Friday, October 29, 2010
A review of the UNH Dialogue Series, Too Much Information: “Do I Really Need to Have That Test? Understanding risk and making medical decisions in the age of TMI” By Dr. Gene Harkless
In the recent UNH Dialogue “TMI” discussion on “decision making in the age of information overload”, one of my own professors Dr. Gene Harkless took an in depth look at the medical perspective of “too much information”. Dr. Harkless asks “is treatment always needed” as she looked at a study revolving around PAP smears and young women. It has always been recommended for young women 21 and older to have an annual pap smear in order to screen for and possible prevent cervical cancer. Studies show however that of 2-3 million Pap tests interpreted as abnormal, less that 15% progress to invasive cervical cancer. Now, it is proposed that women under 21 not be screened and after 21 a screening should be done almost every three years. “This less aggressive approach prevents unnecessary interventions for mild abnormalities that will revert back to normal on their own while preserving the important benefits of cancer screening”. Under this new guideline you may be saving more than you realize. Besides the fact you no longer have to pay for a Pap smear every year, if abnormal cells were found, physicians may begin costly interventions, while the majority of abnormal findings either revert back to normal on their own or are false findings. Less than 25% of clinicians are following this new recommendation so speak to yours about what is best for you and your health. Depending on your age, sexual activity, whether you have the HPV vaccine and other factors, you may need to be screened more than others but its worth asking for the sake of your wallet.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
What do you think of when you hear the word hypnotism? Do you envision a person fluttering around stage like a butterfly? Or how about a person on stage that sees everyone in the audience as being naked? Comic hypnotists have shaped our opinions and ideas when it comes to hypnotism and the hypnotic state. What many don’t realize is that hypnotism can actually be used as a stress reduction technique.
This week in my Stressed Out class we had a guest speaker who is a local hypnotist that came in to our class to clear up some common misconceptions about hypnotism and to show our class how hypnotism can be used to reduce stress levels. Many people believe that hypnotism is an unconscious state where the individual loses control of his or her body and is at the beck and call of the hypnotist. This is not the truth. Sure, hypnotists use their techniques to have volunteers act out funny situations on stage, but hypnotism is actually a conscious state of brain function.
When using hypnotism for stress relief an individual should start concentrating on an image, such as a kaleidoscope of colors on an enlarged computer screen. The individual should then begin to relax the various parts of his or her body, focusing primarily on relaxing the muscles around the eyes and moving outwards to all parts of the body. If an individual wishes to change a habit, such as to stop smoking or eating healthier, he or she should focus on that idea while in the hypnotic state, so the conscious brain can communicate with the subconscious state to make your goals more attainable and first-hand. The idea behind hypnotism for stress relief is to simply relax the body for a few minutes and to clear the mind. When we experienced the hypnotic state during class, I used a distal finger thermometer to compare my initial pre-hypnosis temperature to my post-hypnosis temperature. What I found was that my temperature actually increased approximately two degrees fahrenheit, which suggests that I was in a more calm/tranquil state after the hypnotic event.
Following my hypnotic state, I felt like a completely new person. I was relaxed, worry-free, and ready to take on the world. I was absolutely amazed at how well the hypnotism worked on me and look forward to participating in more hypnotic states in the future. To try some simple hypnotic techniques on your own time, visit these online videos.
Monday, October 25, 2010
As fall starts and the leaves begin to change color, I find myself ready to go outside and enjoy the crisp air. The sights and smells of fall are invigorating, and make even the most routine walk seem more enjoyable. However, the blisters that I get from wearing my favorite pair of shoes are not enjoyable. This week, I finally broke down and decided that it was time to buy a new pair of shoes that would make my feet feel good, instead of cramped and sweaty. Rather than heading over to the mall and grabbing the first pair of shoes that I could find, I decided to research what to look for in a pair of exercise shoes. While researching, I was impressed by all of the factors that play into choosing the right shoe. After reading several articles, the best advice that I was able to find was an article posted by WebMD. This article describes the following 10 tips for choosing the right exercise shoe:
- Don’t make shoes multitask: Buy a pair of exercise shoes for a specific activity (ie. Do not try to use walking shoes if you want to go running).
- Know your foot: Figure out what section of your shoes tends to wear out the fastest and what your foot shape is (ie. If your shoes tend to wear on the outer edge, you probably have high arches in your feet and want to look for cushioning inside of the shoe that will help support the natural arch of your foot).
- Measure your foot frequently: Shoe sizes continue to change throughout your life, so measure your feet at least once or twice per year.
- Shop toward the end of the day: Feet swell throughout the day, so it’s important that you find shoes that will fit your feet when they are at their largest.
- Don’t believe in breaking in: Your shoes should feel comfortable when you leave the store. Also, make sure to walk around the store in your shoes to see if they are comfortable in action.
- Use the rule of thumb: There should be about a thumb’s width of space between your big toe and the end of the shoe.
- Bring your own socks: Bring the socks that you plan to use when you exercise to make sure they fit comfortably inside the shoe.
- Understand the bells and whistles: Understand the features that your shoes come with, such as gel inserts or springs inside of the shoe’s heel.
- Don’t over or underpay: Shop around to make sure that you are getting the best value for your shoes. You don’t need to buy the most fashionable shoes, but know that you won’t get the same quality of shoes for $15 as you will for $75.
- Know when to replace them: You should replace your shoes every 350-400 miles, or once the soles begin to tear or wear out.
Choosing the right exercise shoe requires a little extra work, but it pays off in the end. Not only will your feet feel better after you workout, but wearing the right shoes can also help prevent injuries. Sometimes, it can be hard to set aside the money to buy a high-quality pair of exercise shoes or to carve out the time to go shoe shopping. However, make the shopping experience fun by inviting your workout partners, or make a “shoe-shopping” fund. Do whatever you need to do to find the right exercise shoes for you, because your feet are worth it.
Friday, October 22, 2010
The world of health care includes a lot of different payments, fees, and word jumble. Many health plans are so complex that people don’t even know what costs they are paying. This is an important fact to consider for everyone. It is essential when choosing your first health plan to know what the terms mean. However, for those who are evaluating a current health plan or looking for new options, these costs can make a difference. When looking at overall health care costs, it is important to know what each of the key terms mean and what they do. The four most commonly used terms that are essential to know are:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives a great definition of these critical terms as well as other important terms to know and consider when evaluating or choosing a coverage plan. While all plans include a premium, which is the fee paid (monthly, quarterly, yearly etc.) for coverage of medical benefits for a certain period; many have different options for the other fees. A deductible, which is commonly a fixed amount, is the portion of an insurance claim that is not covered by the insurance provider. Similarly, a co-insurance is sometimes another factor of a plan that is the amount you would have to pay after the previous three. For example, after the premium, co-pay, and deductible are paid, if a medical insurer covers 80% of medical costs, you would pay 20% of whatever medical costs you had.
Co-pay is usually what you pay for an office visit to something such as a doctor’s office. For example, a UNH faculty or staff member under the University Systems health care plan at UNH would typically pay a $10 co-pay for an office visit in New Hampshire. On the other hand, a student under the UNH health insurance plan would usually pay a $25 co-pay for an office visit. This difference in cost demonstrates the fact that depending on the individual, the provider, and the health care company, most co-pays and other costs will vary. As a result, this makes the idea of understanding costs essential to evaluating a health plan. Considering what the different costs are can have a major impact on how much you pay for a health plan. It is important to know the difference in these terms when evaluating a plan and your own health costs. Many plans are different and it can make a major difference in what you pay at the end of the day.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
A NPR interview done with UCLA professor Rita Effros, discussed the effect stress plays on the immune system and how a hormone can be too much of a good thing. Effros states “it all starts with Cortisol, a hormone we produce when we’re stressed”. Cortisol is released during periods of acute stress, slowing down your parasympathetic nervous system(PNS) – “rest and digest” – and sends blood to the parts of the body that need it most. The example given is if you were running from a lion, Cortisol would be released under this intense stress, blood would be shunted from systems controlled by the PNS, such as the digestive system, to your muscles. To escape a hungry lion your body isn’t concerned with digestion, it wants your muscles work harder, moving you faster. Cortisol is usually only released to relieve short term stress, but when it is in the blood for a long period of time the systems of the body that were slowed down stay that way. Sounds great right? Wrong. Too much Cortisol isn’t helpful, its harmful!
How does this eventually lead to increasing your susceptibility of catching a cold? Well, the immune system is also slowed down when Cortisol is released, that means the longer the hormone remains in your system the longer you are exposing yourself to harmful pathogens. Read the rest of the interview to learn some interesting science behind the immune dwindling effects of Cortisol.
Hormones aren’t the only thing to blame for a weakened immune system though. When stressed, we tend to pay less attention to our bodies; we are getting less sleep, eating poorly, and sometimes ignore the symptoms that we may be getting sick. Take care of yourself! I know it is hard when there are a million things running through your mind, but that paper is not most important, your health and wellbeing is! Take breaks when studying, make sure you’re staying hydrated and fueled, put down the pen and let yourself go to bed an hour or two earlier. You’re body will appreciate it and prevent you from an even bigger set-back, catching a cold later on!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Throughout the past three weeks I’ve been wearing a pedometer to count the number of steps I take on a given day. Being a fairly active person who walks to class rather than taking the bus and works as a server at a very busy restaurant in Newington, I assumed that I walked approximately two to four miles per day. What I found, however, absolutely astonished me. On school days, work days, and days where I both went to school and worked I walked approximately two to four, seven to twelve, and ten to fourteen miles, respectively. This means that on average I walked approximately forty-three miles per week – isn’t that crazy?
This little experiment got me thinking about ways to boost the number of steps you take on a daily basis. These are the tips I have for you:
1. Park further away in parking lots. Rather than weaving in and out of people walking and waiting for that ever-desired front parking spot, park in the back of the lot. It’s not a big deal for you, as it will only take a few seconds in extra time, but could really add on the steps on a daily basis!
2. Take the stairs. Rather than always using the elevator or escalator available for convenience, try taking the stairs every now and then. It might not be very fun at the beginning, but the sight of the last step will really make you feel like you’ve accomplished a task.
3. Change the television channel manually. Rather than using the remote to change the channel with the simple finger click of the button, get up and change the channel manually. I’ve been without a remote for the past few months, and I must say, it does add a little walking time onto my daily routine.
4. Avoid the bus. While the bus is definitely a great alternative to driving on your own, try walking everywhere on campus. Not only will it save you time waiting at the bus stop, but will definitely add a substantial number of steps to your daily count
5. Walk the dog. A very large percentage of American citizens have dogs for pets. The question is, do they always walk their dog? If you’re a person who is guilty of not walking your dog on a daily basis, start a walking routine. You’ll be earning brownie points for your dog and increasing your daily steps.
Benefits of walking include, but are not limited to:
- Improving circulation
- Enhancing muscle tone
- Helps breathing
- Helps with weight control
- Prevents and controls diabetes
- Combats depression
- Heart health
- Boosts the immune system
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Reduces stress
To learn more about the benefits of walking and more tips for increasing your daily walking routine, visit the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.
Friday, October 15, 2010
I have a huge sweet tooth. Personally, the hardest part of living a healthy lifestyle for me is controlling my sugar intake. Many Americans struggle to live healthier lifestyles, but feel unsatisfied if they don’t have something sweet at the end of the day. While it is important to satisfy your cravings, many desserts are high in fat and empty calories. In order to find some desserts that I could indulge in, I went on a search for some sweet tasting treats that left me feeling satisfied without feeling like I had overeaten. Here are some yummy dessert ideas that are all less than 150 calories per serving:
- Chocolate Covered Strawberries (115 calories per strawberry):
Wash and dry 1 pound of fresh strawberries. Melt a 12oz bag of semisweet chocolate chips
until completely smooth. Then, dip the strawberries into the melted chocolate and place on a
sheet of waxed paper to dry.
- Dirt Pudding (145 calories per serving):
Prepare a package of instant, sugar-free chocolate pudding using skim milk. Put ½ cup of the
pudding into a small bowl, and then top with 1 crushed Oreo cookie and a gummy worm.
- Frozen S’mores (120 calories per S’more):
Take 1 full sheet of low-fat graham crackers and break in half. On one half, spread 1
tablespoon of hot fudge sauce. On the other half, spread 2 tablespoons of Cool Whip lite.
Make a sandwich with the two halves, and freeze for at least 30 minutes before consuming.
- Angel Food Cake Delight (145 calories per slice):
Cut a 12 oz Angel Food Cake into 12 slices. Drizzle 1 tsp of Hershey’s Syrup over each slice of the shortcake and top with ¼ cup of sweetened, sliced strawberries.
Enjoying the food that you eat is an important part of eating. No one says that you have to live off of salad or never eat a treat to be healthy. Being healthy involves many different aspects and is different for each person. If you struggle with craving sweets, try a couple of these dessert ideas. Or for more dessert ideas that are low in calories, visit Eating Well magazine.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Tests, quizzes, group projects, work, financial issues, social life, and fitting in the gym…..when does it all end? If any of these situations sounds familiar (which most of them probably do for every college student), then you have a great deal of stress factors. The unfortunate thing is that stress doesn’t end once you leave college, only the specific causes do. This may seem like negative news, but it doesn’t have to be. Stress is a normal part of everyday life. Your body actually needs some levels of stress in order to function optimally. However, the problem arises when people do not know how to manage their stress.
Managing stress is especially important for college students when there are many more stress factors added into your life. College life is known to be stressful and is mixed with anxiety, anticipation, and many different emotions. Too much stress can lead to a negative impact on your overall health. It can influence your immune system and cause sickness and fatigue, or take away from other things that make you healthy such as eating right and exercising. Additionally, stress can have a negative impact on your academics…and isn’t that why you’re in this stressful situation in the first place? There are studies that prove a variety of stress factors can impact your GPA.
In order to stay on top of things, it is essential to find the right ways to combat these types of stressful situations, in college and after. There are many different forms of stress management, but one especially important method is rest. Whether it is the rest you get at night, during a nap, or even the break you take, it is essential to take a rest. Work places give you breaks for a reason; take that time to get your mind away from work. In school, you are responsible for you own study schedule-give yourself breaks. If you have a long night or day in the library, break it up. Every few hours get up for a few minutes; take your mind out of the books. If it’s nice outside, spend just a few minutes in the sun to feel happier or if you don’t want to head outside, even just take a couple minutes to walk around the library. Another idea during a rest is to take a coffee, tea, or snack break, get some healthy food in you to take your mind off your studying or stress and fuel you for what’s left of your study session. Be sure to take breaks when you need them, but also be sure not to let them turn into distractions or procrastination because that will just lead to more stress!
Friday, October 8, 2010
For as long as I can remember I have always heard, “to lose weight- diet and exercise”, but a recent article written in TIME Magazine reports on some contraindicating news. Some of you may have heard the recent buzz surrounding exercise and weight loss, where researchers and weight loss gurus are claiming there is not always a positive correlation. Yes, exercise may not be helping you lose weight, it may in fact be causing you to gain weight!
We know that to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume, so obviously exercise would seem like the easiest way to go about achieving weight loss but there is some evidence going against that. The peer reviewed journal PLoS ONE (non-profit Public Library of Science) conducted a study in which four groups of overweight women were asked to workout, and one group to continue with their normal physical activity routine. While all women lost weight, those who exercised the most did not lose any more weight than those who exercised on a lower scale or not at all. When you exercise you are burning a greater number of calories but that in turn makes you more hungry and more likely to eat more later to compensate. Many people without proper education may think they are burning more than they actually are and let themselves splurge later by eating extra. This over times adds up.
I am in no way trying to down play the importance of physical activity. It plays a major role in health and wellness and is an important factor in living a healthy life. Losing 5 pounds of fat and replacing it with 5 pounds of muscle is a great accomplishment, not to mention muscle burns almost twice as many calories as fat! So keep up the good work and don’t stray from the treadmill in fear of gaining a few pounds, just be mindful of how many calories you are burning and what you are putting into your mouth when you are exercising.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Approximately twenty years ago, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which required all packaged foods to display a detailed nutrition facts label. This label was to include serving sizes, energy content, and ingredients. Overtime, however, companies have come up with a variety of ways to “trick” consumers with the writing they present on their packaged goods. Due to this deception by food producers, the Center for Science in the Public Interest wants to give the nutrition label a makeover! The suggested changes are as follows:
The use of symbols on the front of packages to give shoppers a quick snapshot of key nutrients.
- Put calorie and serving size information at the top of the food label in larger font so it’s easy to read and stands out to consumers.
- Change the all-caps type of ingredient lists to regular type and separate ingredients with bullets.
- Separate the ingredients list into minor and major ingredient lists. Highlight all potential allergens and their information in red.
- Use red labeling and the word “high” when a product has more than 20% of the daily recommendation for fats, sugars, sodium, or cholesterol. Use other colors such as yellow and orange to signify low and medium content, respectively.
- Label which sugars occur naturally in the product and which are added.
- List caffeine content.
- Display the percentage of whole grains contained in the product.
The “new” nutrition facts label looks quite different from the ordinary label we see today. The Center for Science in the Public Interest hope that the label will not only draw the attention of shoppers, but will also encourage people to start caring about what is in their food.
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