Re-inventing Yourself …

Sometimes, a Chronic illness forces you to re-invent yourself. You were diagnosed. You made some lifestyle changes. Still, there’s a problem. Perhaps, your disease worsened? Perhaps, you developed another Chronic illness? Multiples are not uncommon. In fact, according to the CDC, 4 out of 10 adults have two or more Chronic conditions. If you haven’t made all of the lifestyle changes that your doctor initially recommended, you need to. If you have done these things, then it may be time to re-invent yourself.

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Let’s say that you are a school-teacher who is battling anxiety attacks. Seriously. A private school, or charter school, offers smaller classroom size and [in most cases] a disciplinary code that changes your work environment for the better. Less stress and anxiety equates to a happier you. This could even be the right time to pursue a Grad degree and enter Educational Administration. Perhaps, you are a cashier with arthritis in your feet and/or legs? Standing for long periods of time, on the job, has become difficult. It’s time to consider using your talents, elsewhere. Not all cashiers stand, i.e. a medical office. With licenses and training, you can move into real estate, or an insurance office. The new job change allows you to continue working and manage your Chronic illness symptoms more effectively. You have re-invented yourself. And it wasn’t that difficult.

There are even employers who are looking for chronically ill employees to fill jobs, within the digital workforce. Imagine that. Just because you are living with a Chronic illness does not mean you are incapable of calling the shots. You simply need to know how to do so. First and foremost, you have got to acknowledge and respect your limits.

Too many times, chronically ill patients want to give-up. They are just too overwhelmed by the upheaval in their lives. What they need to do is step back, take a breath and consider their options. If this is you, I hope that you will consider the promise and potential that a little change can make. When you feel better, you are going to be more productive and happier. That’s just a no-brainer. You may even discover talents that you never realized you had. That’s a good thing! Life doesn’t end with your diagnosis. This is just part of the journey. There’s still so much more to explore. So, go for it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm

https://www.wearecapable.org/

https://www.healthline.com/health/tips-for-managing-a-job-and-chronic-illness#4

https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10041-manage-chronic-illness-at-work.html

*Photo by Bruno Cervera on Unsplash

When It’s Not Fun For Everyone …

Well, we have made it to July 4th weekend. And many are planning celebrations for the holiday. If you are one of those people, it’s important to remember that the usual activities aren’t fun for everyone. I don’t mean these are boring. I mean they can result in medical emergencies. Let’s talk about that …

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most large-scale fireworks displays have been cancelled. Which means that many will attempt to do their own. Fireworks effect many medical conditions. As beautiful as they are, fireworks release pollutants into the air. This in turn impacts our air quality. In fact, some of the chemicals dispersed by fireworks, such as aluminum, barium, cadium, dioxins, and rubidium, are radioactive and known carcinogens. For anyone, of any age, this can be a problem. Conditions like Asthma, Bronchitis and COPD can be worsened by breathing the particulate matter or PM in the air. Even smaller fireworks that are used at ground level (Sparklers, Firecrackers) can expose individuals to metallic fumes and create breathing difficulties. Fireworks can also have an impact on people who live with Hypertension, Heart conditions, Anxiety, Epilepsy and PTSD. They’re notoriously unsettling for pets, too.

Food can also cause problems, whether you are planning a backyard barbecue or a picnic. Look at your menu. Have you thought about your guests? Do any of them have food allergies? If the answer is “yes”, then make sure you have another option available. Diabetics will be happy to see fruit like fresh watermelon, on the table. Maybe, a crisp tossed salad? Carbs raise their blood-sugar. And nobody wants to serve food poisoning at their get-together. So, here’s a few tips to help avoid that: 

  • Avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate. Clean your work-surface after each use.
  • Without refrigeration or a heat source, perishables should not be left out more than two hours.
  • Always keep COLD food cold by using a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers,a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers.
  • Packing drinks in a separate cooler is strongly recommended, so the food cooler isn’t opened frequently.
  • If you plan to marinate meat and/or poultry for several hours or overnight prior to the event, make sure to marinate them in the refrigerator.
  • To ensure safety, leftovers must be put in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerated to 40 ⁰F or below within two hours.

Last, but certainly not least, avoid large gatherings. It just isn’t safe, during a pandemic. Keep your get-togethers small. Nowadays, less really does equate to more. Practice social distancing. Wear face masks. You might even consider giving the patriotic-print ones as party gifts/favors. Yes, this is a short-notice for that idea. But many retailers are advertising them. They are available, just like flags, balloons, paper-goods, etc. So, decorate your home … your yard … and do it with a mask on. When it’s not fun for everyone, it’s not much of a celebration. Period. Take a moment to think about all of those you’ve invited to your July 4th festivities — make a list of their names and phone numbers. As morbid as this may sound today, if someone develops COVID-19 next week … your guests will need to be notified. That list will come in handy. 2020 remains, even in our moments of celebration, unusual.

Happy Fourth, y’all! Stay well!

 

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4220320/

https://healthcare-in-europe.com/en/news/the-health-impact-of-festival-fireworks.html

https://www.epilepsy.com/article/2014/3/fireworks-flags-video-games-and-driving-seizure-risks-and-prevention

Fireworks, Triggers, PTSD, and Veterans

Wrap up your celebration with fireworks, not food poisoning

https://www.lmh.org/news/2020-news/safely-celebrate-the-fourth-of-july-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

*Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

Breaking Bad

Maybe, you’ve been warned? You are dangerously close to having a Chronic illness, i.e. Diabetes, Hypertension, etc. Or maybe, you are newly diagnosed? Either way, you’ve probably been told to make lifestyle changes. Have you done it? Have you tried? Are you ready to break with the bad? Let’s talk about that …

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Often times, we think that we can’t change. We insist that it isn’t possible. When, in reality, we are merely dreading the journey outside of our comfort zone. Remember the cliche about “old dogs and new tricks”? It’s a little like that — a stubborn resistance. That doesn’t make it impossible. In fact, you might be surprised at how easy it is. And equally surprised at how good the changes can make you feel!

I live with 3 Chronic illnesses. Upon the first diagnosis, as a teen, I responded quickly. At age 41, I was smacked with the second diagnosis. And then, 9 years later, came number 3. During those 9 years, I fought a mixture of severe pain and self-pity. I lost a great deal of mobility. I even came within a hair of totally giving-up. That was a mistake. I realize that, now. Diagnosis number 3, for me, meant taking chemotherapy. It was a struggle. I was fighting multiple illnesses, fatigue and overwhelming nausea. I lived in my pajamas most days. But during that hellish period, I had an awakening — I vowed to get my life back. And I did! How? I made the necessary changes. Now, I am doing better than I’ve done in 20 years. I have more energy. I sleep better. I work. I blog. I travel. I do Tai Chi. Life is, quite frankly, rewarding again. Everyone should be so lucky. And, personally, I believe that they can be!

First, consider your bad behaviors/habits. What do you need to change? You’ve probably already had this discussion with your doctor. So, here’s some tips to help you change:

  • Identify Cues. Something has to trigger a habit, and a cue can be anything, i.e. stress leading to nervous eating, or smoking.
  • Disrupt. Once you know the cues, you can throw bad habits off track. 
  • Replace. Research shows that replacing a bad behavior with a good one is more effective. If you need exercise (and we all do), don’t plant yourself on the couch. Take a walk around the block, join a gym, jump into a cool swimming pool, try Tai Chi. MOVE!
  • Keep It Simple. Old habits are easy because you are conditioned to them. It’s time to re-program the brain with the new ones. That takes time. Set a goal & attain it. Then, look to set another. The progress will happen.
  • Think Long-Term. Habits satisfy impulses. When you focus on the long-term, you are actually investing in yourself, your health & your future!
  • Persist. Just as you made bad habits part of your routine, you can make good habits the norm. You have to keep at it. Persistence pays off! 

By now, you may be saying to yourself, “Why am I doing this? I’m still going to be sick.” Well, this is true. Once you are diagnosed, you are pretty much in it for the long haul. Chronic is just that — chronic. But there is a vast difference between existing and living. Which one are you doing now? Which one do you want? Lifestyle changes can help you to manage your disease (even if you have multiples). It can help you to feel better and do more. To live with less pain and less inflammation. It may lead to less medication. It can even help you to ward off complications, too. The benefits are endless. Do you really need a better reason?

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-trick-to-real-and-lasting-lifestyle-changes

https://www.apa.org/topics/lifestyle-changes#:~:text=Lifestyle%20changes%20are%20a%20process,one%20step%20at%20a%20time.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/things-to-stop-doing-to-yourself-cfs-715700

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180619122707.htm

https://www.readersdigest.ca/health/healthy-living/bad-habits-best-ways-quit/

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/how-to-break-bad-habits-and-change-behaviors

*Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash

 

The Sweet Life: Watermelon

Few things, if any, can beat a slice of cold watermelon on a hot, summer day. It’s one of those things that can bring the kid out in you, no matter how old you are. But did you know that watermelon is actually good for you? Let’s talk about that …

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Everyone needs to stay hydrated. That’s a well-known fact. Well, watermelon is 90% water. Aside from satisfying your sweet tooth, it will actually aid in keeping you hydrated. A single cup of watermelon can even provide about 15% of a your daily needs of vitamin C too. It’s also a great source of fiber for digestion. And watermelon contains a variety of antioxidants. Your body can, by natural process, eliminate some molecules known as free radicals. But antioxidants help the body to do this. That’s important, because free radicals can lead to cell damage and various diseases. A study, conducted back in 2012, found that Watermelon reduced blood-pressure. In 2017, another study suggested that watermelon helped the body fight inflammation. Are you paying attention? That means watermelon has the ability to help patients manage numerous Chronic illnesses, i.e. Hypertension, Heart disease, Cancer, Dementia, Obesity, etc. And there’s so many ways to enjoy it!

Sure, you can eat it by the slice … let the juice roll down your chin … and revisit childhood. We’ve all done it and enjoy it, every time. But there are also terrific salads, entrees and desserts to explore. So, kick your shoes off … wiggle those bare toes … and get creative!

In fact, depending upon where you live, it’s still possible to plant some watermelons in your backyard or garden. The plants need 2-3 months above 70 degrees, well-drained soil and a spacing of 3-5 feet apart. That’s not a lot. A raised bed will do. Nobody is suggesting that you till the land. If you’ve got the space, go for it. Have some fun. Grow a few melons, this summer. Given the restrictions that we’ve had on so many things, this year, I’m all in for fun; aren’t you? So, come on … it’s time to explore the sweet life!

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886#nutrition

4 Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet

https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/a6408/watermelon-recipes/

https://www.foodnetwork.com/topics/watermelon

https://www.rd.com/food/recipes-cooking/10-savory-recipes-using-watermelon/

Growing Watermelons

*Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash

 

Spring Into Berries …

Yesterday, I ventured over to Cooley Farms in Chesnee, SC, also known as “Strawberry Hill” to the Upstate locals. Surrounded by an endless acreage of peach trees (their main crop), the shed was bustling — even on a Thursday. There’s nothing like sweet, spring berries to bring folks out of hibernation. And nothing better for you!

 

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Yes, these farms and roadside stands conjure up fond memories from our childhood. Yes, they also make us want to bake, freeze and can. That’s not a bad thing. Our grandmothers did it. Many of our mothers did, too. If suddenly, the idea of homemade jelly on a bagel or warm biscuit sounds divine … embrace it! But if you aren’t feeling that adventurous, that’s okay too. Berries are perfect for eating, on their own. No cooking required. And they are bursting with goodness!

Fresh strawberries are high in water content and low in carbs. They’re also filled with antioxidants. This means that these bright red delights are a safe choice even for diabetics. Strawberries also boast fiber for digestion, vitamins and minerals. And the taste? OMG! Bite into one and let that sweetness roll down your chin!

Blueberries are equally appealing. A serving, or 1 cup, has just 80 calories! These little, blue darlings are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. This promotes tissue growth and wound healing. And they are so incredibly versatile. From breakfast to your evening dessert, there’s endless ways to incorporate them into your diet and meal-planning!

Raspberries offer us an abundance of antioxidants that aid in brain-power, heart health, diabetes prevention, digestion, even some forms of cancer prevention. They provide vitamin C, iron, folic acid and potassium. And their sweet-tart flavor appeals to the taste-buds!

Last, but never least, are the Blackberries! I could write a book on the cobblers that my grandmother made with them — so yummy! The homemade jam, too! But blackberries are so much more than sweet indulgences. These dark, luscious berries are downright impressive, health-wise. They offer vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and manganese. One study even found that blackberry extract has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory abilities! 

If your Chronic illness has encouraged you to try the Paleo Diet, AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) Diet, or the DASH Diet, you’ll find that fresh berries are already there. If you are just trying to eat healthier, minus a conformed diet plan, why wait? There are endless ways to enjoy these gems and recipes to explore. It’s time to spring into berries and reap the healthy rewards!

 

Reference:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/strawberries

https://www.blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-nutrition/health-benefits-blueberries/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070908001613.htm

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283018

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-blackberries#health-benefits

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

The Autoimmune Paleo Diet

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

*Photo by Farsai Chaikulngamdee on Unsplash

 

 

Do You Need To De-stress?

Is it just me or is life a lot more stressful than it used to be? Nowadays, it seems that everywhere I go I find people who are tired, frustrated, upset, worried, etc. Life can always throw you a curve-ball that is stressful. But when you add a pandemic … stress hits a whole new level. And stress on its own isn’t healthy. In fact, stress worsens most pre-existing or Chronic conditions. If you have been feeling the pressure of stress, you aren’t alone. According to the American Institute of Stress, about 77% of the population regularly suffers from the symptoms of stress.  Let’s talk about that …

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Stress can negatively impact your relationships at school, home and/or work. A bad day at the office somehow leads to an argument with your spouse/partner? Or vice-versa? You know what I’m talking about. Stress can also weaken your immune systems, increase your blood pressure, increase blood sugar levels, increase pain, etc. The more you allow it to consume you, the worse you are going to feel. That’s a given. And that makes you more vulnerable to other things, i.e. anxiety, depression, colds, viruses. Thankfully, we can do things to reduce the stress in our lives.

If you feel that stress is getting the best of you, try these simple yet effective ways to de-stress:

  • Limit Social Media/Broadcast Media. Yes, social media can be fun. Unfortunately, it’s also a stressor for millions. So limit your use of it. Binge-watching news and talk-shows can also have a negative impact. Select one or two reputable news broadcasts or shows, watch them and move on. You want to be informed — NOT stressed-out.
  • Meditation/PrayerIt just takes a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on something positive or calming. Likewise, reading from a devotional or engaging in silent prayer has the same soothing results.
  • Breathing Deeply. For five minutes, sit upright with your eyes closed. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Slow Down. Look around you. Admire flowers growing, a butterfly fluttering, etc. Eat slower and enjoy your food. Live in the moment and do so fully. When you focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.
  • Reach Out. Talk to others, face-to-face or on the phone. Share what’s going on with a friend, co-worker, spouse/partner before it becomes a bigger issue. It can provide helpful support and input.
  • Pull-out The Heating-Pad. Just 10 minutes of warmth on your neck and shoulders can allow your body to decompress and ease tension.
  • Laugh Out Loud. Enjoy a good joke or a funny story … at home, in the locker-room, or the break-room. Watch a 30-minute sitcom with your significant other. Laughing lowers your body’s stress hormone (cortisol) and boosts brain chemicals (endorphins) that lighten your mood.
  • Exercise. All forms of exercise, even low-impact ones like yoga and walking, can relax you. It can ease depression and anxiety. 
  • Listen To Music. Soothing music, from classical to nature sounds, can lower your blood pressure and heart-rate. You can even create your favorite playlist for relaxing!
  • Keep A Gratitude Journal. Carry it with you. Set it by your bed and read it every night. Think of the things you are most grateful for, in your life. The people and things that make your life special.

 

Last but not least, realizing that you need to de-stress isn’t a sign of weakness … or age … or illness. It’s a preventative health measure. One that we all can benefit from. So, don’t be reluctant to try it. The healthier that we are, the happier we are. That leads to the more productive we are and so on. And it’s all good. So go for it!

 

 

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201504/6-natural-ways-de-stress

https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot#3

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html

https://www.stress.org/daily-life

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/social-media-mental-health-negative-effects-depression-anxiety-addiction-memory-a8307196.html

*Photo by Jared Rice in Unsplash

Viral Heart Disease

Yes, it’s winter. It’s also flu season. But those symptoms that have you down may not be the flu. It could be viral heart disease, also known as Myocarditis. This inflammation of the heart muscle is usually caused by a virus. However, it can also be caused by a drug reaction or an inflammatory condition, i.e.  Mycoplasma, Streptococcal (Strep), Staphylococcal (Staph), Borrelia, HIV, Herpes, etc. And it can strike even the healthiest of people. This includes children.

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In its early stages, Myocarditis can have no symptoms. As it worsens, it presents itself much like the flu, i.e. fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, etc. You may also experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or fluid-retention. And left untreated, it can lead to serious complications, i.e. heart failure, heart attack, stroke, arrhythmias, or sudden cardiac arrest.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or those mentioned in the links provided, you need to see a doctor. If you have had an infection and begin to experience these symptoms, notify your doctor. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room for help. Myocarditis may be considered rare, but it is nothing to take for granted.

Over 3M cases were diagnosed, in 2017. This isn’t a disease exclusive to the elderly, or those with pre-existing illnesses. Myocarditis hits all ages — even the healthy, athletic types. It is the third leading cause of Sudden Death in children and teens. So, please, share this awareness. The life of someone you love may depend on it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myocarditis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352539

https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/myocarditis#1

https://www.myocarditisfoundation.org/about-myocarditis/

https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/viral

*Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

 

February Is For The Heart

Yes, Valentine’s is approaching … paper hearts, roses, cards, candy, nice dinners, flashy bling and all. But it’s also American Heart Month. So, this month, we are going to focus on heart health. Why? Because, fun and games aside, Cupid can’t do anything for your physical well-being. Awareness, on the other hand, can literally save lives!

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Heart disease can happen to anyone — even children. According to data from the CDC, approximately 1% (40,000) of babies born each year have a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD). And 25% of these are critical. Others surface, during childhood or teen years. Some of the most common heart conditions in children are listed as either “congenital” (present from birth) or “acquired” (developed after birth). Some of these conditions are hereditary. And they require special healthcare needs.

If your child was born healthy, you want that good health to continue into adulthood. The best way to achieve that is by teaching healthy habits, now. Here are some great tips for starting:

  • Introduce your child to healthy eating, i.e. set mealtimes, limit snacking, keep junk food out of the house, eat family dinners, and shop/cook with your kids.
  • Encourage fun physical activity.
  • Teach the dangers of smoking & vaping, early.
  • Teach them how to manage their stress.
  • Schedule regular medical exams for your child with his/her pediatrician.

Last but not least, remember that lifestyle risk factors can have a negative impact on the health of your child/teen and you, i.e. obesity, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking, vaping, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. There is a direct relationship between these risks and developing heart disease. Medical research has the statistics to prove it. And there is no better role-model than you. So, teach them well!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/data.html

http://www.secondscount.org/pediatric-center/conditions-children#.XjHvMo7YrnE

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/features/children-heart-conditions-special-care.html

https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=prevention-of-heart-disease-starts-in-childhood-1-2073

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/140/5/e20172607

https://www.ottawaheart.ca/heart-condition/inherited-cardiac-conditions-genetic-disorders

https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2019/03/07/10/03/ecigarettes-linked-to-heart-attacks-coronary-artery-disease-and-depression

https://blog.connectionsacademy.com/teach_kids_heart_healthy_habits/

*Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash