Hazards of Sun Worshipping

Hazards of Sun WorshippingPeople enjoy the sun. Some have even worshiped it. Sunlight is essential to many living things. But sunlight also has a dangerous side. It can harm your skin and even your eyes. The good news is you can take some simple steps to protect your body from sun damage and still enjoy the sun’s healthful effects.

Our bodies were built to make good use of the sun. Sunlight helps keep our sleeping patterns on track so we can stay awake by day and sleep soundly at night. Getting too little sun, especially in winter months, can leave some people prone to a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder. Sunlight also helps our skin make vitamin D, which is needed for normal bone function and health. Yet sunlight can also cause damage.

Sunlight travels to Earth as a mixture of both visible and invisible rays, or waves. Long waves, like radio waves, are harmless to people. But shorter waves, like ultraviolet (UV) light, can cause problems. The longest of these UV rays that reach the Earth’s surface are called UVA rays. The shorter ones are called UVB rays.

Too much exposure to UVB rays can lead to sunburn. UVA rays can travel more deeply into the skin than UVB rays, but both can affect your skin’s health. When UV rays enter skin cells, they upset delicate processes that affect the skin’s growth and appearance.

Over time, exposure to these rays can make the skin less elastic. Skin may even become thickened and leathery, wrinkled, or thinned like tissue paper. “The more sun exposure you have, the earlier your skin ages,” says Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, a cancer prevention expert at NIH.

Your skin does have ways to prevent or repair such damage. The outermost layer of skin constantly sheds dead skin cells and replaces them. You might have noticed this type of skin repair if you’ve ever had a bad sunburn. Your skin may peel, but it usually looks normal in a week two.

“When you’re exposed to ultraviolet radiation, there’’s a repair process that goes on constantly in each one of your exposed cells,” says Dr. Stephen I. Katz, director of NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Still, long-term damage to your skin can remain.

As you get older, it becomes harder for skin to repair itself. Over time, UV damage can take a toll on your skin and its underlying connective tissue. As a result, your skin may develop more wrinkles and lines.

Too much sun exposure can also raise your risk for skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States. When UV light enters skin cells, it can harm the genetic material (called DNA) within.

DNA damage can cause changes to cells that make them rapidly grow and divide. This growth can lead to clumps of extra cells called a tumor, or lesion. These may be cancerous (malignant) or harmless (benign).

Skin cancer may first appear as a small spot on the skin. Some cancers reach deep into surrounding tissue. They may also spread from the skin to other organs of the body.

Each year, more than 2 million people are treated for 2 types of skin cancer: basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. These cancers are seen in both older and younger people, and they’re rarely life-threatening.

Melanoma is a less common but more serious type of skin cancer that’s diagnosed in more than 68,000 Americans each year. Another 48,000 are diagnosed with an early form of the disease that involves only the top layer of skin. Melanomas arise from the cells that provide pigment (color) to the skin.

Your risk for melanoma is higher if members of your family have had skin cancer or if you’ve already had melanoma or other skin cancers. A major risk factor for melanoma is having a large number of moles, or having large flat moles with irregular shapes. Sunburns, especially during childhood, may also raise your risk for melanoma.

“If you’ve had skin cancers in the past, then you’re at a particularly high risk for developing another skin cancer,” Kramer says. “Over the long run, there is a high rate of new lesions developing.”

“One of the major factors affecting skin health is genetics, which determines the pigment content of your skin. This affects how much protection you have from natural sunlight,” explains Katz. Although darker-skinned people have a lower risk for sun-related damage and disease, people of all races and skin color can still get skin cancer.

“Certain genetic mutations contribute to melanoma onset in certain people. You find much less non-melanoma skin cancer in African Americans, people from the Middle East, or even Asians from the Near East,” Katz says.

The best way to protect skin health and prevent skin cancer is to limit sun exposure. Avoid prolonged time in the sun, and choose to be in the shade rather than in direct sunlight. Wear protective clothing and sunglasses, and use sunscreen between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunscreen is especially important at that time, when the sun’s rays are most intense.

“The time to really start sun protective behavior is not when you reach adulthood, but years before,” Kramer says. “The message to parents is, now is the time to start protecting your child against skin damage from sun overexposure, when your child is developing sun exposure habits and when they have many more years of potential sun exposure ahead of them.” Among other skin-protecting habits, teach children and teens to avoid the use of tanning beds.

Sunscreens come labeled with a sun protection factor (SPF), such as 15, 30, or 50. A sunscreen labeled SPF 15 means it will take you 15 times as long to get a sunburn as it would if you had no sunscreen on. A sunscreen labeled SPF 30 means it would take you 30 times as long to burn.

The effectiveness of sunscreens is affected by several factors. A sunscreen’s active ingredients can break down over time, so be sure to check the expiration date on the container. The amount of sunscreen you use and how often you use it affects your protection from the sun. Perspiration and time spent in the water can also reduce sunscreen effectiveness.

Some people look to the sun as a source of vitamin D, but it takes just a brief time in the sun to do the trick. “You need very little exposure, something like 10 to 15 minutes a day to the backs of your hands, arms, and face—to get enough,” Katz says.

Several factors, like cloudy days or having dark-colored skin, can reduce the amount of vitamin D your skin makes. But you can also get vitamin D from foods or dietary supplements. Check with your health care provider about whether you should be taking vitamin D supplements.

Limit time in the sun to protect your skin against early wrinkles, damage, and disease. “Being sun smart is a good thing,” Katz says. And if you spot a suspicious mark on your skin, Kramer advises, be sure to get it checked out.

-Stay in the shade. Limit sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when sunlight is most intense.
-Use sunscreen. Get sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection. If you have very light skin, use SPF 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going outside. Reapply often, at least every 2 hours. Don’t skimp.
-Protect your eyes. Choose sunglasses that protect the sides of your eyes and that are labeled to guard against both UVA and UVB.
-Cover your skin. Protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat can help reduce sun exposure.
-Avoid indoor tanning. Tanning beds and sun lamps use special light bulbs that speed up tanning but also deliver harmful UV rays, increasing your risk for skin damage and cancer.

Contributed by News in Health (NIH)
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Stephanie Clipper, Vicki Contie, and Alan Defibaugh (illustrations)

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Preventing the Pain of Tendinitis

Preventing the Pain of TendinitisYou’ve probably heard of such sports injuries as tennis elbow or jumper’s knee. These are just two examples of tendinitis, a painful condition caused by overusing and straining the joints in your body.

Tendons are the tough but flexible bands of tissue that connect muscle to bones. You have about 4,000 tendons throughout your body. Tendons make it possible for you to bend your knee, rotate your shoulder, and grasp with your hand.

Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon. (When you see “itis” at the end of a medical word, it means inflammation.) In tendinitis, the tendon gets inflamed and can rub against bone, making movement painful.

Tendinitis is usually caused by repeated motion, stress, or injury to certain muscles or joints. A sports or job-related injury is a common way to get tendinitis, but the condition can happen to anyone. Your risk for tendinitis also increases with age. “Tendons lose health as we get older and become less able to handle the load,” says Dr. Evan Flatow, an orthopedist at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

Any activity that requires repetitive wrist turning or hand gripping, jumping or bending, pulling, pushing, or lifting can irritate the tendons. Some of the most common places to get the condition are in the shoulders, elbows, hands, wrists, knees, and ankles. Gardeners, carpenters, musicians, and other people whose work regularly places stress around the same tendons are at increased risk for developing tendinitis.

If treated early, tendinitis is usually a short-term condition. But it can come back if the tendon is aggravated over and over again. If tendinitis keeps affecting the same area over time, the tendon can weaken and tear or break.

If you have pain or swelling—and especially if you can’t move a joint at all—contact a primary care doctor or an orthopedist. They can perform tests to pinpoint the exact areas of inflammation. You may also get an MRI scan or X-ray to check for a tear in the tendon or rule out other conditions, such as arthritis.

The first step in treating tendinitis is to reduce pain and swelling. Be sure to rest the swollen tendon so it can heal. “We have to break the cycle of inflammation to allow therapy to work,” Flatow says. A doctor may prescribe medicines that relieve inflammation (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), give steroid injections, or give you a splint or brace. Then gentle exercises can help strengthen the tendon.

If a tendon becomes torn, surgery might be needed to repair the damage. NIH-funded researchers such as Flatow are working to develop new ways to repair and regenerate tendons without surgery.

Regular physical activity helps keep muscles, bones, and tendons strong, and can lower your risk of injury and tendinitis. But be careful not to overdo it so you don’t injure yourself.

“Keep joints limber,” Flatow advises. “Warm up and stretch before physical activity to prevent sudden injury.” Take care of your tendons so they can keep you painlessly bending and flexing your muscles long into old age.

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What is the Air Quality Index?

What is the Air Quality Index?Here in Florida we use sun protection all year long, but this time of the year brings more media attention the the Air Quality Index.

What is the Air Quality Index?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) monitors the condition of the air around us, if it is clean or how polluted it may be, and what associatied health effects might be a concern for you.

The Air Quality Index, which is updated daily, measures five major air pollutants:
-Ground-level ozone
-Particle pollution (particulate matter)
-Carbon monoxide
-Sulfur dioxide
-Nitrogen dioxide

The AQI scale runs from 0 – 500. The higher the value, the greater risk the air is to your health. 100 is generally accepted as the standard where air quality is satisfactory. Levels over 100 are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups of people at first, and then for everyone as the level rises.

Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern. The six levels of health concern and what they mean are:

Good AQI is 0 – 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
Moderate AQI is 51 – 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups AQI is 101 – 150. Although general public is not likely to be affected at this AQI range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air. .
Unhealthy AQI is 151 – 200. Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects. .
Very Unhealthy AQI is 201 – 300. This would trigger a health alert signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.
Hazardous AQI greater than 300. This would trigger a health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.

Those in sensitive groups include: older people, those with lung disease/conditions, and children.

EPA has assigned a specific color to each AQI category, as seen in the picture, to make it easier for people to understand quickly whether air pollution is reaching unhealthy levels in their communities. For example, the color orange means that conditions are “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” while red means that conditions may be “unhealthy for everyone,”

NOTE: (This link: http://www.weather.com/activities/health/airquality/ loads faster than the one found below.)

Check your air quality by zip code or state before you head outside, to be sure you are safe, or taking proper precautions.

Use the “state” option rather than “zip code”, and look for the readings closest to your area of concern.

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Process to Select New Veterans Health Chief Initiated

Process to Select New Veterans Health Chief InitiatedWASHINGTON – Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson today initiated the process of selecting the next head of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

“This is one of the most important jobs in government today,” said Acting Secretary Gibson. “This is the largest integrated healthcare system in the country. We need a leader who will be a change agent and deliver necessary reforms to provide our Veterans timely access to the world-class healthcare they’ve earned and deserve. The expert panel we’ve assembled to recommend our new health chief understands the urgency and the seriousness of the task ahead, and I’m grateful for their efforts.”

A commission comprised of nine healthcare experts and industry leaders will meet in Washington to assess a series of candidates to serve as the next Under Secretary for Health for the Veterans Health Administration.

The commission includes:
-Nancy Adams, RN, Major General Retired, American Academy of Nursing Fellow
-Garry Augustine, Washington Headquarters Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans
-Delos Cosgrove, M.D., President and CEO, Cleveland Clinic
-Lt. General Patricia Horoho, Army Surgeon General and Commander, U.S Army Medical Command
-Kenneth W. Kizer, M.D., M.P.H., Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Population Health Improvement, University of California Davis Health System
-Jennifer Lee, M.D., Virginia Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services
-John E. Prescott, M.D., Chief Academic Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges
-Jose D. Riojas, Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
-Bob Wallace, Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars

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Pod Yoga Studio Ribbon Cutting in Fernandina

Pod Yoga Studio Ribbon Cutting in FernandinaThere is a Ribbon Cutting at noon, Friday, June 20 at the Pod Yoga Studio located at 910 S. 8th Street in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

After holding classes at the Peck Recreation Center, Pod Yoga now has its own studio in the Amelia Office Suites, located on 8th Street between Jasmine and Indigo. The Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce will celebrate the opening of Pod Yoga’s new location with a ribbon cutting at noon.

The ribbon cutting is part of an open house from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. June 20. The open house will feature a Yogapod Flow demonstration as well as healthy hors d’oeuvres and fresh juices. Be sure to enter in a drawing for a free class and free Yogapod Flow manual!

Come join the AIFBY Chamber in welcoming studio owner and Yogapod and Yogapod Flow creator and developer Brenda C. Kayne to the Chamber and wishing her success in her new studio.

The Pod Yoga Studio offers seated yoga classes on Yogapods, specialized ottomans that encourage freedom of movement and all the other benefits of traditional yoga. They teach “Yogapod Flow,” a breath-based, vinyasa (flowing) yoga practice. Their moving meditation restores, energizes and strengthens.

All classes are small and emphasize a non-hierarchical continuum of movement and sustained post (Pods and mats are supplied). They also offer private sessions, theme-based workshops, Yogapod Flow teacher training and Yogapod Flow practices at the beach.

They also have a room rental program for meetings and gatherings, and they have a small, rotating art gallery that promotes a yoga sensibility. Customized Yogapods are available for purchase at the Pod Yoga Studio for home practice.

For more information, visit www.yogapod.net.

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Confirmed Cases of Measles Highest Since the Year 2000

 Confirmed Cases of Measles Highest Since the Year 2000Image found on thepediablog.com

Measles is an illness that can lead to death and other serious complications, and it is highly contagious. Though measles elimination (interruption of year-round endemic transmission) was declared in the year 2000, this viral infection has seen more confirmed cases this year. This sparked the need for health care providers to heighten their community’s awareness and to remind the public of the importance of vaccination to prevent measles according to an early Morbidity and Mortality report on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/_wk.html.

Symptoms include a generalized rash lasting three or more days, a temperature of about 101 degrees fahrenheit, nasal and/or eye irritation and a cough.

97% of the recent cases were associated with imporations from at least 18 countries, including the Philippines, where a large outbreak has been occuring since October 2013.

288 Measle cases were reported during January first through May 23, 2014 telling us vaccination coverage, including before travel, and early detection and isolation are key factors to limit the spread of this disease.

We should all be concerned.

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Governor Signs Budget with American Cancer Society’s Priorities

Governor Signs Budget with American Cancer Society's Priorities
As a volunteer for our local Fernandina Beach/Yulee Relay for Life, I recently received the following email and I want to share it with you! -Judie

Governor Rick Scott signed the state budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1st, and it includes funding for all three of the ACS CAN Florida Division’s legislative priorities:

Mary Brogan Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program – The program will receive $1.8 million in state funding, the highest amount ever provided by the legislature. This marks the third year in a row that Florida has invested its own dollars to augment the federal screening program for medically-underserved women.

Biomedical Research – The King and Bankhead-Coley Programs will receive $10 million each for FY 2014-15 for a total of $20 million for Florida’s competitively bid, peer-reviewed programs. A number of institutions engaged in cancer research in Florida also received direct funding for a total of $35.3 million allocated specifically for biomedical research. Additionally, $60 million will be provided to Florida-based cancer centers to help those institutions either preserve or attain their NCI designation. In sum, a total of $95.3 million will be invested in cancer treatment and research for the coming year.

Tobacco Prevention and Education – The program will receive $66.6 million for FY 2014-15, with all contracts awarded through the state to now include performance measures and measurable outcomes based upon the Centers for Disease Control’s best practices.

A detailed 2014 Session Summary can be accessed using the following link:

We are grateful to the Governor and Legislature for their leadership in funding these mission critical programs that will help reduce cancer incidence and mortality in our state. Most of all, thank you for your unwavering commitment to our mission, and for the important role YOU played in a highly successful legislative session.

Yours in the Fight,

Heather Youmans
Florida Government Relations Director
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

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Learn to Breathe Easier with Asthma

Learn to Breathe Easier with AsthmaMost people have little trouble climbing a flight of stairs or taking a brisk walk, but these simple activities can be tough for someone with asthma. Although there’s no cure, you can breathe easier by knowing how to keep the condition under control.

Asthma is a common, long-lasting disease that affects the lungs. It can begin in childhood or adulthood. More than 25 million Americans have asthma, including 7 million children. Without proper care, asthma can become serious, even deadly. But most people with asthma learn to manage the disease so they have few symptoms or none at all.

Major symptoms of asthma include wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing), shortness of breath, coughing that’s worse at night and early morning, and chest tightness. These symptoms arise from reactions that narrow the airways, the tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. When symptoms flare up, it’s called an asthma attack.

The airways of people with asthma are prone to inflammation, which causes the airways to swell and narrow. They become extra sensitive to certain substances that are breathed in. These are called triggers.

Asthma triggers can worsen inflammation and cause the muscles around the airways to tighten, further shrinking air passages and making it harder to breathe. Cells in the airways might also produce excess mucus (a sticky, thick liquid), making the airways even narrower.

Common asthma triggers include cigarette smoke, air pollution, mold, house dust mites, and furry animal dander. Other asthma triggers include weather changes, exercise, stress, and respiratory infections like common colds.

“Preventing such infections is important,” stresses Dr. Stewart Levine, an asthma expert at NIH. “People who have asthma should also obtain a flu shot, as they may be at higher risk for flu-related complications.”

Asthma is one of the most common causes of chronic (long-term) illness in children—and some symptoms appear more often in children than in adults. “Children have smaller airways, so if they have asthma, they tend to wheeze more often, particularly during the night,” says Dr. Robert Lemanske, Jr., a pediatric asthma expert at the University of Wisconsin.

Some preschool age children frequently wheeze when they get colds but don’t go on to develop chronic asthma. “But some kids start wheezing at age 3, and the problem continues,” says Lemanske. “These kids also tend to be more allergic.”

A doctor will test for asthma by doing a physical exam and asking about your medical history to learn when and how often your symptoms occur. Your doctor may also ask you to breathe in and blow out into the tube of a spirometer. This device measures how much air you can breathe out and how fast you can do it.

“It’s sometimes tough to do a spirometry test on young children,” says Dr. Michelle Freemer, an NIH asthma expert. For youngsters, a doctor will do a physical exam and may perform other tests to identify possible asthma triggers.

Whether you’re young or older, it’s important to know how to manage your asthma. Work with your doctor to develop a written asthma action plan. Your action plan should spell out the daily treatment plan to help control your asthma. This may include recommendations for medications and for avoiding exposure to your triggers. The action plan should also give specific instructions for what to do when asthma symptoms start and what actions to take if symptoms worsen, including when to seek medical attention, go to the hospital, or call an ambulance.

“Patients with asthma should have an action plan, so they know if they’re getting into trouble and what to do about it,” Freemer says.

For some patients, Freemer notes that a hand-held device called a peak flow meter can help you monitor your asthma. You blow into the device to measure how strongly your lungs can force air out. If the meter shows that your air flow is lower than normal, you can use your action plan to adjust your treatment.

“There are 2 main types of medicines for managing asthma: quick-relief and long-term controllers,” says Levine. Quick-relief medicines—such as short-acting bronchodilator inhalers—are used to relax the muscles in the airways to make it easier to breathe within a few minutes. If exercise is an asthma trigger, doctors may recommend taking this medicine 5 to 15 minutes before exercise or strenuous activity.

Long-term control medicines, such as inhaled corticosteroids, are used every day to help control symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. “Inhaled corticosteroids are recommended as the preferred long-term control medications for most children and adults,” says Freemer. “Taken daily, they help reduce inflammation to control the disease.”

If young children have trouble taking inhaled medications, there are masks and other devices that can help. Some kids are given a nebulizer, a portable machine that releases medicine in a mist.

A small percentage of people with asthma have a hard time controlling their symptoms even when they take their medicines regularly. Their airways become extremely inflamed and particularly sensitive to asthma triggers. They wheeze more, wake more throughout the night, and are at greater risk for breathing failure and trips to urgent care. If your asthma is severe, see a specialist to identify the most appropriate, personalized treatment.

The underlying causes of asthma are still unclear. Researchers believe asthma is caused by a combination of your genes and environmental factors. If you have allergies or a parent who has asthma, you’re at increased risk for the disease. Obesity and exposure to cigarette smoke may also raise the risk of developing asthma. NIH scientists are continuing to investigate the causes of this disease.

Researchers are also working to develop new approaches to help prevent and treat asthma. Levine’s team is studying the effects of house dust mites inside the home. While exposing mice to dust mites, the researchers identified a protein in the lung that blocked the development of asthma. With further research, the finding may eventually lead to new approaches for preventing or controlling asthma symptoms in people.

If you or your loved ones have asthma, identify your triggers and try to avoid them. Monitor your symptoms, and take prescribed medications regularly.

“For most people with asthma, if you take your prescribed medicines and stay away from the triggers, you’ll do well,” Levine says. Keep your asthma under control so you can keep living life to the fullest.

This article was provided by News in Health (http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/).
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), and Dana Steinberg.

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2014 National Men’s Health Week and Father’s Day

2014 National Men's Health Week and Father's DayA statement by Deputy Secretary Bill Corr:

National Men’s Health Week, June 9-15, which concludes with Father’s Day, is a good time to focus on how men can take control of their health. That includes eating right, being active, and taking advantage of certain preventive services, such as screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurers must cover recommended preventive services at no out-of-pocket charge. The affordable health coverage that more than 8 million Americans signed up for through the Health Insurance Marketplace is a crucial step that they have taken to invest in their health, as well as their families’ security and peace of mind.

The next open enrollment period starts in November, but you may be able to sign up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace before then under special circumstances, such as getting married, having a child, or losing job-based coverage.

We encourage all men to schedule a check-up with their health care provider and get the care they need to get and stay healthy. And to the wonderful men in our lives: Happy Father’s Day!

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Get Active to Celebrate Older Americans Month

 Get Active to Celebrate Older Americans MonthPhysical activity supports healthy aging and we all need to get more active and support Older Americans Month.

Seriously? Yes!

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things older adults can do for their health and independence. It can help prevent, delay, or manage many of the health problems that can come with age such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Regular physical activity can also help keep thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp. It can reduce the risk of depression and may help improve sleep. Some activities such as Tai Chi can help improve balance. If you are not getting regular physical activity, this month is a perfect time to start.

How Much and What Kinds of Physical Activity Do You Need?

Someone who is 65 years of age or older and generally fit can essentially follow the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines: -Two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and weight training muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
-One hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and weight training muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
-An equivalent mix of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and weight training muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

When older adults are not able to meet the guidelines, they should engage in regular physical activity according to their specific abilities. A health care provider can help match physical activities to abilities. Remember, some physical activity is better than none and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. All adults should avoid inactivity.

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Addressing the Veterans Healthcare Issues

Addressing the Veterans Healthcare IssuesThe following press release is a message from the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Sloan D. Gibson:

“Not all Veterans are getting the timely access to the healthcare that they have earned. Systemic problems in scheduling processes have been exacerbated by leadership failures and ethical lapses. I will use all available authority to swiftly and decisively address issues of willful misconduct or mismanagement.

VA’s first priority is to get all Veterans off waiting lists and into clinics while we address the underlying issues that have been impeding Veterans’ access to healthcare. The President has made clear that this is his expectation.

Even as we implement these immediate actions, we will work with Veterans Service Organizations, members of Congress, academia, public and private organizations, and with all other agencies and institutions that can help us move forward.

We will also continue to depend on the faithful service of VA employees and leaders who place the interests of Veterans above their own, those who serve Veterans with dignity, compassion, and dedication, and who live by VA’s core values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.

Finally, as we accelerate our access to care, we will not lose sight of the fact that the quality of VA healthcare remains strong. Ten years of external validations have consistently shown that, on average, Veterans who use VA healthcare rate our hospitals and clinics as high or higher in customer satisfaction than patients give most of the Nation’s private sector hospitals.

On behalf of all Veterans, I express my appreciation to Secretary Shinseki for his leadership of VA. For decades to come, Veterans will benefit from the transformation begun in the past five years.

Thank you for your support and dedication to Veterans and our mission to serve them.”

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Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Tick Bites and Lyme DiseaseWhen warm weather arrives, you might get the urge to walk barefoot through the grass. But before you stroll through your lawn or head out on a hiking trail, you’ll want to protect yourself and your loved ones from ticks that often lurk in tall grass, thick brush, and wooded areas. Many ticks carry disease, so do what you can to keep ticks from taking a bite out of you.

Tick-borne diseases are found in many areas across the country, and they’re on the rise. The diseases are often clustered in specific regions. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, for instance, occurs mainly in the mid-Atlantic and southern states.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness. It’s found mainly in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Each year, more than 30,000 cases are reported in the United States, and many more likely go unreported. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 300,000 Americans get Lyme disease each year.

Ticks are tiny 8-legged creatures that can be hard to see. Deer ticks—which can carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease—are especially small. The young “nymphs” are only the size of poppy seeds. Adult deer ticks aren’t much larger—about the size of a sesame seed. If an infected deer tick chooses you for its next blood meal, that bite can transmit Lyme disease or another infection to you.

“Ticks can be so tiny that most people who get Lyme disease don’t recall a tick bite,” says Dr. Adriana Marques, a Lyme disease expert at NIH. But if you have symptoms of the disease, she says, “The earlier you get treated, the better.”

Tick-borne diseases tend to share certain symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle or joint pain, and extreme fatigue. People with Lyme disease usually get an expanding red rash that sometimes resembles a bull’s-eye. “The rash is usually tender, not painful or itchy, so people may not realize they’re sick,” says Marques.

If left untreated, the infection can spread and cause rashes in other parts of the body. Some people may develop nerve problems, arthritis, or other disorders. But even if Lyme disease isn’t caught until later stages, most people fully recover after treatment with antibiotics.

Of course, the best way to avoid Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is to prevent tick bites in the first place. Most bites from disease-causing ticks occur in the spring and summer months, when ticks are most active and when people are spending more time outside.

Help keep ticks off your skin by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and long socks. You can also ward off ticks by using an insect repellant that contains at least 20% DEET (for the skin) or permethrin (for clothes). To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails and steer clear of tall vegetation.

If you’ve been in an area where ticks are common, bathe or shower as soon as possible, and wash or tumble your clothes in a dryer on high heat. Check your body carefully for ticks. They dig and burrow into the skin before they bite and feed. Removing ticks right away can help prevent disease. If you develop a rash or fever after removing a tick, see your doctor.

So watch out for ticks! Make a habit of tick prevention as you venture into the great outdoors.

How to remove a tick:
-Use fine-tipped tweezers.
-Grab the tick close to the skin and gently pull upward to remove the entire tick.
-Don’t use home remedies like petroleum jelly, nail polish, or a lit match to try to detach ticks.
-After removing the tick, clean the bite area and wash your hands thoroughly.
-If you develop a fever, severe headaches, or a rash within weeks of removing the tick, see a doctor.

This article was written by News in Health (NIH).
Managing Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D., Editor: Vicki Contie, Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations) and Dana Steinberg.

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The Hazards of a Florida Summer

spiderWhen I saw this story once again (since 1999) going around on Facebook warning us that there is a NEW POISONOUS SPIDER IN THE UNITED STATES, I felt inclined to educate the ignorant on the hazards of a Florida Summer. As the story goes, the venomous ‘two-striped telamonia’ spider lurks beneath toilet seats in public restrooms ready to bite you in the butt and kill you. False says SNOPES

But now that the weather has almost overnight turned from winter to summer, a lot of critters are anxious to reintroduce themselves into our lives. Whether indoors or outside, venomous spiders are a part of Florida living, as are snakes, gators, yellow flies, yellow jackets, hornets and mosquitos and here at the beach, we also entertain the nuisance called no-seams, during dusk especially.

So what do we need to be aware of?

Summertime is perfect to be barefoot outside, but of course, some of those buggers will also make their way into our homes, where many of us are barefoot more often. My bare feet are stuck underneath my computer desk as I type this and on occasion I nervously rub them together, to shake off whatever may be lurking down there!! Just in case.

A particularly troublesome bug is the spider and feet aren’t the only body parts they attack. There are only less than a handful of deadly spiders in the U.S., most famously the Black Widow, which has been spotted in 49 states. (Alaska still appears to be safe.)  But other spiders can also produce a very itchy bite that seems to take forever to go away and sometimes leaves a (semi) permanent mark.
Since nobody wants to run to the doctor every time an insect or arachnid stings or bites, for cot reasons alone already. But spider bites can be serious, and it’s therefore a good idea to learn how to identify those bites and what kind of treatment is best. In addition to itching and pain, some spider bites can cause skin damage, infection, muscle aches, cramping throughout the body, and chest and abdominal pain.
And yes, some people have died from spider bites.
The hobo spider is a non-native species of spider that originally came to the United States from Europe. The spider is found in the northwest portion of the country, and probably arrived in the 1920s, getting into the country accidentally in packages and crates that were shipped from overseas. The hobo spider is brown with no special markings, but it has a potentially dangerous bite that produces distinctive symptoms.

Spider bites can be deadly and painful. It’s important to be able to recognize spider bite symptoms quickly after they appear. Starting spider bite treatment early can make all the difference. By looking at some pictures of spider bites and reading a little advice you can be way ahead in the event of getting bit.

For everyone living in the U.S.,remember there are only three types of potentially deadly spider bites in the U.S.:

• Brown Recluse spider bite (southern two-thirds of the country)
• Hobo Spider bite (out west)
• Black Widow spider bite (everywhere except Alaska)

The Brown Recluse likes to hide in boxes, books, and other hard to reach places. They are often found around human habitations, outdoors under rocks and bark as well as indoors in houses, schools, sheds, and barns. The brown recluse is about 1/2 inch long. It is brown and bears a violin-shaped dorsal stripe on its cephalothorax.Their bites can be mild to serious and occasionally fatal. As of 1984, at least 5 deaths had been reported from their bites in the USA. Their hemolytic or cytotoxic venom is dangerous because of its toxic effect on cells. The toxins in the bite kill the cells surrounding the puncture, producing a black gangrenous spot. Often, the skin proceeds to peel away from the area around the wound, exposing the underlying tissues. In extreme cases, an area 6 inches across can be severely affected and, since the wounds are slow to heal, they leave a very unpleasant scar.

Other symptoms can be:

• Headache
• Nausea
• Abdominal cramps
• Joint stiffness
• High fever
• Possible kidney failure if left untreated

The brown recluse spider doesn’t spin webs, but likes to crawl around to hunt. They are often found lurking in the basement or in the garage. To kill brown recluse spiders, grab a vacuum and go around your house cleaning under and around things. Suck up any spiders you may find.
A more effective way to kill the brown recluse spiders in your home is to use brown recluse traps. These can be bought online and are made specifically for brown recluse spiders. They attract brown recluse spiders with a sweet scent and then of course kill them.

The Widows

Florida has four species of venomous Widow spiders, of which two, the Southern Black Widow and the Brown Widow may be found around buildings. The Northern Black Widow is found only in the Florida Panhandle and makes its web at the end of low tree branches. The Red Widow is mainly found in sand scrub habitat in central and south central Florida.Their venom is neurotoxic (affects nervous system).

A bite victim may feel the following symptoms:

• Painful rigidity in abdominal muscles
• Tightness in the chest
• Increased blood pressure
• Rise in body temperature
• Nausea and Sweating
• Death is uncommon but may happen in the elderly or very young usually from asphyxia 14-32 hours after being bitten.

Hobo Spiders

Dry Bites: As many as half of all people bitten by hobo spiders will have no symptoms. This is because the bites are “dry”, meaning that the spider failed to inject any of its venom into the person.

Early Signs: When venom is injected into a bite, the area will become numb within 15 minutes, with other parts of the body, such as the tongue, possibly feeling numb as well. It will begin to turn red, and become swollen and hard within 18 hours.

Blistering: After a span of 24 hours, the hobo spider bite will start to blister in the middle of the wound. During this time, the victim may experience bad headaches and suffer from visual or auditory hallucinations.

Serious Symptoms: The blister will break open on the second day and ooze fluids, eventually scabbing over in about 3 weeks. In severe cases, after 2 to 3 days the area can become black, and in 10 days the flesh in the region of the bite may rot, requiring surgical intervention.
The hobo spider bite will leave a scar. In some instances, it can be as long as 2 or 3 years before the bite heals completely.

Here are a few hints on how to identify a spider bite.

Evaluate the Pain

If you feel pain when the spider bites, it’s likely a black widow spider bite, whose bite is often but not always painful. You may also develop severe body aches and fever.
A brown recluse spider bite is a slight sting at best. Most of the time you feel nothing. They hide in or under boxes, under your bed sheets, in your clothes. The first you know about it is the pain that develops several minutes to hours after the bite.
As a brown recluse spider bite progresses it takes a nasty turn. You may not know when it a brown recluse bites you, but when the bite area becomes red, blistered, or black you know it’s a brown recluse. The area starts out small, and the redness spreads. A black spot of dead tissue develops in the middle of the redness. This dead tissue can be anything from small and superficial to deep and large—sometimes enough to warrant a skin graft when everything’s said and done. As the tissue dies, the area becomes very painful.

Now the hobo spider can cause skin damage, but less so than the brown recluse, while the black widow spider bite causes a red spot that’s sometimes hard to see, but another symptom will be much more obvious; it usually causes painful muscle aches and cramping throughout the body for one to three weeks.

Poisonous Spider Bite Treatment:

If at all possible, get to a doctor. If you can’t, consider the following:
If you think the spider was a brown recluse or hobo spider:
keep the wound cool and slow your breathing. This will help slow the venom’s spread: Apply ice, and keep the area at heart level or above.
Even though bites are rarely fatal, secondary infections can quickly turn so. The next step you need to do is make sure you do everything possible to prevent infection.
As the black layer of dead skin (eschar) sloughs off, treat the wound as you would any other, by keeping it clean and covered and applying antibiotic ointment or honey. Some large wounds take several weeks to heal. If it starts looking infected, you’ll need oral antibiotics.

Treat the pain.

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
If you think the spider was a black widow take a pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin for the muscle cramps.
Within minutes to hours, a black widow bite can lead to severe chest and abdominal pain mimicking appendicitis or a heart attack. It can make your blood pressure go up and may need to be treated. (Possible signs include an quickened pulse and a flushed face.)
If you can’t get to a doctor, rest to try to lower the blood pressure.
The good news is that these days, thanks to anti-venom, it’s extremely  rare to die from a spider bite and those that do are typically caused by an allergic reaction or a severe secondary infection.
That being said, most people are still terrified of spiders and shake out their sheets before hopping into bed.

Last but not least, I’d suggest, if it’s got eight legs and bit someone, try and recover the critter, no matter how small, and give it to medical staff when being treated so it can be properly identified.

Now there are a dozen other spiders in the State that are intriguing if not fascinating to learn about HERE at http://floridabackyardspiders.com


Tomorrow we’ll talk about the six venomous snakes that are indigenous  to Florida — the eastern diamondback, pigmy rattler, canebrake rattler, cottonmouth (commonly called a water moccasin), copperhead and coral snake.

Honoring EMS Workers this Week

Honoring EMS Workers this WeekA statement from Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

This week, our nation honors emergency medical service (EMS) professionals for their dedication to public service.

Over the past century, the field of emergency medical services has grown from hospital interns who rode in horse-drawn carriages transporting the sick and injured in a few cities during the 1800s. Today our nation draws on diverse network of nearly a million EMS physicians, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, dispatchers, and support staff in every community. With each passing year, EMS has demonstrated increasing importance in our nation’s health care system.

EMS practitioners serve our nation in its darkest hours and at a moment’s notice. In recent months, they provided care after a deadly mudslide in Washington state, in the aftermath of a tornado in Arkansas, and when a gunman opened fire in a Navy facility in Washington, D.C. EMS practitioners work just as diligently to protect health and save lives in every American town and city every day in emergencies large or small.

At HHS, we recognize the connection between the care patients receive through the primary care providers, the acute care provided by emergency medical services practitioners and the care provided in emergency departments. We know that a seamless health care system is required, day in and day out, for our nation’s health security.

To that end, we are working on a wide variety of projects. Among them: We are partnering with EMS practitioners to link EMS records with other electronic health record systems and health information exchanges.

We also are working through the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS to improve coordination among federal agencies that affect emergency medicine. We’re exploring ways to improve the effectiveness and reliability of Enhanced 911 services, and working with EMS practitioners to implement a strategy that ensures a culture of safety within the EMS community.

We also are providing guidance, training, and materials to assist EMS providers who face active shooter situations.

Please join me in taking a few moments during EMS week to thank an emergency medical services practitioner.

EMS: Dedicated. For life.



Wherever and whenever crisis hits, the men and women of our emergency medical services (EMS) rush to the scene. With unyielding steadiness, they bring care to those who need it most. During Emergency Medical Services Week, we show our gratitude to the EMS practitioners who aid our families, friends, and neighbors in their darkest moments.

We saw their professionalism in action after a devastating storm hit Vilonia, Arkansas. Immediately after a tornado struck, 200 people, including EMS personnel from other counties, were ready to go house to house searching for injured neighbors. We saw it after last month’s mudslide in Washington State when first responders and rescue crews braved unsteady ground to search for survivors. And we see it in towns and cities across America every hour of every day. My Administration is dedicated to supporting the vital work of our paramedics, emergency medical technicians, 911 dispatchers, and EMS medical directors.

This week, we thank the EMS providers who ease suffering and so often mean the difference between life and death. Let us honor their service with a renewed commitment to them. Let us ensure that those who watch over our communities have the support they need to get the job done.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 18 through May 24, 2014, as Emergency Medical Services Week. I encourage all Americans to observe this occasion by showing their support for their local EMS providers and taking steps to improve their personal safety and preparedness.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


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What is Oil Pulling?

What is Oil Pulling?There has been a lot of hype in the mainstream media about “oil pulling” for a healthier mouth and body. The idea is to put 1 – 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or sunflower oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15 – 20 minutes; do this first, every morning. Then brush your teeth afterwards.

One tablespoon of cold pressed, organic sesame oil seems to be the preferred oil to use.

The oil is supposed to increase the secretion of saliva produced in your mouth and in doing so it has been said it reduces plaque, removes bacteria and naturally cleans your teeth and gums leaving you with fresh breath.

This new fad is really thousands of years old and was practiced in Ayurvedic medicine, an alternative medicine native to a southern region of Asia.

Some have written that the oil is difficult to keep in your mouth for the recommended time without vomiting, but the method is to swish the oil, pushing and pulling it through the teeth, as opposed to a gargle technique.

Keep in mind the increased saliva will increase the amount of fluid in your mouth, so the original 1 -2 tablespoons will soon become a much larger amount of fluid. Upon spitting it out, it should be frothy, if not, you are doing it wrong according to the experts.

As the oil mixes with your natural saliva, the lipids in the oil pull out toxins from the saliva, absorbing them so when you spit out the oil, you spit out the toxins before they are reabsorbed in the body.

While I couldn’t readily find any reputably named scientific studies, some “studies” have shown that the sesami oil reduces the amount of germs in the plaque on your teeth and in your spit. The “soapy” environment created by all the swishing around naturally cleans the mouth and reduces fungus.

Other suggested benefits include:
-Better smelling breath
-Prevention of oral dryness
-Strengthening of the teeth, gum and jaw

Still other suggested benefits claimed are:
-Reduction in migraine headaches
-Cures hang-overs
-Reduces allergy symptoms and sinus congestion
-Better sleep
-Improves your skin

According to US News, coconut oil may stop plaque from forming, but the evidence of expecting greater benefits is lacking. “There’s absolutely no data whatsoever that shows diabetes can be treated or prevented, or that heart disease can be,” says Lyla Blake-Gumbs, a physician with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. “It’s not a new practice, it’s been done thousands of years, but there were no real records kept?. So I can’t go to any objective, well-run clinical trials to look into the other claims.”

While on the lookout for affordable, healthy alternatives, oil pulling is relatively simple and a non-invasive, painless, inexpensive treatment. Maybe I’ll even try it myself and do a follow up story about the results, but in the meantime, try it for yourself if you feel so inclined to do so, but a few words of warning, “Don’t swallow the oil.” You may end up with an upset stomach or even diarrhea!

One more important item to consider: Don’t spit into your sink or in the toilet as the oil may clog your pipes; it’s best to spit into something disposable and toss it into the trash.

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