All posts by Daniela Sims

Physical Therapy: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Physical therapy helps people of all ages who have injuries, medical conditions, or illnesses that limit their day-to-day functioning. A physical therapy program can help you return to your prior level of functioning, as well as prevent further injury while improving your overall health and well-being.

 

Here are 10 reasons why physical therapy is so important and how it may benefit you:

1. Reduce Pain

There are a variety of exercises and manual therapy techniques, including ultrasound, taping, and joint and soft tissue mobilization that can not only relieve pain, but also restore function in the muscles and joints. It can even prevent pain from returning.

2. Improved Mobility

You may be struggling with walking and moving, or even just standing (no matter what your age), but physical therapy can definitely help. This includes strengthening and stretching exercises, devices that provide assistance such as canes and crutches, or by a proper orthotic prescription.

3. Avoid Surgery

Therapy can help you avoid surgery by eliminating pain and/or by healing an injury. If surgery is still required, pre-surgery therapy can help, because going into surgery stronger and in better shape can speed the post-surgery recovery process.

4. Recover/Prevent Sports Injuries

Different sports can increase your risk for specific types of injuries – i.e., stress fractures for runners – and your physical therapist can design recovery or prevention exercise programs that enable you to safely return to your sport.

5. Improved Balance

One of the things your physical therapist will do is a fall-risk screening. If it shows that you are at high risk, your therapist will provide exercises that mimic real-life situations while increasing your balance. You’ll also be provided with exercises to improve coordination, or devices that assist you in safer walking. If you suffer from dizziness or vertigo, your therapist will show you exercises that will restore proper vestibular functioning.

6. Manage Diabetes

Physical therapy is often part of an overall diabetes management program. Exercise can effectively help control blood sugar, while people with diabetes often have problems with sensation in their feet and legs that the therapist can address to prevent further issues down the road.

7. Recover From A Stroke

People who’ve suffered a stroke often lose some degree of function and movement. Physical therapy helps strengthen the weakened parts of the body while also improving balance and gait. Your physical therapist can also help you to transfer and move around in bed, which will make you more independent around the home.

8. Manage Heart and Lung Disease

If your daily functioning is affected by heart and lung disease, you may receive physical therapy along with normal cardiac rehabilitation (after a heart attack or heart procedure). It can also help improve your quality of life through conditioning, strengthening and breathing exercises.

9. Manage Women’s Health

Women have a number of specific health concerns, including issues involved with pregnancy and post-partum care. Your physical therapist can offer specialized management of issues related to women’s health, including breast cancer.

10. Age-related Issues

Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and joint replacement may develop as you age. Physical therapists are well-trained in helping patients deal with and recover from these issues.

 

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COPD Sufferers: What to Ask Your Healthcare Provider

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)  you understandably have a lot of concerns. Aside from the breathing difficulties you’re experiencing, you have a lot of questions for your healthcare provider, including what is COPD and what are your treatment options. The bottom line is that your respiratory health is too important to not get all the information you can about COPD. Here are some important questions to ask your doctors.

What is COPD?

Your healthcare provider will tell you that COPD is a broad term to describe a variety of progressive lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. As you’re already aware, COPD’s primary symptom is increasing breathlessness as your body is unable to properly process oxygen through your lungs. You’ll also learn that you may have had COPD for longer than you think because you may not have noticed earlier symptoms. When it comes to their respiratory health, many people associate breathlessness as a natural part of aging, which isn’t true.

What causes COPD?

While your healthcare provider will tell you that smoking is the number one cause of COPD, he or she will also explain that there are other risk factors, as well. Those risks include genetic factors (AAT deficiency), working in high-risk industries that expose you to non-organic dust, such as mining and plastic manufacturing, as well as indoor pollution, such as second-hand smoke and radon.

What happens if I quit smoking?

If you’re a smoker, you’re well-aware of its dangers and harmful effects to your overall health, especially respiratory health. But here are some other facts you’ll want to take into consideration:

  • When you stop smoking the level of carbon monoxide in your blood is cut in half within 12 hours.
  • Your lungs will begin to repair themselves within a few weeks after you quit smoking.
  • By your 10th year of non-smoking, your lung cancer risk will be cut in half.

Will my medication have side effects?

Ask your doctor about any side effects that may occur from taking COPD medication. One important concern you should have is whether treatment for your condition could potentially damage other, healthy parts of your body.

What other changes can I make?

Quitting smoking will have a significant effect on the progression of COPD. But diet and exercise can also have a positive impact on your respiratory health. Ask your doctor about exercise programs designed specifically for COPD sufferers.

Will I need to be on oxygen?

Your doctor will measure the amount of oxygen in your blood by using a pulse oximeter, or by drawing blood. The goal is to keep your oxygen saturation level above 88 percent.

What stage am I in?

COPD is divided into four stages: mild, moderate, severe and very severe. Your doctor will determine what stage you’re in by using a pulmonary function test called spirometry. It’s important to note that COPD affects everyone differently, and can be determined by a variety of factors – including whether you smoke, how much you exercise, and your diet.

What shots or vaccines will I need?

It’s recommended that everyone with COPD should get a pneumonia shot – generally every five years – because pneumonia can easily deteriorate lung health. Flu shots are also important because the flu also weakens your lungs.

 

Choosing the right health provider is important in treating your overall respiratory health.

 

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Asthma Symptoms: 5 Signs Your Shortness of Breath is Serious

If you suffer from shortness of breath, you’re not alone. It’s a common symptom and one that prompts many people to see a doctor or seek other medical treatment. Knowing when your shortness of breath is an emergency isn’t always easy. It can be the result of hyperventilation, acid reflux, or a panic attack – cases when shortness of breath usually recedes on its own – or more serious issues involving your respiratory health. There are many possible causes of shortness of breath, as well as signs that it’s time to seek medical help.

Shortness of Breath and Its Causes

There’s no clear definition of shortness of breath, but most people describe it as a feeling of being unable to get enough air, or that breathing takes more effort than usual. Some people may feel chest tightness. Shortness of breath may come on in a matter of minutes, or develop chronically over much longer lengths of time.

In the vast majority of cases, shortness of breath is because of conditions related to the heart and lungs. Some of the more common causes include:

  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Asthma
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart attacks or congestive heart failure
  • Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that travels from another part of the body to the lungs)
  • Obesity
  • Lung disease
  • Bronchitis or pneumonia
  • A collapsed lung
  • If shortness of breath is chronic – meaning it has lasted for weeks or longer – it’s often due to any of the above causes.

Signs That You Should Call A Doctor

Your respiratory health is too important to ignore shortness of breath symptoms, but some signs should never be ignored:

  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Trouble breathing when you lie flat
  • High fever, chills and cough
  • Wheezing
  • When your pre-existing shortness of breath worsens

COPD

COPD is a chronic lung disease that, as mentioned, is one of the most serious causes of shortness of breath. It’s considered a progressive disease in that its symptoms may be mild at first but become more severe over time. The symptoms of COPD may vary and include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Labored breathing during both exercise and resting
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent colds or flu
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent morning headaches
  • Weight loss

People who suffer from COPD are also likely to have episodes known as exacerbations in which their symptoms suddenly become worse and persist for several days.

Asthma

Asthma is caused by inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This inflammation also results in the production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. When it comes to your respiratory health, asthma – like COPD – should never be taken lightly. Its symptoms are very similar to those associated with COPD: coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and, of course, shortness of breath.

As with COPD, asthma sufferers may go extended periods without experiencing any symptoms before having periods of systems (or asthma attacks). Others may only experience asthma during exercise, or when suffering from viral infections such as colds.

Evaluating Shortness of Breath

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may evaluate your shortness of breath by using pulse oximetry to estimate the amount of oxygen in your blood, an EKG, a chest x-ray, blood work, or pulmonary function tests.

It’s important to note that while you may suffer from COPD or asthma, your symptoms can still be managed – and allow you to lead a normal life – with the right health care team working with you.

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A Day in the Life of a Speech-Language Pathologist

It can be difficult to fully describe the role of a Speech-language Pathologist, as the rehabilitative work they do throughout their days is extremely varied and complex. In order to give our readers a more accurate idea of what an SLP does, we asked one to tell us a little more about her patient work here at an Ernest Health Hospital, as well as walk us through her activities throughout the day.

EH: Can you share with us what a typical day looks like for you?

SLP: I get to work around 7 or 7:30 a.m. to help patients with using their safe swallow strategies during breakfast.

We have a short staff meeting at 8:00 to quickly discuss appointments, discharge plans, medical complications, etc. I treat patients from 8:30 to 12. I personally have more energy in the morning, so I try to see my patients then and save documentation for the afternoon

I document daily/weekly progress notes during lunch and begin therapy again at 1:00. I have 2-3 sessions in the afternoon, and then I need to write daily/weekly notes. Part of my role in the afternoon is to look at the patients we will have in the evening and which therapists will be coming in for the evening shift and get the patients signed out to a therapist accordingly.

Some of the things that I have to think about as I’m evaluating patients is: Are the patients sticking to their diet? Are they ready for advancement? How are they handling the diet?

EH: What does the majority of your work involve at Ernest Health, and how would you describe the majority of the patients you work with?

SLP: I provide individual sessions and group therapy sessions two days a week. The majority of my patients have cognitive impairments that limit their ability to make safe decisions.

Stroke and head injury are the majority of the causes.

EH: What treatments/therapies do you use to work with your patients at Ernest Health?

SLP: For dysphagia (swallowing issues): I use myofascial release therapy and e-stim (electrical stimulation) modalities.

Myofascial release therapy is a treatment for patients with dysphagia that aims to loosen up muscles in the cervical area to allow for more contraction in swallowing.

E-stim modalities are used for neuromuscular re-education, which is a technique used to help the patient contract the muscles used in swallowing to teach the patient what it should feel like. E-stim machines can be used for a variety of purposes, though, and all depends on the settings (pain management, muscle contractions, etc.).

One of our SLP’s main focuses is keeping the patient safe by educating them and family members on things like locking the wheelchair and using the call light for help. In addition to these practices, she also does her best to find fun and fresh ways to help retrain patients to their former levels of functionality. Using music therapy and technology like iPad games, for instance, allows the patient to learn in a way that feels less like work and more like recreation.

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Her empathy for the patients, dedication, and caring personality are shining examples of the qualities that Ernest Health values in its team members.

EH: Why did you choose Speech-Language Pathology as a career?

SLP: I chose to be an SLP because I wanted a career that would make a positive impact on someone’s life.

My first semester in undergrad, I, by chance, saw a class schedule with a class about Communication Disorders.  I decided to take it and knew from the beginning this was what I wanted to do with my life.

EH: What hobbies or interests do you have?

SLP: I teach fitness classes before and/or after work. My alarm usually goes off at 4:30 so I can fit in my hobbies. My husband and I enjoy traveling, skiing, and fly fishing together.

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Speech-Language Pathology’s Role in Stroke Recovery

Stroke recovery is a complex process that varies from one patient to the next. Because of this, speech-language pathologists play an important role in a stroke patient’s rehabilitation. Last week, we discussed how a speech-language pathologist could help a stroke survivor regain their ability to read. However, with one fourth of stroke patients suffering from language impairments, an SLP usually plays a sizable role in most stroke patient’s recovery. Here are a few of the responsibilities you can expect them to take part in during the recovery process.

They make a plan.

Because every stroke is different, and every patient is different, it is only natural that every recovery plan is different as well. Speech-language pathologists work with their inter-professional team but also work with a patient’s case history and their family to come up with a plan that will work for every individual patient. Creating a successful rehabilitation plan requires an SLP to know the patient medically and personally. A speech-language pathologist’s close involvement throughout the treatment allows them to alter the rehabilitation plan if necessary.

They help patients relearn how to communicate.

Depending on which area of the brain is affected by the stroke, patients may either have difficulty communicating their thoughts through words or writing, or have difficulty understanding spoken or written language. Either way, an SLP’s education equips them with the ability to help both of these conditions. They use different techniques and exercises to help patients circumvent their disabilities such as making symbol cue cards or simply repeating phrases with their patient. All of this is done with the end goal of helping the patient relearn their communication skills or learn new methods of communicating. 

They help patients with self-awareness.

Although speech and language are in the title, speech-language pathologists help with much more than that. SLPs also help stroke patients regain their self-awareness. This can mean anything from helping a patient learn that they don’t swallow all of their food during meals, to learning how to comb their hair. A speech-language pathologist may set up different daily challenges such as basic cleaning, to personal grooming to help a patient recover their self-awareness. These skills will help a stroke survivor’s day to day life become less frustrating as their recovery goes on. 

The extensive duties of a speech-language pathologist in stroke recovery differ with each patient, but for every patient they make an incredible difference. We are committed to bringing the best care to our patients, and because of that, we appreciate the speech-language pathologist on staff!

 

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Stroke Survivors and Reading

When one experiences a stroke, many parts of the body are often affected, requiring physical therapy and exercise in order to reach a previous level of mobility. What this also means is that, in order to recover the energy used in various therapies, patients must spend a lot of time resting. In these periods, boredom and depression can settle in, making pleasurable distractions, like reading a book or magazine, a welcome escape.

Unfortunately, a frustrating discovery that many stroke patients experience is that reading (something they were likely proficient at before) has suddenly become a struggle. Words either seem to disappear or escape their grasp, and sentences are overwhelming.

Alexia- what it is:

Reading difficulties after a stroke are often referred to as “alexia” or “acquired dyslexia.” When the left side of the brain experiences damage or trauma, it is common for language abilities to suffer due to the fact that most language functions occur in the left hemisphere.

Reading impairments, along with the damage to language function, are also commonly caused by visual disruptions. Symptoms such as double vision or blind spots in words and sentences make even silent reading a struggle, and the act of communicating it verbally can seem almost impossible.

How a stroke affects reading:

Because Alexia occurs after a patient has fully developed their reading abilities, there are usually remnants of language skills still functioning. For example, many stroke survivors find it easier to read silently to themselves than to read aloud. Word retrieval is an incredibly common difficulty among stroke survivors, so coupling the act of visually comprehending with audibly reading can cause stress and confusion.

Depending on the extent and location of the damage, however, even silent reading can become severely impaired. Words that aren’t easily sounded out based on their letters, or those that are abstract in nature, commonly create frustration for stroke survivors.

How to work around reading impairments:

Couple listening with reading. One way to enjoy a favorite form of entertainment and work toward the correction of reading impairments is to pair media with printed words. By watching a TV show or movie with the captions turned on, a patient can experience the words through sight and sound simultaneously. Similarly, reading a physical book while listening to that same book on tape will provide an opportunity to match the look of words to their sounds and pronunciations.

Remove the written part of a task:

Another way to work around alexia is to simply remove the written part of a task to gain more independence. A task like visiting the grocery store in order to stock the pantry can become very overwhelming for someone who is having trouble reading. Rather than writing out a shopping list, many stroke survivors have found that creating a list using product logos and pictures allows them the independence to accomplish this previously simple task.

Talk to a Speech Language Pathologist. An SLP is trained to, among many other things, diagnose cognitive problems caused by strokes. By getting a formal diagnosis, an SLP will then be able to work with a patient and his or her needs, so that they may come up with a personalized treatment plan.

The SLP will use exercises, such as sounding out and naming letters, to help a stroke survivor work through their reading impairment and make progress toward reaching their previous level of ability.

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Circulation & Diabetes

The possible outcomes of poor circulation in diabetics can be quite scary, but the reality (as it is in most diabetic complications) is that the more dramatic results can often be staved off by positive lifestyle choices.

Exercise

The act of exercising your body is beneficial in countless ways, including increased blood flow through the dilation of the blood vessels. When you exercise, vessels open up to allow more blood to feed the muscles with much-needed oxygen. For someone suffering from poor circulation, this provides a much-needed boost of blood to parts of the body that may have been desperately needing it.

While there are certain full-body exercises that are especially good for circulation, such as Yoga and swimming, even a short-but-brisk walk will provide the extremities with more blood.

Exercising on a regular basis will allow your body to replenish limbs with blood frequently, and help prevent complications like sores and ulcers that are difficult to heal.

When dealing with poor circulation, it is incredibly important to speak with your physician about your exercise options. He or she might have exercise plans that are specific to your circulatory needs that will better aid you in your recovery.

Diet

Along with exercise, consuming foods that help control your blood sugar (especially those that inherently improve blood flow themselves) can keep the symptoms of poor circulation at bay. High-saturated fat, high cholesterol, and high-sugar foods all have the tendencies to clog arteries, and adding the blood vessel-damaging power of high glucose to the mix creates the perfect environment for poor circulation.

Eating foods that are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and whole sources of fiber have been known to increase blood flow, as well as help in waste removal from the blood. Raw seeds, oats, citrus fruits, and leafy greens are fantastic foods to add to your weekly menu, bringing anti-inflammatory properties and much-needed minerals to the plate.

As with exercise, speaking to your physician about diet changes (especially if a patient is diabetic) is imperative when trying to manage your circulation issues. If you’ve been honest and thorough when sharing your medical history, your doctor might be able to assign a more personalized diet to you that could provide you with a much speedier recovery than you had anticipated.

Other Treatments

If diet and exercise simply are not helping with circulatory issues, then medical or surgical intervention may be utilized. Certain diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure medications have been known to help with circulation, and medications that help prevent blood clots may be prescribed as well.

Surgical options are angioplasty (inflation of a small balloon inside an artery), stents, artery bypasses, and surgical plaque removal.

Simple Steps = Simple Success

Managing diabetes and diabetes-related circulation issues go hand in hand. Many of the lifestyle changes demanded by diabetes are the same as the ones that will help improve your circulation: increased exercise, healthy diet, and not smoking. Simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or a quick walk after dinner can make an immense difference in your circulation.

Sources:

http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/complications-prevention/diabetic-leg-pain-and-peripheral-arterial-disease/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/153025-exercises-to-increase-blood-circulation-for-diabetics/

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/healthy-foods-that-improve-your-blood-flow/

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How Diabetes Relates to Heart Disease & Stroke

Being diagnosed with diabetes usually means you have to watch your blood sugar, mainly through diet, exercise, and medication. However, diabetes can cause a variety of complications throughout the entire body—but how?

The answer is the circulatory system.

The circulatory system is responsible for the transportation of blood throughout the body, providing nutrients and oxygen to cells, as well as transporting waste and carbon dioxide away from them. When the body begins producing and retaining too much glucose (blood sugar), the substance is not isolated to one sector of the body. The circulatory system pushes and pulls the glucose throughout the entirety of the body via the blood. The excessive amounts of sugar cause damage to blood vessels and the organs that are associated with those vessels suffer the consequences.

Diabetes and Heart Disease

One of the organs that most severely feels the effects of diabetes is the heart. Simply being diagnosed with diabetes dramatically raises a patient’s chances of encountering heart disease. The chances of getting heart disease at a younger age than most, as well as the severity of the heart disease itself, are increased when diabetes enters a patient’s life.

As the vessels supplying blood to the heart become damaged, clogged, or hardened by the high presence of glucose, the heart’s ability to receive (and therefore send out) blood is negatively affected. Types of heart disease that are specific to diabetes are Coronary Heart Disease (a buildup of a substance called “plaque” in the arteries), Heart Failure (when the heart is unable to pump the necessary amount of blood), and Diabetic Cardiomyopathy (a disease that damages the actual function and structure of the heart).

Diabetes and Stroke

Another major organ that suffers damage from diabetes is the brain. The brain thrives on oxygen-rich blood in order to function, and when the blood vessels that provide the blood are affected by excessive glucose, very serious complications can occur. When a vessel responsible for providing blood to the brain closes off or bursts, that part of the brain will become oxygen-deprived, and the cells will die. This can result in speech impairments, vision problems, and mobility issues, including paralysis. Like heart disease, being diagnosed with diabetes can significantly raise your chances of stroke.

We know the struggles that patients encounter as they work to regain lost abilities, and our goal is to help those patients overcome them. We feel it is also our responsibility, however, to educate our community about the causes of these conditions, in the hopes of preventing them.

We will continue to explore the topic of diabetes and circulation in our next post, as we learn about lifestyle changes and management techniques that may help patients cope with (and even prevent) these complications.

Sources:

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/body/circulatory-system.html

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/heart-disease/

http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/stroke/

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dhd

 

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Diving Related Spinal-Cord Injuries

As the sun begins to beat heavily down during the summer, people start turning to the relief of cool swimming pools and refreshing lakes for recreation. During the summer months, carefree attitudes coupled with the increasing need to stay cool contribute to a major spike in diving-related SCIs. In a study highlighted by the NCBI, 88% of diving-related cervical spine injuries examined occurred in the summertime, and 97% were sustained by healthy young men (under the age of 27).

Cervical Spine Injuries

The cervical section of the spine is comprised of seven vertebrae that connect the base of the head to the trunk and shoulders… making the informal term for a cervical spine injury a “broken neck.” The results of these injuries can be devastating. Spinal cord damage can cause partial paralysis, complete paralysis, and death.

Diving Hazards

Shallow water: Water depth can be deceptive. Blindly diving into water that has not been previously examined can result in the diver striking the bottom head-first, causing great damage to the vertebrae. Above-ground, personal pools are notoriously shallow and known for causing many a diving accident.

Obstructions in lakes, rivers, and ponds: Natural bodies of water are rarely crystal clear, and are extremely susceptible to debris accumulation. Tree trunks, rocks, and man-made items such as tires are commonly found under the water, but seldom seen above it.

Natural landscape changes: While the ocean may seem like a wide, open opportunity for diving, the fact is that it can be just as hazardous as a murky pond. The ever-changing tide and forceful waves are capable of shifting the layout of ocean sands, causing sandbars to crop up where they previously weren’t. Diving head-first into solid sand can yield traumatic results similar to that of diving into solid concrete.

Staying Safe

Explore and examine: Never dive blindly into any body of water… be it pond, ocean, lake, or swimming pool. Hazards may be lurking beneath the surface, or the designated diving section might be smaller than you anticipated.

Avoid alcohol: Summer often brings with it carefree attitudes and rowdy get-togethers where alcohol is commonly involved. Diving hazards are to be taken seriously, and substances like alcohol often remove the ability to discern the difference between safety and recklessness.

Own responsibly: If you own a personal pool, you are responsible for the safety of the people using it. Ensure that depths are marked properly and that safety rules are clearly stated and posted.

Educate: Water-safety should be included in any child’s education, and diving is a topic that should not be neglected. Make it a point to teach children of possible diving hazards as well as the serious consequences of ignoring safety. Be repetitive and firm in your instruction.

Enjoy the Summer Responsibly

A commonality in diving-related injuries is that they are often suffered by young people who are otherwise strong and healthy. A vibrant future can be altered dramatically by one single dive. Equipping yourself with knowledge and awareness can ensure that you spend your summer enjoying yourself rather than spending it in recovery.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2899837/

http://www.shepherd.org/resources/injuryprevention/diving

http://www.nature.com/sc/journal/v43/n2/full/3101695a.html

http://www.anationinmotion.org/ortho-pinion/think-twice-before-you-dive/

http://www.hughston.com/hha/a.cspine.htm

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Traveling with Diabetes

So many fun things happen during the summer, and traveling is one of them. Whether you’re going to a summer camp, a family reunion, or vacation someone is inevitably bound to forget a swimsuit or toothbrush, or a favorite stuffed animals are left by the door. These situations can be disappointing but rarely do they completely unravel someone’s plans.

This is not the case, however, when a travel hitch involves your diabetes. If you’re not properly prepared, a diabetic travel complication can range from, at the very least, a huge inconvenience, to, at worst, a life-threatening situation.

By developing a travel checklist that utilizes a few of these helpful tips, you’ll be able to minimize your risk of a diabetes-related travel disruption.

Before You Go:

Talk to your doctor. If you are planning a long trip, especially one by air, it’s crucial to have a discussion and schedule an appointment with your doctor. This will give you both a better picture of your current diabetic health, the chance to get any needed immunizations, and a critical travel letter describing your diabetes plan.

While this letter is not required by US Airport Security, it can be extremely helpful should questions or a need for documentation arise. The letter should include your diabetes treatment plan, a list of prescriptions, and a description of the supplies required for your diabetic care.

Research your destination. When traveling with diabetes, a little research can bring great peace of mind. If you’re heading to another country, finding a hospital or doctor who speaks a language you are fluent in can save you from a lot of headaches. Learning key phrases in the country’s language, such as “I have diabetes,” or “sugar or juice, please” can be very helpful in an emergency. For more information on an emergency abroad, please click here to visit the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers page containing useful phone numbers and resources.

What to Pack:

Don’t forget your documentation. Not only is it important to bring a detailed travel letter from your physician, you should also make sure to pack a prescription for insulin or diabetes pills, should you encounter an emergency.

In addition to these two pieces of paper, your medical ID is essential. By wearing one as a bracelet or necklace, you eliminate any possibility of leaving your information in a hotel room or briefcase. In an emergency, physicians can learn about your diabetes, allergies, and insulin needs so that they may properly treat your symptoms.

Keep your supplies close. You should pack a diabetes kit containing all of the supplies you need on a regular basis, and pack it in a carry-on. Never check your diabetes supplies with the rest of your luggage. The cargo hold is not equipped to keep a proper temperature, and you run the risk of being separated from your baggage, which could be devastating. Packing at least twice the amount of needed medications and supplies is also a good idea.

Tips:

  1. Contact the airline a few days prior to your flight. This is a great time to clarify insulin/supply rules, and to request a meal that is friendly to your needs.
  2. Remember: Eastward travel means you will “lose” time, so less insulin may be needed. Westward travel “gains” time, often requiring more insulin.
  3. Allow yourself a period of rest after you arrive at your destination; this will allow you time to recover after the flight and settle yourself with your medication needs and changing routine.
  4. Check your glucose often; new routines, foods, and environments can throw off your insulin levels, and it’s important to stay on top of them.
  5. Pack airline-approved snacks. This way, you can help control your levels without too much fuss or inconvenience.

Diabetes isn’t something that should keep you from traveling. Even with this disease, you can enjoy a much-needed vacation or expertly handle an important business trip—as long as you employ some thoughtful planning and deliberate preparation.

Sources:

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/travel/air-travel-and-insulin.html

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/when-you-travel.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

https://www.bd.com/us/diabetes/page.aspx?cat=7001&id=7355

 

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Preventing Overexhaustion

With kids going to camps, grandkids coming to visit, taking road trips, and vacations. Summer can often place stress on people even those who are in the best of health. But, when you or a loved one is recovering from an injury or surgery, this time of year can be even more overwhelming.

When the body is recovering from a recent trauma, it needs as much nurturing as it can get. While “nurturing” does mean rest, it can also mean that you need to keep up with your exercise routine or stay on top of your diet. All of these essential factors in recovery can be easily tossed out the window during road trips. Risky travel is often chosen over missing family, sugar and fat-filled meals abound, and changes in schedule can derail the motivation to keep up with your exercises.

Since a proper and nurturing recovery is something we strive for here, we’re taking this opportunity to share a few tips for patients and caregivers to keep summertime both happy and healthy.

For Caregivers

An upcoming vacation is an especially stressful time for caregivers, who are focusing on both their loved one’s and their own summer enjoyment.

One of the best things a caregiver can do during a stressful summer season is to ask for help. It could mean hiring someone to help take care of dinner or a loved one’s needs, or it could simply mean asking a family member to help during meal preparation or other busy times. If you’re a caregiver, allowing yourself a few breaks will help keep you sharp enough to tend to your loved one and enjoy the season.

If no help is available, then it’s a good idea to scale back your summer plans. Be sure to listen to your body and mind, and take on only as much as both you and your loved one can handle.

For Patients

As a patient, it’s imperative to remember that you need time to heal. Right now, your body is putting many of its resources toward healing, and the decisions you make during summer can greatly affect your recovery time.

If your doctor has prescribed any exercises for a home exercise program to aid in your healing, be sure that you and your caregiver have scheduled some time in which you can do them. Your healing body is not aware of what time it is; it’s only aware of what it needs to repair itself.

Similarly, your body also needs to receive nutrient-rich, healthy food. Recovering patients often have restricted diets… and for good reason. Different foods affect your body in different ways, some of which can negatively impact your recovery. If your doctor has prescribed a special diet for you, it’s important to stick to it, even during vacations.

Work Together

If both the caregiver and patient can communicate and work together, it will make summertime all the more relaxing and enjoyable. A good thing to focus on is limits and boundaries. What are the patient’s telltale signs of fatigue? Which family members or situations cause undue stress, and can they be avoided?

With some planning, diligence, and communication, summertime can be experienced positively, and can ultimately strengthen the bonds between caregiver and patient.

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Summer Safety

As the sun begins to stay out later and we shift our gears to summer, there are going to be more opportunities to get outside and enjoy the weather. The increase in outdoor activities, however, does bring with it an increase in sun exposure. The risk of sunburn, dehydration, and heat stroke become real dangers as we move our lives out of our homes and into the heat, and it’s important to be prepared for and aware of the warning signs. 

We would like to remind our readers of some of the symptoms to watch out for, as well as talk about dehydration.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Heavy Sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Fast and weak pulse rate
  • Fast and shallow breathing

Heat exhaustion can happen after extended exposure to high heat, and, if untreated, can lead to heat stroke, which can have very serious complications. Heat stroke occurs when the body loses its ability to cool itself and requires emergency attention.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 Fahrenheit)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Another condition that goes hand-in-hand with heat exhaustion is dehydration. Like both heat stroke and heat exhaustion, this is a condition that can be particularly dangerous for small children and the elderly. Some of the symptoms are the same, as well as methods of prevention. By keeping yourself hydrated when out and about in the heat, you’ll be one step closer to avoiding dehydration. It’s a good idea, however, to know what to look for, even if you feel prepared.

Symptoms of Dehydration:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

While all of these heat-related conditions are dangerous, there are many ways to protect yourself and still have fun. To avoid a potentially fatal situation, make sure you follow these tips:

Tips to Avoiding Heat-related Illnesses:

  • Stay hydrated (be sure to pack water and limit alcohol and caffeine)
  • Limit physical activity
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • Take breaks at locations with air conditioning
  • Limit exposure to the sun
  • Wear hats and bring an umbrella to create some personal shade

Remember:

If you or someone you are with is displaying symptoms of heat exhaustion or dehydration, it’s time to get indoors to cool off and drink some fluids. If symptoms of heat stroke are apparent, it’s time for the emergency room.

With a little preparation and some heightened awareness, you’ll be able to enjoyably and safely experience all the outdoor fun this summer.

Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/basics/symptoms/con-20030056

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Learn About Burn Prevention

There are many things to love about summer, from  activities like camping and cooking out, to hanging out with family in the great outdoors. But it also exposes us to a wide variety of potential burns that we can take lightly if we’re not careful.

Here are some of summer’s burn hazards, and preventative measures that can keep your risk of injury low.

Summer Sun

Enjoying the sunshine is just part of any typical summer day. Over-exposure to sun is a serious issue, however, especially when you consider its potential short- and long-term effects.

Sunburn

When the amount of exposure to the sun exceeds the ability of the body’s pigment (melanin) to protect the skin, sunburn occurs. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause serious damage to the skin. You can even get sunburned on a cloudy day, because the majority of ultraviolet rays can pass through light clouds and haze. To avoid sunburn, select shaded areas – whenever possible – for outdoor activities, and wear protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts. 

When it comes to sunscreen, use products that have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15, and have both UVA and UVB protection.

Eyecare

It’s equally important to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of over-exposure to UV rays. Sun damage can lead to serious eye problems later in life. Protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses and wear hats with wide brims. Wraparound sunglasses provide further protection by keeping light from entering the corners of your eyes.

Infants and the sun

Infants and young children are at a greater risk of suffering sunburn because their skin is thinner than adults. Babies less than one year old should be kept out of direct sunlight, and should always be dressed in protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and wide-brim hats. 

Camping Safety

For many of us, summer means camping out with family and friends. But it can place you at a greater risk for burns if you’re not careful. Keep the following camping safety tips in mind:

  • Choose a tent made of flame-retardant fabric.
  • Build your campfire downwind and at a good distance from your tent.
  • Always have an extinguisher tool, such as a shovel, bucket of water, or fire extinguisher, on hand.
  • Never use heat-producing appliances (such as cooking appliances or heater) inside your tent.
  • Never add a flammable liquid to a fire or hot coals.
  • Always have adult supervision of children around the fire.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.

Fireworks

Enjoying brightly-colored fireworks is part of summer’s fun. They can also be dangerous – approximately 10,000 people suffer fireworks injuries every year, with nearly half of those injuries suffered by adolescent and children under 14-years old. Burns are often the result of improper use of fireworks and sparklers. Here are precautions you can take to prevent injuries:

  • Only adults should handle fireworks. While sparklers and other backyard fireworks might seem harmless, small children should never be allowed to handle them.
  • Never try to re-light fireworks that don’t work. Soak them with water instead. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher handy.
  • Be sure to light fireworks out of range of spectators.
  • Light fireworks on smooth, flat surfaces away from houses and flammable material.
  • Never place your body or face over fireworks.

Barbecue Grills

Whether you’re using a gas or charcoal grill, cooking out increases your risk of fire and potential burns. Gas grills have been linked to over 7,000 fires per year, but charcoal grills have potential fire risks, as well.

Propane grills

The ease of cooking with a propane grill makes it a very popular form of barbecuing. Propane is a flammable gas and should be handled accordingly, however. Propane grilling accidents tend to happen when the grill is left unattended, or just after the gas cylinder has been refilled and reattached. Be sure to check all of grill’s connections for leaks by spraying soapy water on them. If bubbles arise, then there’s a leak and you should turn off the tank valve and tighten connections. Also, never start a gas grill with the lid closed, as gas can accumulate inside when not in use.

Charcoal Grills

When using a charcoal grill, never use gasoline as a starter fluid. When using regular starter fluid, let the fluid set for a minute before lighting the coals as this allows the heavy concentration of vapors to disperse. And always place the container of fluid far away from the coals before starting before starting the fire.

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What Aphasia Looks Like, and What to do About it

Last week we learned about a patient who had Aphasia, and what it was like for him and his family. Each patient is different when it comes to rehabilitation, but every patient can benefit from a family member that is aware of their condition. Aphasia Awareness Month is the perfect time to learn more about this condition. When a patient experiences damage to the parts of the brain where language occurs, we call this “aphasia.” Aphasia can cause a person to lose their abilities to process language, be it in expression or comprehension.  Most often, the left side of the brain is the one responsible for aphasia and causes the affected person to encounter difficulties with speech and comprehension.

Many of our aphasia patients are stroke survivors. Although things like brain tumors and traumatic brain injury can also be responsible, stroke is most-often the culprit for the language struggles that we help our patients work through.

Common symptoms of aphasia:

Patients with aphasia often display issues with both comprehension and expression.

When most of the problems lie in the comprehension or reception of language, this is often classified as “Wernicke’s Aphasia.” While a sufferer can sometimes pick up on the melody or cadence of a sentence (determining if it’s a command or question, for example), they might have problems understanding the specific words that are being said. Since a person’s vocabulary is housed in the left side of the brain, understanding of words can sometimes be affected, as well as the concept of stringing words together to form a full thought.

When the issues mostly lie in the survivor’s ability to express themselves, it usually falls under the category of “Broca’s Aphasia.” In this case, the symptoms are more outwardly visible, as the patient struggles greatly with speech and the construction of sentences. Aphasia, in this case, can present itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes a patient will create something that sounds like a sentence, but is comprised of gibberish-like words. Other times, they might be able to get out enough words to get an idea across, but leave out small connecting words like “the” or “and.” When all areas of language are hindered, it is referred to as “global aphasia.”

Support

The range of symptoms that can occur during aphasia is wide and varied, but the factor that stays constant is a need of support. Through the support of family members, friends, and rehabilitative therapists, a person suffering from aphasia has a better chance of getting back on the road to understanding and function.

What can you do?

The word “aphasia” can be intimidating. While it is definitely a serious condition, it is one that can be worked with and, to some degrees, overcome.

Recognize… that aphasia has not affected the patient’s intelligence. It has altered their ability to communicate and understand language, but their personality, memories, and knowledge remains. Remembering that the same person you’ve always known resides behind this communication disorder can be grounding and encouraging.

Take the time… to learn your suffering family member’s struggles and specific communicative needs. After a period of routine, you’ll be able to discern how to understand and communicate with your loved one, bringing a sense of comfort and progress to the both of you.

Create… an environment that is conducive to focus and treatment. When a person has difficulty understanding the simplest of words, even the simplest of distractions can be a deterrent to progress. Eliminate extra sounds and excessive visual stimulations, so that your loved one can focus on the task at hand. Simplifying your questions to yes/no and slowing down your rate of speech can encourage success.

Explore… different methods of therapy. Sometimes drawing, writing, and even the encouragement of socialization can stimulate progress in a stroke survivor’s language. It is important to keep communication with your loved one’s therapist open so that you can learn about techniques that may be specifically helpful to your situation.

We understand that recovery is a process that can take its toll on not only the patient but their support systems as well. To alleviate some of the pressure, we encourage you to seek help from rehabilitative professionals, Speech-language pathologists being an ideal option, to make this process as successful as possible.

 

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Aphasia Awareness Month

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month, and, because aphasia is something the team here at Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital encounters frequently, we feel very strongly about spreading awareness of this condition.

Aphasia is a neurological condition that is acquired. This means that something, often a stroke, inflicts damage to the brain and causes normal functions to be interrupted or altered. In the case of aphasia, the damage occurs in the parts of the brain that are responsible for language. A patient suffering from aphasia will often have a difficult time reading and writing. Understanding and communicating with others can also be affected, and presents some very frustrating circumstances for both the patient and the caregiver. One thing to note is that while communication is affected, the intelligence and coherence of the patient is not necessarily altered. The American Psychological Association phrases it well:

“However, it is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, but they cannot use language to communicate what they know.”

This is a fundamental piece of information that we understand and want the rest of the world to understand as well. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Driver, the wife of a former Ernest Health patient, about their experience with aphasia rehabilitation at our facility, and it’s clear that she was well aware of this fact, too:

“He was still my Glen; he was still in there.  I knew he wasn’t gone, but he couldn’t get across the things he wanted to say.  I can’t imagine not being able to get people to understand what you’re trying (to say).”

Lisa was fully aware of the disconnect between Glen’s thoughts and his ability to communicate them. When discussing his frustration in therapy, she explained,

“He hated using the communication board, spelling things out, or using pictures. He wanted just to talk. The pictures were not what he wanted. He could not find the performed sentence or picture that matched what he had in his head.”

We use our interdisciplinary approach to care to provide a comprehensive experience that is efficient and complete. By assigning a team of specialists in different rehabilitation disciplines, we can ensure that a patient’s stay is quick and efficient, but also thoroughly attended to, so that no stones are left unturned.

Because of the frustrating disconnect between intention and actual communication, we know how important it is to be compassionate. The team here recognizes its responsibility to both the emotional and physical care of our patients.

When asked about their experiences over the four-month stay that the Drivers had with us, Lisa replied,

“The environment from day one… the administrative staff, nurses, therapists, cafeteria people, dieticians, housekeeping. They would not just come in and take out trash and mop.  They would visit with us, ask how he was doing, share about things in his life. We were there four months.  We would get excited when we would have a nurse rotate back to us.”

Aphasia is a frustrating and devastating condition that we see on a regular basis, and we feel that it deserves as much awareness as it can get. For more information, resources, and support for aphasia patients and their families, please visit the National Aphasia Association’s website.

If you or someone you know is struggling with aphasia, or if you’re simply exploring your options, please contact us. We can promise expertise, empathy, and compassion that can be heard in the testimonials of those who have worked with us previously.

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Diabetes in Men

There’s no better time than Men’s Health Month to discuss an issue that is unfortunately on the rise for men – diabetes. In fact, one of the biggest jumps in type 2 diabetes was among men, and the risk for diabetes usually increases with age. But a lack of understanding and education about the disease is a significant barrier when it comes to good health.

What is diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your body can’t properly control blood glucose. Food is normally broken down into glucose, a form of sugar, which is then released into the blood. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates cells to use glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when tissues in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Eventually, blood sugar levels begin to climb.

The Dangers of Diabetes

High glucose levels in the blood cause nerve damage, as well as damage to blood vessels. In turn, this damage can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, gum infections, blindness, as well as issues like erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea. Moreover, the death rate from heart disease is much higher for men who have diabetes, while amputation rates due to diabetes-related issues are higher for men than women.

Who is at risk?

As mentioned, the risk factor for type 2 diabetes usually increases with age, and it’s advised that testing for this disease should begin at age 45 – even in the absence of risk factors. Those risk factors include:

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little activity. Studies show that overweight people improve their blood sugar control when they become active.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar and low in fiber and whole grains.
  • Having a history of type 2 diabetes in your immediate family, such as a mother, father, sister or brother.
  • Those with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes also includes African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Aging – because the body becomes less tolerant of sugars as you get older.
  • People who have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of problems related to cholesterol.

What’s scary is that an estimated 7 million people in the United States don’t know that they have diabetes. Meanwhile, millions of people have elevated blood sugars that aren’t yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, but are considered to have prediabetes and are at greater risk for diabetes in the future. However, doctors can easily check for diabetes through blood tests that measure blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Any of the following are symptoms of diabetes, and you should get tested for the disease if you’re experiencing them:
  • An increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Preventing Diabetes

Diabetes clearly is a disease with serious health implications, but the good news is that the vast majority of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or significantly delayed through a combination of exercise and healthy eating. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 15 pounds) can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes. Cells in the muscles, liver, and fat tissue become resistant to insulin when you’re carrying excess weight. It’s recommended that you build up to 30 minutes of activity a day, five days a week.

Experts also say that a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – with small amounts of sugar and carbohydrates – can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

In many cases, lifestyle changes like the ones listed above can keep diabetes under control. Many people, however, need to take oral medications that lower blood sugar levels. When those aren’t effective, insulin injections (or insulin that’s inhaled) may be necessary, sometimes in conjunction with oral medication. Diabetes treatment has improved over the years, but controlling it still remains a challenge.

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How Men Handle Stress

Everyone deals with some stress, and we can sometimes shrug it off as just being part of day-to-day living. But dealing with too much stress has become a serious issue for a lot of men, who can experience several serious health issues as a result. Here’s a look at the dangers of stress, but also healthy ways to deal with it.

Stress and its Dangers

Stress is hardly a modern phenomenon; our ancient ancestors found it helpful for prompting fight-or-flight responses that came in handy when dealing with the physical dangers of their day. While that sort of response isn’t usually necessary in today’s world, it’s still an instinctual part of us, releasing hormones that trigger an increased heart rate and breathing, constricted blood vessels, and the tightening of muscles. And that’s what stress is all about, which in turn is linked to:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • A weakened immune system
  • And a variety of other issues, such as insomnia, depression, and fatigue. 

How to Deal With Stress

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to deal with the natural responses of stress. Your mental outlook is part of it, but so are things you can do physically that will help relieve stress and prevent it from becoming a hazard to your health.

1. Exercise

There’s not much that exercise won’t cure, and that certainly applies to stress. Exercise releases endorphins into the body that can give you a sense of ease and contentment, plus it removes you from the place/situation of stress and worry. Moreover, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop an anxiety disorder within the next five years. And that’s not to mention the positive effects exercise has on your physical health.

2. Accept What You Can’t Change

Some things, like bad weather, can cause stress, but they’re things that you have no control over. Accept the things you can’t change but look for ways to make the best of your circumstances. Spend a rainy day reading, or go outside and play in the snow like you did as a kid.

3. First Things First

Determine your most important tasks of the day and tackle those first. Those are usually the things that cause the most stress, and saving them for later, when you may not be as physically or mentally sharp as you were earlier in the day, can create undue stress. 

4. Laugh

When you continually treat stress with the over-serious attitude, chances are you’re only going to make it worse. It’s OK to laugh it off instead of getting defensive. You’ll ease anxiety and potentially defuse the situation.

5. Avoid Stressful Situations

Recent studies show that men’s stress levels rise significantly in situations such as traffic jams. If possible, figure out different routes, or time your driving to avoid rush hour. Similarly, shop at times when stores are less crowded and spend less time with people who aggravate you.

6. Schedule Wisely

Stress is usually a consequence when you over-schedule yourself or have a hard time saying no. Only take on what you can handle, and always give yourself time to finish the things you’ve promised to get done.

7. Deal With Stress Directly

A sure way to build stress is to do nothing about it. Deal directly, and quickly, with the cause of your tension. If you’re having problems at work, talk to your boss about possible solutions. If you have a noisy neighbor, talk to them rather than simmering in your stress.

8. Meditate

Meditation is beneficial in so many ways, not the least of which is the positive affect it has on dealing with stress. Try to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day in contemplation to help clear your mind. Yoga, tai chi, and contemplative prayer are other great ways to cut the tension.

9. Savor Victories

Do something nice for yourself if you finish a major project or meet a personal goal. No matter what you choose, it’s important to celebrate before moving on to the next big task.

10. Be Positive

Having a negative outlook can turn minor annoyances into major ones. Try to always look at the sunny side of things instead.

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Advantages of Adding Walking to Your Routine

With the temperatures beginning to rise slowly, and the sun showing its face for longer each day, there couldn’t be a better time to start a new exercise plan.

This doesn’t mean that you have to begin a rigorous weight-lifting regimen or start training for a marathon; it simply means that you’ve got more opportunities to get your body moving and breathe in some revitalizing fresh air.

One of the best ways to get active without causing too much stress or taking a large chunk of time out of your day is to go for a walk. The benefits of walking extend far beyond weight loss, and can contribute to significantly raising your quality of life.

Lift your mood.

Going for a walk, especially outside, is a great way to boost your spirits. Once you step out your front door, you’re improving your quality of life… even before you start your walk. The energizing effects of clean, fresh air coupled with the Vitamin D boost that comes from being out in the sunlight have been known to have revitalizing results.

Endorphins, the pain-blocking hormones that can sometimes produce a euphoric effect, are also released during exercise, making walking a low-impact way to experience those “feel good” chemicals.

Burn calories.

If weight loss is your goal, walking (in addition to healthy diet changes) is a fantastic way to burn calories and work toward the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. The amount of calories you burn will depend on your weight and speed, but the general rule of thumb states that a 160-pound adult is likely to burn 100 calories per mile.

Improve your overall health.

When it comes to exercise, there are, of course, more strenuous options than others. Fitness classes, jogging, and weightlifting, while different, all have at least one important thing in common: the benefit of movement.

When you get your body moving on a regular basis, you get to enjoy the benefits of better circulation, strengthened bones, and improved balance and coordination. This movement also supports the prevention and management of certain diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Socialize while you exercise.

Because walking is an exercise that can be done at your own pace, it has the potential to be a fun social activity as well as a way to improve your health. Try getting a group of friends together a few times a week for walking; you’ll be able to catch up with each other and get your body moving, all at the same time. An additional benefit to walking with other people is the accountability factor: there’s a better chance that you’ll stick to your exercise plan if you have others depending on you. Boosting your energy levels, mood, and social life? That’s definitely an exercise win/win.

As always…

Walking is typically a very low-impact exercise option for those who are just beginning in the world of exercise or who have physical restrictions that keep them from other activities. This doesn’t mean, however, that a walking regimen is right for everyone. If you have concerns or questions about the way a walking plan can benefit or affect your life, please talk to your doctor. Together, you’ll be able to come up with a plan that gets you moving and directs you toward better health.

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Which Workout Routine Works for You?

We all understand the importance of exercise for our health: physically, mentally, and emotionally. But, it can be easy to put off an exercise routine or to get into a rut. The changing of the seasons is a great time to incorporate new activities into your exercise regimen and try some exercises that you might not have considered.

With any start or change into an exercise regimen, it’s important to consult with your physician to make sure the changes you make will help and not hurt you. Below, we share some activities to help change up your workout routine, as well as some things to keep in mind to stay safe!

YARD WORK/GARDENING:

The growing grass and weeds of the season can be an excellent opportunity to get some extra exercise. The action of mowing not only provides an excellent cardio workout, but it also helps to build up muscles in the arms that might not normally get as much attention. Taking time to take the weeds out of your yard can be satisfying, relaxing, and be a great source of exercise to your core and arms.

Things to keep in mind: Make sure you’re mowing safely. Take breaks often, and make sure you stay hydrated. Mowing or weeding your yard can strain your back, making it a priority to listen to your body while doing this our back safe and allow you to still get a good workout. Make sure that you keep your body square as you reach for the weeds, and never reach behind to pull weeds. This will also help to protect your back and spine from injury.

WALKING/RUNNING:

If you have not tried walking or running, you’re in for a treat. It’s a great opportunity to burn some calories and enjoy being outside in the fresh air. Walking and running are also great ways to keep your back and spine healthy and strong, especially for those that have a job that requires you to sit throughout the day. To help give your calorie burn an extra boost, try running or walking in intervals: start at a comfortable speed for a minute or two, and then go faster for 30 seconds to a minute.

Things to keep in mind: Proper shoes will help protect your feet and spine, so choose to invest in a good pair. Practice proper running form to keep your body healthy as you exercise: keep your back and head straight, and keep your arms loose at a 90-degree angle. Don’t “pound” the pavement, but let your feet hit in the middle and then roll to the toes. You can also protect your knees by sticking to a pace that is within your range and gradually working up to faster speeds.

YOGA:

Yoga is one of our favorite exercise routines to help rehabilitate the body after a week of strengthening and cardio workouts. Yoga not only promotes stretching, strengthening, and flexibility, it also improves balance and coordination and helps to release any stress or tension. You will be surprised to see the results you gain from just one class/session a week.

Things to keep in mind: While yoga tends to be rehabilitative in nature, be careful not to overdo it. If you can’t complete a position correctly, consider using a yoga block to help you until you’re ready.

CYCLING:

Indoor and outdoor cycling has gained momentum as a fun way to get a heart-pumping workout. It also helps to take some pressure off the knees, which can be a downside to running. After one spin class, you’ll be surprised to see how many calories you have burned.

Things to keep in mind: As with walking and running, it’s important not to overdo it too soon. Part of what makes cycling such a great workout is that it boosts your heart rate very quickly. Work int a more rapid pace gradually, giving your body time to adjust. You also want to practice proper form: avoid “hunching” your shoulders as you hold the handlebars. It can put unwanted pressure on the neck and back.

KETTLEBELLS:

Kettlebells are another workout that has begun to gain popularity. One reason so many people like working with kettlebells is their diversity of use and exercises, and that they provide both a cardio and strength workout.

Things to keep in mind: As with any strength routine, it’s important to practice proper form. Make sure your feet are square, shoulder-width apart. Keep your head, neck, and back in line to avoid any problems. Stay within your weight limit and gradually work up to the heavier kettlebells.

The value of changing up your workouts is that it not only gets you out of rut but also helps your body exercise and stretch different muscles that you haven’t been working. As you try new and different classes and exercises, you’re likely to find something new that you love and enjoy.

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Making a Fitness Plan for You

Whether you’re beginning a therapy routine or revamping your New Year’s Resolution, the truth is the same across the board: exercise is beneficial. Exercise is good for your heart, your lungs, your muscles, and your mind. It contributes to better lifelong health and self-esteem. It’s simply a good idea all around, as long as you approach it the right way.

Exercise covers a broad landscape of options. From jogging or weight lifting to swimming or walking, there are many opportunities to find both what you love and what you should avoid.

FOCUS ON YOU.

The world of exercise and fitness can be full of expectations and deceptive successes. An exercise plan or nutritional change may have worked wonders for a celebrity or family member, but that doesn’t mean it’ll do the same for you. It’s important to isolate your needs and preferences and create an exercise plan that will complement your lifestyle.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.

Talking to your doctor before you start a new exercise plan is always a good idea. This can help prevent negative outcomes and help you achieve more satisfying results. Not only can a doctor tell you what to avoid to prevent injury, but they can also offer exercise suggestions based on your height and weight. This expertise will assist you in being as successful as possible in your endeavors.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery. The exercise options available nowadays are practically endless. If you enjoy working out in solitude, walking or jogging can provide some much-needed alone time. If dancing is a favorite activity, try a dance-based workout like Zumba or Jazzercise. Many gyms offer a variety of weight-lifting options, and water-based activities like swimming or water aerobics provide a low-impact workout for people with weak knees or other limiting conditions.

If you can’t afford the gym, or simply aren’t interested in going to one, purchasing a workout DVD or streaming exercise videos online can provide you instruction within the comfort of your home.

SET REALISTIC GOALS.

Be kind to yourself. Remember the fact that any exercise is usually better than no exercise, and that you’re probably not going to be able to run 10 miles right off the bat. Setting impossible goals or unrealistic expectations often leads to failure. Finding a fitness partner or family member who can help motivate you can be extremely helpful, especially in times of discouragement.

Talking to your doctor is a good way to get a realistic view of what you can accomplish based on your current physical ability.

NOURISH YOUR BODY.

If a healthy lifestyle is your goal, then an exercise plan must be paired with a healthy diet. Filling your body full of sugar and saturated fats will counteract the progress you’re making and can produce discouraging results. This, however, does not mean that you need to deprive yourself. Simply eating more fruits and vegetables while cutting down on rich and sugary foods will not only help you to feel better but will also provide your body with the necessary nutrients that it needs to carry out your exercise plan.

Proper nutrition during exercise is another great reason to talk with your doctor before you begin, as he or she will be able to counsel you on a diet that is right for you.

If you’ve come to the decision to adjust to a more healthy lifestyle, you’re already on the right path. Remember to drink plenty of water, be aware of your abilities and limits, and ask for help if you’re unsure of the right course of action.

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