Tag Archives: health and wellness

Managing Allergies with Tech

Managing Allergies & Asthma with Technology

Tracking the weather and your allergies can be an important part of managing allergies and asthma. Avoid living in a bubble with these helpful phone apps that make staying in touch with Mother Nature easy and fun.

Managing Allergies with Apps

WebMD Allergy

This allergy app is like having a meteorologist in your pocket. It gives you daily weather and pollen forecasts, tells you what allergens are in the air, and can even notify you when allergens reach a certain level. This free app is only for iPhones.

Allergy Alert

Not only can you check your local forecast and your area’s pollen levels, you can also track your symptoms over time to see how they change. Then you can get tips for managing your allergies. This app is free for Android and Apple users.

Managing Allergies & Asthma with Apps

RxmindMe Prescription

Life is busy. With a crazy day-to-day schedule, how in the world can you keep track of all your meds? RxmindMe offers friendly reminders of what meds to take, and you can even snap pictures of your pills to prevent mix-ups. It also lets you create reminders for weekly appointments and refills, so you never miss your doctor or a dose again. This free app is only for iPhones.

Back-to-School with Diabetes

Back-to-School with Diabetes

Back-to-school time always comes on so fast. Take the time now to make sure your kids know what to do in these situations as they head back-to-school with diabetes.

Things to Know Going Back-to-School with Diabetes

  • Who they can go to for help at school.
  • What they might need to get help with.
  • When they will eat, test their blood sugar levels, and take insulin.
  • Where to keep their supplies, test their levels, or take their insulin.
  • How they can check their levels themselves if this is something they are old enough to do.
  • Do they have an idea what’s on their Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP), their 504 Plan, or Individualized Education Plan (IEP). These help the school know what they need and keep them safe and having fun all year long, but it’s also good that they know what the school might ask of them.
  • And, remember to send snacks for when their blood glucose is low.

Visit Diabetes.org for even more great advice for helping your kids at school and more.

Healthy Eating for Your Heart

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Your Heart

You can reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol with 2 easy lifestyle changes: healthy eating and exercise.

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating habits can help you lower 3 of the major risk factors for heart attacks, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity.

Tips to Help with Healthy Eating

  • Eat a variety of fruits, veggies, grains, and dairy, which are all good for you in the right portions, and they keep your diet from getting boring. Use MyPlate to learn more about healthy  eating and portions of these foods.
  • If you keep track of the calories you take in and burn, you can balance them to keep a healthy weight.
  • Avoid foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, like soda and candy.
  • Limit the foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol that you eat, like full-fat dairy, vegetable oil, and egg yolks.
  • Use smaller plates, which has been shown to help people eat smaller portions.
  • Don’t deny yourself the foods you love, just enjoy them in moderation.
  • Don’t eat more than 2,400 milligrams of salt a day.

Soda and Healthy Eating

The amount of soda Americans drink has risen 135% over the last 30 years.

A study from the American Heart Association found middle aged people who drink as little as one soda a day, diet or regular, are at least 40% more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease.

This could be because people who drink sodas are more likely to have a sweet-tooth and eat other sugary food.

Cutting down on soda both lowers the sugar, empty calories, and salt you’re taking in. Stick to water instead.

Say “No” to Trans Fats

Trans fats hide in a lot of prepackaged foods. Like saturated fats, they raise your bad cholesterol  and lower your good cholesterol levels, increasing your chances of heart disease.

Learn to avoid them for healthy eating:

  • Margarine: Choose margarine in a tub, which has the least trans and saturated fats.
  • Baking Mixes: These can have fat in them that you don’t know about. Baking from scratch can help you cut back and control what’s in your treats.
  • Soups: Both dried and canned soups have trans fats and lots of sodium. Try making your own with fresh veggies and meat.
  • Fast Food: Almost everything in the drive-thru has something bad for you in it. Order grilled chicken and skip the fries.
  • Frozen Foods: Even if it says low fat, it can still have trans fat. Choose frozen foods with the fewest grams of total fat.
  • Chips and Crackers: Go for baked chips, low-fat crackers, or fat-free alternatives like pretzels.
  • Breakfast Foods: Choose cereals that have no fat, and breakfast and granola bars that are low in fat.
  • Toppings, Dips, and Condiments: Wherever you can, sub a low-fat alternative, like oil and vinegar instead of a ranch dressing and low-fat milk instead of cream.

Alcohol and Your Heart

Drinking a lot of alcohol on a regular basis can affect your blood pressure and cholesterol. While a little alcohol every day, like a glass of red wine, may have some minor health benefits, heavy drinking can cause a number of health problems.

Heavy drinking can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Alcohol keeps the liver from making hormones that help control blood pressure. Heavy drinkers can lower their systolic blood pressure by 2 to 4 points just by cutting back.

Some studies do show that moderate drinking is linked to good cholesterol levels. Stick to no more than 2 drinks daily for men younger than 65, and one for women or anyone over the age of 65.

You don’t have to give up your favorite beverages, just drink them in moderation.

Healthy Eating During the Holidays

The average adult will eat nearly 3,000 calories during a typical holiday meal, and that doesn’t include snacks, appetizers, or dessert. Use these healthy eating tips to cut back:

  • Never go to a party hungry. Before you leave, eat a light snack full of fiber and protein so you don’t binge at the dessert table.
  • Prepare a healthy side. Substitute skim milk or egg whites in  recipes to lower fat, cholesterol, and calories.
  • Survey the spread. Before choosing what to eat, check what’s available. Look for apps with fresh veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Avoid dishes like casseroles where you can’t tell what all’s inside.
  • Eat lean. There are plenty of ways to add flavor without the gravy. Grilled, steamed, skinless, and seasoned are the best heart-smart choices.
  • Don’t stay close by. Take a few items, and walk away from the food. When you’re catching up, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Stay active. Instead of giving into an after-meal doze, take a walk or go to the mall for some window shopping.

Potassium and Your Heart

Potassium helps lower your blood pressure in two ways:

  • By getting rid of extra salt through urine.
  • By relaxing blood vessel walls, which lets blood flow more easily.

One article in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension found that just changing how much potassium and magnesium you eat could lower your blood pressure 2 to 6 points.

Adding potassium to your diet doesn’t mean you can eat all the salt you want. But getting enough potassium, at least 4,700 milligrams a day, plays an important part in your overall healthy eating plan to control your blood pressure.

Studies also show a link between potassium and lower stroke risk, so getting more of it is good for your family members, too, even if they don’t have high blood pressure.

From fish to fruits to dairy, lots of foods have potassium. It’s easy to fit into every meal:

1,000 mg
  • Avocado (1 cup)
  • Papaya (1)
  • Baked potato (8 ounces with skin)
  • Edamame (1 cup shelled, cooked)
  • Lima beans (1 cup, cooked)
  • Sweet potato (1 cup, cooked)
750 mg
  • Plantains (1 cup, cooked)
  • Salmon (6 ounces)
  • Tomato sauce (1 cup)
  • Winter squash (1 cup, cooked)
500 mg
  • Banana (1)
  • Beets (1 cup, cooked)
  • Cantaloupe (1 cup)
  • Dried apricots (12 halves)
  • Dried figs (4)
  • Orange juice (1 cup)
  • Yogurt (1 cup plain low-fat)
250 mg
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Zucchini (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Kiwi (1)
  • Mango (1)
  • Nectarine (1)
  • Orange (1)
  • Pear (1)
  • Strawberries (1 cup)
  • Raisins (1/4 cup)
  • Dates (5 whole)
  • Milk (low-fat or skim,1 cup)
  • Chicken breast (5 ounces, roasted)
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Peanuts (1 ounce, about 1/4 cup)

Heart Healthy Nuts

Mother Nature’s near-perfect snack is tree nuts. They’re one of the healthiest and easiest snack foods. From boosting memory and brain power to protecting against cancer, research has shown the power of this snack.

Studies find walnuts have the most antioxidants, about twice that of other nuts, and polyunsaturated fats, that help reduce cholesterol and protect the heart, omega-3s, melatonin, and protein.

If walnuts aren’t your first choice, munching on other kinds still has plenty of benefits. Nuts actually lower levels bad cholesterol in your blood. Try substituting a serving of nuts for a food that’s high in saturated fat, like red meat, eggs, and whole-fat dairy.

Almonds
  • Packed with protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.
  • Very high in monosaturated fat, or the heart healthy fat.
  • One of the best sources of Vitamin E, which protects against cancer and stroke.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 160 calories, 14 grams of fat.
Cashews
  • Good source of monosaturated fat.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 155 calories, 12 grams of fat.
Pistachios
  • Great source of potassium.
  • High in monosaturated fat (almost as much as almonds).
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 160 calories, 13 grams of fat.
Peanuts
  • Has more protein than tree nuts.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 170 calories, 14 grams of fat.
Pecans
  • Great choice for fighting high cholesterol because they’re low in saturated fat.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 200 calories, 20 grams of fat.

Get Moving

Being active is one of the most important things you can do to help control your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol, as well as lower your risk of heart disease. It doesn’t have to take much time, in fact, you can easily add the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day simply by changing your routine.

For example, try:

  • Taking a 10-15 minute walk during your lunch break.
  • Jumping rope for 15 minutes.
  • Gardening or raking leaves for 30 minutes.
  • Going for a walk in the park with your family.

Make sure you talk to your doctor before you start a new diet or exercise routine.

Summer Camp in Care

Summer Camp with Diabetes

Almost every kid wants to go to summer camp. It’s a place to hike, swim, play, learn new things, and make new friends. But you may feel like your kid’s disease is standing in their way.

The American Diabetes Association sponsors summer camp specifically for kids with diabetes. They’ll have a a great time with traditional camp activities and meet other kids with diabetes. And they’ll have daily diabetes care from health care professionals, as well as education about living with their disease.

You can donate, help start a summer camp, or find the nearest summer camp for your kids on the ADA’s website.

Check Out Nearby Summer Camps

Illinois

Camp Confidence
Des Plaines, IL
Ages: 4 to 9 years

Camp Discovery
Glen Ellyn, IL
Ages: 4 to 9 years

Camp Crossroads
Chicago
Ages: 4 to 9 years

Camp Granada
Monticello, IL
Ages: 8 to 16 years

Triangle D Camp
Ingleside, IL
Ages: 9 to 13 years

Teen Adventure Camp
Ingleside, IL
Ages: 14 to 18 years

Camp Can Do
Palos Park, IL
Ages: 4 to 9 years

Indiana

Camp John Warvel
North Webster, IN
Ages: 7 to 17 years
Reasons You Have High Blood Pressure

Breaking Down Why You Have High Blood Pressure

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

Some people are more likely to have high blood pressure, and this can be because of things you can’t control, or because of lifestyle choices you make.

  • Age – The risk of high blood pressure increases with time. Men usually develop it around age 45 and women after age 65.
  • Race – High blood pressure and serious complications are more common for African Americans.
  • Family History – High blood pressure tends to run in families.
  • Certain Chronic Conditions – Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy – Your blood pressure may be raised during pregnancy.
  • Being Overweight – The more you weigh, the more blood your body has to pump to perform normal tasks like carrying oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. That more blood that’s pumping, the higher the pressure.
  • Not Being Physically Active – Not being active usually makes your heart rate higher, which means your heart’s working harder than it should and pumping more.
  • Tobacco Use – Smoking and chewing tobacco raise your blood pressure temporarily, but it can also damage your arteries which raises your blood pressure in the long-term.
  • Too Much Salt –  When you eat too much salt, you also gain water-weight, which increases your blood pressure.
  • Too Much Alcohol – Heavy drinkers can damage their heart over time.
  • Too Little Potassium – Potassium helps balance sodium in your body.
  • Too Little Vitamin D – Not enough vitamin D in your diet might affect an enzyme your body makes that affects your blood pressure.

If you have some of these other risk factors, your doctor may set your blood pressure target lower.

Other Causes of High Blood Pressure

If you have secondary high blood pressure, it’s caused by an underlying condition. It usually appears suddenly and goes away when the condition has been treated. These things might cause it:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Birth defects in your blood vessels
  • Certain meds, like birth control pills, anti-depressants, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs like cocaine

Reasons for High Blood Pressure After Meds

Some find that even though they’ve gotten on a medication, their blood pressure is still not low enough. If you find that your blood pressure is higher than normal at certain times, think about these factors.

Lifestyle Choices

Some of your lifestyle choices could be raising your blood pressure.

  • Quit smoking, and cut back on alcohol and caffeine.
  • De-stress.
  • Watch your diet.
  • Get active.
  • Make sure you’re taking your meds exactly as your doctor prescribed.
  • Visit your doctor for regular checkups.

The Season

Believe it or not, studies show that the season can have an effect on your blood pressure. It’s more likely to go back to normal levels in the spring and summer than it is in the winter, no matter if you live in a very cold climate or a very warm one.

Perhaps it’s because it’s harder to get out and exercise and because of the extra pounds you can pack on during the holiday season. Either way, this means in the winter, it might be necessary to take higher doses of meds or even different drugs. Talk to your doctor if you notice this seasonal difference in your readings.

Medications

Did this raise go hand-in-hand with a new pill you started? Did you get a cold and start taking some over-the-counter meds you don’t normally?

Check to make sure that what you’re taking isn’t to blame. And talk to your doctor about the risk or if you should make changes to your prescriptions.

Bigger Problems

If your blood pressure is still strangely high, your doctor might need to adjust your meds. And if this still doesn’t help, it might be a sign of something more serious, like kidney problems or a chronic condition. Then, it’s time for a doctor’s appointment and maybe some tests to find the cause.

Getting Your Blood Pressure Readings

You and Your Blood Pressure Readings

Choosing an At-Home Monitor

One of the best things you can do to manage high blood pressure is to track it regularly. A home monitor will help you keep track of blood pressure readings between visits to the doctor.

There are many different types of at-home blood pressure monitors, and there are always the booth ones at local pharmacies. While the style may be different, monitors come with the same basic parts. They have:

  • An inflatable cuff or strap
  • A gauge for readouts
  • And some use and come with a stethoscope

Things to keep in mind for good blood pressure readings:

  • It is important to get one with a cuff that fits your arm, because a cuff that is too small will give a high reading no matter what.
  • Your doctor can help you find the best option for you and teach you how to use it correctly.
  • If you already have an at-home monitor, bring it with you to the doctor’s office so they can check its accuracy.

Getting Good Blood Pressure Readings at Home

These tips from the Mayo Clinic can help you get good blood pressure readings at home:

  • Measure your blood pressure twice a day.
  • Don’t take a reading immediately after waking up.
  • Avoid food, caffeine, and tobacco for at least 30 minutes before taking a reading.
  • Sit quietly for a few minutes before measuring.
  • Make sure you are seated with both feet on the floor, with your back supported.
  • Support your arm on an arm rest or table top on an even level with your heart.
  • Don’t talk while taking your blood pressure.

Getting Good Blood Pressure Readings at the Doctor’s Office

According to findings from the University of Virginia Health System, how you’re positioned while taking a blood pressure reading can change your reading by up to 15%. Make sure your blood pressure readings are as correct as possible:

Take a breather.

We’ve all been there. You’re running late for your doctor’s appointment, so you’re rushing into the building at the last second. If you’re called back right away, ask the nurse to wait a few minutes to take your blood pressure so your heart rate has time to return to its normal level.

Assume the position.

Just like at home, make sure you’re sitting in a chair with your back supported with both feet flat on the floor. Support your extended arm at heart level.

One size does not fit all.

Let your nurse know if the blood pressure cuff feels too tight or loose. Just like with your at-home monitor, too tight can give you a falsely high reading.

Compare blood pressure readings.

Check to see how a reading at the doctor’s matches your at-home readings.

Controlling Asthma with Diet

Balancing and Controlling Asthma with Your Lifestyle

Controlling Asthma through Lifestyle

There is no way to magically cure your asthma, but eating a smart and healthy diet and keeping a healthy lifestyle can make a huge difference in controlling asthma.

The number of people with asthma has risen in the past 3 decades, and many wonder if it’s because of our changing diet without enough fruits and veggies.

Several studies have explored this connection. One found that teens with poor nutrition were more likely to have asthma.

And while nutrition is likely not the cause of asthma, it can be the cause of obesity. Being overweight makes you more likely to have severe asthma symptoms, take more meds, and miss more work.

Changes for Controlling Asthma

Eat lots of fruits and veggies.

Packed with antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamins C and E, fruits and veggies help with lung problems. Try controlling your asthma by adding more of these to your diet:

  • Apples, which have been tied to lower rates of asthma, possibly because of something in them called flavonoids that have been shown to open airways.
  • Cantaloupe, which is high in Vitamin C.
  • Carrots, which have a lot of beta carotene, can help reduce attacks caused by exercise.
  • Coffee, the caffeine in it can help open airways slightly for a few hours after drinking it.
  • Flax seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium which can relax your muscles, which can help open airways.
  • Garlic, which has long been used as a treatment for many things because it’s thought to be anti-inflammatory.
  • Avocados, which is a healthy antioxidant called glutathione.

Add more vitamin D.

Studies find that people with severe asthma have low levels of vitamin D. Work on controlling your asthma by adding more foods with plenty of vitamin D to your meals, like milk, eggs, and salmon.

Avoid trans fats.

Trans fats, found in many processed foods like margarine, can make your asthma worse and have been linked to other serious health conditions, like heart disease.

Look for sulfites.

Sulfites are a preservative that keeps foods like wine, dried fruits, pickles, and fresh and frozen shrimp good for longer. They give off sulfur dioxide which can irritate your lungs, and research has tied it to asthma flare-ups in some people.

This doesn’t mean you have to cut these from your diet. Just watch for a reaction for about an hour after you eat them.

Stay away from allergy-triggering foods.

Asthma puts you at a bigger risk for food allergies, and you can develop them late in life.

After you eat common allergy-triggering foods like nuts, soy, eggs, and dairy, keep an eye out for common allergy reactions:

  • Burning, teary, itchy, red, or swollen eyes
  • Coughing, wheezing, or a tight chest
  • Headache
  • Hives or skin rashes
  • Itchy nose, throat, or mouth
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Avoid foods that trigger Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD).

Up to 70% of people who have asthma, also have GERD, which is stomach acid reflux. GERD can make asthma symptoms worse.

While it can cause normal heartburn symptoms, it doesn’t always. You may need to take medicine or lose weight to manage GERD. But sometimes just eating smaller meals, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine, and avoiding eating before bed can help. You can also avoid foods that you know cause these problems for you.

Lose weight.

While losing weight isn’t easy, it can help your asthma. Eat a healthy and balanced diet and stay active. Make sure you talk to your doctor about how best to manage your asthma or use your meds so that you can exercise without causing attacks.