss feel passionate about the election, but in a different way from you. Appreciate their right to express a differing point of view. Model tolerance and be willing to speak up when the same respect is not reciprocated.
  7. Put your need to be right on hiatus. Yes, it’s hard, because you know you’re right. We all need to feel validated, or we’re compelled to show others the “right way.” But pushing your political agenda creates a hostile environment, and the chances for a constructive conversation evaporate.
  8. You don’t have to take it anymore. People often feel they have to stay silent regardless of how upset they are about the tone or content of what’s being said. If you respectfully let others know when you feel offended or personally attacked, most people will retreat.
  9. Stay calm and have an exit strategy. If your appeal for civility is ignored, try to keep your emotions in check. Then leave the conversation quietly and without fanfare. You need to ask yourself if it’s worth sacrificing a relationship or your reputation.
  10. Hang on. The election will be over in a few months.
Don’t get too excited for Election Day to come and go. That just means those holiday conversations with the relatives about religion are right around the corner.