December 2010

Anyone have a tissue? Or a treadmill instead? Exercising to boost the immune system!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Author: 
Sarah Sceery
Monday, December 20, 2010

Photo: Courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom

It’s that time of year again where it seems that everyone is getting sick. A recent study done by Appalachian State University found that on average patients are sick for 13 days during the winter months and 8 days during the fall season. However, the study also found that people who exercised or participated in physical activity were sick half of those days. The article discusses the potential positive impact of physical activity on the immune system. It was determined that people who exercised 5 times per week or “felt fit” boosted their immune system, and had better protection from getting sick than other individuals.

This idea of physical activity boosting the immune system is also supported by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.  There has been evidence that moderate physical activity can increase the resistance of individuals to some diseases (in addition to the many other health benefits of exercise!) This includes moderate levels of exercise 3-5 days per week. Physical activity could include cardiovascular and/or strength and muscle training. However, the body’s response to exercise depends on intensity and duration for each individual person.  Therefore, in more extreme individuals, too much exercise or stress on the body could lead to adverse effects and increased risk of infections. This could be a problem for people who are training at a high intensity for multiple hours a day without rest or recovery. 

In general though with most individuals, what it comes down to is the idea that moderate physical activity can be beneficial for your body’s immune system and keeping you healthy. Physical activity has many physical, mental, and emotional benefits for the body. Additionally, it can help in preventing diseases as well as those pesky cold and flu bugs. As the weather gets colder, try not to lose your fitness routine and make a point to include physical activity in your day!

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'Tis the Season...for healthy eating

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Author: 
Sarah Sceery
Thursday, December 16, 2010

Photo: Courtesy of Eating Well

Eating healthy during the holidays can often be a challenge. There is so much delicious food and often times too many options to choose from…that you just have to try everything. I usually have a hard time deciding between cookies, brownies, and apple pie. Even aside from dessert, many times people over eat main course meals as well. This is a common problem for almost everybody during the holidays but there are ways to help!

A new trick to try this year when baking and preparing for the holidays is to add fiber and nutrients to your recipes. One helpful solution to make treats a little healthier is to replace white flour with a form of whole wheat flour. The absorption of the flour is a little different so the recipe may have to be altered a small amount, but your end product will still come out tasting delicious. Another idea is to replace some of the chocolate or candy mix-ins with dried fruits or nuts. Although you may replace the chocolate, you won’t replace the “sweet” and you will be adding protein and fiber! Two recipe ideas to try are: pecan cinnamon wafer cookies and cranberry-orange pistachio bars - both offer great alternatives to the typical holiday treat.

When it comes to other holiday eating tips, Healthy UNH collaborated with UNH’s Registered Dietitians, Rochelle L’Italien from UNH Dining and Suzanne Sonneborn from Health Services. Together they provided a series called “Tis the Season…Make Mindless Eating Work for You!”. The interactive series was designed for UNH faculty, staff, and students to learn how to make holiday eating successful. For those who are curious or looking for helpful hints, this might be just right for you! Check out the website to watch the presentation and pick up some tips about mindless eating before you head home for the holidays.

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Setting Down the Drink to Save

Friday, December 10, 2010

Author: 
Katrina Heisler
Friday, December 10, 2010

Photo: Courtesy of Nicholas Tarling

According to a study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association, the cost of drinking goes far beyond your bar tab or the price of a 12 pack each week. In 1999, the U.S. consumer expenditure was $116.2 billion. Underage drinkers contributed to $22.5 billion and consumers over 21 years of age were responsible for the remaining $34.4 billion. Being on a college campus, alcohol consumption is obviously going to be a popular trend for both of age and underaged students. Without a doubt our local stores and bars thrive off the college community, with a fair share of business from visiting parents and alumni as well. Besides the surplus of money that students, faculty, parents, and community members would save if they didn’t spend the weekly amount of cash at a convenience store or the grocery store buying alcohol, I was curious, just how much could you be saving yourself in medical expenses?

We know that drinking excessively, greater than two drinks a day for men and one drink for women, can lead to a number of health problems in the future including liver disease, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, increased incidences of violence and destructive decisions that may place you in danger. College is a point in one’s life in which many will participate in “excessive drinking” and may pick up drinking problems that follow them through the rest of their lives. So, are those who are partying and binging setting themselves up to spend more in future than those who casually drink during a Sunday afternoon football game or those who choose to abstain? Well, The Marin Institute reports that non drinkers and moderate drinkers have lower health care costs than those who have a history of excessive drinking. “Annual health care expenditures for alcohol-related problems amount to $22.5 billion. The total cost of alcohol problems is $175.9 billion a year” and the amount of health costs spent on alcohol related accidents for underage drinkers is $3.7 million. Approximately 25%-40% of patients being treated in U.S. hospitals are currently being treated for alcohol related problems.

So, its easy to conclude that those who are drinking more often are not only spending more money on alcohol as they fork over cash at the bar or the liquor store, but also are setting themselves up to potentially be spending more money on health-related issues in the future. The future may be closer than you would think, as a large number of alcohol related costs are due to medical expenses form car crashes, violent episodes or suicide attempts. The best way to avoid having to spend more time in the hospital and more money on health costs, drink in moderation and drink safely! Cheers!

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Facial Reflexology for Stress Relief

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Author: 
Katie Cardinal
Thursday, December 9, 2010

Photo: Courtesy of Michal Marcol

When you get angry or happy or sad, where do you show your emotions first? Your face, of course! Your face is one of the most expressive parts of your body to the outside world. From talking, chewing, and laughing to grinding teeth, smiling, and frowning, your face gets quite a workout on a daily basis. For this reason, facial muscles hold a lot of stress and tension simply due to living. But what if there was something to do in order to reduce the tension in your face and your overall stress level?

The technique of facial reflexology was created by Lone Sorenson, who combined the modern science of neurology with the ancient therapies of Traditional Chinese Medicine, South American Zone Therapy, and Vietnamese face maps and points. The idea behind facial reflexology revolves around the number of nerves and blood vessels in the face in addition to the face’s proximity to the brain. With face reflexology, stimulation of the points and zones via fingertip pressure trigger the release of endorphins and serotonin, leaving the face feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Such stimulation also sends impulses through the central nervous system and the meridians to the physical body and the major organs. In this way facial reflexology stimulates blood circulation and lymphatic drainage in addition to balancing hormones and leveling emotions. The technique clams the body and allows it to heal itself.

Facial reflexology has a variety of utilizations, including the treatment of specific conditions, to maintain health, and to simply relax the face. Facial reflexology has been used for the following conditions: allergies, anxiety and stress, arthritis, bells palsy, depression, digestive problems, insomnia, infertility, migraines, and stroke rehabilitation. Reflexology has also been used for children who have learning challenges, problems concentrating, difficulty remaining in their seat, having no friends, peers-caused emotional difficulties, weak memory and recall, and stress and anxiety.

Following the facial reflexology session an individual usually feels deeply relaxed with a healthier complexion and radiant face. In some cases an individual may experience headaches, chills, profuse sweating, or changes in bowel and urination due to the detoxification effects of facial reflexology. It is important to remember that all of the symptoms are only temporary and will return to normal. Individuals should get plenty of rest and consume plenty of water to support the body in its transition.

 

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Help Fight Off Colds This Winter by Exercising

Monday, December 6, 2010

Author: 
Erica Cross
Monday, December 6, 2010

Photo: Courtesy of Simon Howden

We have all heard the household remedies for fighting off the common cold, such as washing your hands frequently or consuming vitamin C. New research from a report published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that people who exercise regularly tend to have fewer colds than sedentary people. The study tracked over 1,000 participants from ages 18 to 85 for three months, recording their cold symptoms, amount of aerobic exercise, and various other factors that could potentially affect the immune system.

The researchers found that people who exercised five or more days per week (for at least 20 minutes per day) decreased the chances of developing the common cold by 50% when compared with participants with a sedentary lifestyle. While the researchers looked into a variety of different factors affecting the frequency of colds, they found exercise to be one of the biggest factors to help boost the immune system. When you do aerobic exercises such as running or jogging, the body’s ‘fight or flight’ system kicks in, which causes increased heart rate, increased blood flow, and many other bodily responses. Scientists believe that this activation of the body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ reflex is enough to activate the immune system and cause the immune cells to attack viruses, therefore preventing some colds before they start.

It’s important to note that exercise does not cure the common cold; it can only help prevent it. Like any other preventive method, even the most physically active person could develop a cold. However, more research on the effects of exercise on the immune system is on the horizon. Get your 20 minutes of exercise each day and your body could thank you for it this winter.

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How expensive that emergency really is...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Author: 
Sarah Sceery
Friday, December 3, 2010

Photocourtesy of: Renjith Krishnan

An emergency room visit is something that nobody wants to encounter. That hospital visit is usually not for a positive reason and in some cases can (figuratively) cost people an arm and a leg! For patients who are insured, the cost of an emergency visit is significantly less than those who are uninsured. Based on information taken from the New Hampshire Health Cost  below is a list of possible costs for UNH faculty/staff in the case of a minor ER visit (outpatient):

 

Insured Patient (Insurance and Insured cost combined)

Uninsured Patient (With an uninsured discount)

Wentworth Douglass Hospital

$381

$435

Elliot Hospital

$245

$338

Concord Hospital

$406

$457

Even with a small discount, the cost of an uninsured patient is significantly more than what insurance companies would have to pay. Additionally, the cost of an insured patient is covered by the patient and the insurer so the entire total is not out of pocket. Furthermore, the prices increases for emergency room visits that are considered medium cases (still outpatient):

 

Insured Patient (Insurance and Insured cost combined)

Uninsured Patient (With an uninsured discount)

Wentworth Douglass Hospital

$735

$845

Elliot Hospital

$850

$989

Concord Hospital

$1315

$1794

As demonstrated in the tables, costs can vary depending on hospital and also treatment. However, the cost of an emergency room, whether it is insured or out-of-pocket is still extremely high. The listed costs give guidelines on how expensive one visit actually is. Emergency care is an important part of health cost due to the fact that in most cases of severe injuries emergency room visits are necessary. It is important for individuals to be aware of potential costs for such visits.

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Sip to Relieve Stress

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Author: 
Katrina Heisler
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Photo: Courtesy of Carlos Porto

Let me start by saying I am a huge tea drinker; I’m talking five or six cups a day. For all the coffee addicts out there whose java is more “their cup of tea”, I can sympathize with you, the day just isn’t the same without it! I love the taste, the smell, the feeling of tea as it warms up my whole body and I just feel relaxed. This sparked in my mind and made me wonder, does tea have any stress relieving affects? Turns out a study was conducted by the University College of London to test the claim and was published in the medical journal Psychopharmacology in October 2009. The study followed 75 men “who were considered regular tea drinkers” and split them into experimental and control groups. In the six week study the men were placed under stressful tests and situations, such as dealing with the threat of losing their jobs, while scientists “monitored changes in their cortisol, blood pressure, blood platelets, and self-rated levels of stress”. The experimental group was given black tea while the control group was given a placebo drink that appeared, tasted and smelt like tea but did not have active black tea ingredients.

What were the results? All participants expressed an increase in heart rate blood pressure, and perceived stress levels but their were differences in their cortisol levels. “Nearly an hour after performing the task, men belonging to the group drinking authentic black tea had levels of cortisol that were 20% lower than their counterparts in the placebo group”. Cortisol is a stress related hormone that is released by the body during stressful situations. It usually drops back to normal once the body has returned to a calm state, but constant increased levels of cortisol can cause harm to the body potentially. Studies have shown high cortisol levels lead to a suppressed immune system which may be why you are more susceptible to catching a cold when under dire stress. The regular tea drinkers reported lower stress levels during the recovery period and had lower levels of platelet activation which decreases their risks for blood clotting and heart attacks.

While this study alone is not enough to conclude that drinking tea can relieve stress, I don’t think it would hurt to add a cup to your day if you’re feeling stressed. Aside from possibly lowering your stress levels tea does have a number of other added benefits. Depending on the type of tea, the drink can help you fall asleep, increase metabolism, and provide you with healthy antioxidants. Keep sipping tea drinkers!

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