8 Easy Ways to Healthify Your Halloween

Halloween can be fun, festive, and healthy! Take a pass on the sugar hangover this year, and keep in the spirit of things with these simple, delightful ways to make the Halloween holiday happy and just a little bit healthier.

  1. Bake tasty treats. Put a creative spin on traditional sugar-laden sweets this October. Rather than candy and other unhealthy refined sugars, consider Halloween themes as you craft recipes into yummy, healthy treats.
    • Turn ghostly green apples into goblin faces with peanut butter mouths, a triangle of cheese for tongues, and toasted pumpkin seeds for teeth.
    • Whip up granola and yogurt cups with fruit toppings that resemble pumpkins or black cats.
    • Roast veggies in cutout shapes of jack-o-lanterns, witch hats, and ghosts.
    •  Transform a frozen banana on a stick into a mummy by applying stripes of yogurt and two dots for eyes.
    • Top quesadillas with spooky veggie faces.
    • Try out bat-shaped cookie cutters on pita bread and serve with hummus dip.
  2. Let the fall season be your guide. Whether you pick a local pumpkin to carve (or roast and bake into Healthy Pumpkin Muffins or Pumpkin Pie Smoothies or head to the nearest corn maze, fill your days with all the goodies that fall in Maine brings.
  3. Consider throwing a Halloween bash in lieu of trick-or-treating. Play games, dance, give out fun prizes, and start your own healthy Halloween tradition!
  4. Fill up on good-for-you food before trick-or-treating. As tempting as it is to call in a pizza on All Saints’ Eve, plan ahead. Try putting together a Pumpkin Turkey Chili in the slow cooker the morning of Halloween, and it’ll be ready before it’s time to hit the streets. (Bonus points for serving it in a cleaned-out pumpkin!) Or make a spooky charcuterie board so everyone can help themselves—load up slices of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and meats alongside rubber spiders, skeleton bones, and peeled grape “eyes.” When you fuel up on healthy food first, your kids (and you!) are less likely to overdo the refined sugar.
  5. Mix up what you give out. Trade bowls of candy for Halloween-themed erasers, stickers, fake tattoos, glow sticks, bubbles, or other games or toys. Or hand out bags of healthier snacks, like string cheese, trail mix, or granola.
  6. Get active. Take a bike ride, walk the long way to the trick-or-treating neighborhood, and enjoy time outdoors in Maine’s beautiful fall weather.
  7. Limit bag size and location. If your child has a smaller bag trick-or-treating, they can’t carry as much candy. Likewise, combing a small neighborhood for candy will minimize the amount of candy they collect.
  8. A little goes a long way. Develop a trick-or-treat rationing system that works for your family. Consider setting aside a few of their favorites and managing the stash: allot a certain number of candies for each night in the coming week. Moderation is helpful to model. Or give away the loot. Some homes for older adults, food pantries, and other local charities take donations of candy. Dentists, too, will often “buy back” candy from children. Some families even have a “Switch Witch” come overnight and replace the candy with a special gift for each child.

With a little planning and a dose of creativity, your Halloween celebration doesn’t have to involve copious amounts of candy, sugar overload, and super stimulation. It can be fun—and healthy, too!

Browntail Moths

Browntail moths are an invasive species in Maine that not only defoliate trees—they can cause a painful, poison-ivy like rash and respiratory issues in humans. If you’re unfortunate enough to come in airborne or direct contact with toxic hairs from the browntail moth caterpillar’s body, chances are you’re looking for relief.

Here’s what you need to know about browntail moths and two over-the-counter formulas that may help soothe the painful, itchy rash they cause.

What are Browntail Moths

Browntail moths are insects that are primarily found on Cape Cod and the coast of Maine, although they are moving more inland each year.

The caterpillar form of the moth begins emerging from overwintering nests in April to feed off budding foliage and will pupate to full grown moths by July. During this time the caterpillars shed their skin, dropping microscopic toxin-filled hairs into the environment. The hairs are barbed and get into the grass, leaves, trees, on outdoor equipment, in the air and even on your pet’s fur. While they don’t seem to cause any harm to pets, coming in contact with even a few of these toxic hairs can cause a severely painful, itchy, poison-ivy like rash and respiratory issues in humans. The rash can last from a few hours to several weeks.

Toxic hairs from the browntail moth can remain toxic for up to three years. Wind or other outdoor activities such as raking, mowing, or gardening can stir up the hairs and lead to a reaction.

How to Avoid Exposure to Browntail Moths

The rash and respiratory issues are a result of airborne or direct contact with toxic hairs from the browntail moth caterpillar. Humans have a chemical reaction to both the toxin in the hairs and physical irritation from the barbed hairs.

Here’s what you can do to reduce risk of a rash or respiratory issue:

  • Avoid infested areas
  • Cover up any exposed skin when outdoors
  • Do yard work on wet days to mitigate agitation of any hairs in foliage debrisDry laundry inside in June and July to avoid hairs getting on clothing
  • Take a cool shower and change (and wash) clothes after activities that may have put you in contact with the hairs
  • Use tape or a lint roller on your pet’s fur and your clothes to remove embedded hairs

How to Soothe Browntail Moth Rashes

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for exposure to the toxins, but there are several things you can do to relieve and soothe symptoms.

For a mild rash, take a cool bath with baking soda and apply calamine lotion, antihistamine cream or hydrocortisone cream topically to the irritated areas. For added relief, try putting the creams in the refrigerator before application.

Alternatively, the following over-the-counter formulas* can be easily made at home with ingredients from your local drugstore.

OTC Lotion

Combine equal parts of the following creams:

  • hydrocortisone 1% (Cortizone 10)
  • diphenhydramine hydrochloride 2% and zinc acetate 0.1% (e.g. Extra Strength Benadryl),
  • lidocaine 4% (Aspercreme)

OTC Spray

In a spray bottle, combine equal parts of the following cremes and fill the rest of the bottle with witch hazel.

  • hydrocortisone 1% (Cortizone 10)
  • diphenhydramine hydrochloride 2% and zinc acetate 0.1% (extra-strength Benadryl),
  • lidocaine 4% (Aspercreme)
  • witch hazel

If pain continues without relief, or you have trouble breathing, swallowing, or have swelling of the face or throat, contact your healthcare provider.

 

 

*provided by Coastal Pharmacy + Wellness

How to Garden for Your Health

Gardening is good for you. So good in fact, it:

  • Exercises your mind and body. Planning, preparing, planting, and tending to a garden gets you thinking and moving.
  • Builds self-esteem. When you learn to grow plants, you learn an important life skill and accomplish something new, lighting up the reward activity center in your brain.
  • Decreases your risk of dementia. Gardening may cut your chances of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 50 percent, studies show.
  • Lowers your blood pressure. Nature really is restorative!
  • Reduces tension and stress. Being outside and gardening lowers your cortisol levels and can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, giving you a chance to focus on something and put your mind to a task with an end goal.
  • Boosts your mood. Seeing plant life thrive and knowing you played a role in that growth is a smiling-inducing feat! Plus, gardening boosts your endorphin levels, and the daily dose of vitamin D does its job, too, in turn benefiting your bones and immune system.
  • Saves you money. According to the National Gardening Association, for every $1 you put into your garden, you get $8 back.
  • Gives you healthy produce. Fresh, local vegetables are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which has been shown to prevent cancer and promote health and wellbeing.
  • Improves your quality of life. How could it not, with this long list of benefits?

No wonder gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in America.

What is Container Gardening

If you’re short on space or new to gardening, consider getting started with a container garden. Container gardening is when plants are grown in containers rather than in the ground.

You’ll be surprised by how many vegetables can be grown in a small area, and you’ll have the added advantage of being able to move your containers around, controlling the amount of sunlight and warmth each plant receives to maximize its growth and food production. Plus, very limited weeding!

How to Start Container Gardening

First, choose what you want to grow. Easy plants to grow include herbs such as parsley, chives, basil, mint, and thyme. Additionally, lettuces, spinach, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, aloe vera, and zucchini are also fairly easy to grow and are known to thrive with container gardening.

Next, select the containers you’ll use. Old wheelbarrows, recycled food containers such as yogurt cups, terracotta pots, empty milk jugs, window boxes, and buckets all make suitable pots for plants. Choose a larger size than you think you’ll need to allow enough room for roots to grow. Make sure each container is clean and has at least one drainage hole (about ½ inch in diameter), which you can drill in if your container doesn’t already have one.

Then, use a potting mix or make your own with garden soil, compost, peat, and vermiculite to put into the container and put in your seeds or seedlings. If using seeds, each seed packet will tell you what conditions the plants need in terms of sun, space, and warmth, as well as how far down to put the seed in the soil. If you want an even easier option, start with seedlings instead.

Next, pick a spot. Most plants need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Some gardeners keep container plants outdoors in the warmer weather, while others keep theirs indoors year-round.

Water, water, water. Plants in containers dry out more quickly than plants in the ground. Count on watering your plants every day, beginning on Day One.

Keep an eye on your plant as it grows. If it looks tall and spindly or there are bites taken out of it by pests, look up University of Maine Cooperative Extension or MOFGA gardening tips online to troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

Now that you’ve got your containers planted, it’s time to sit back and watch your garden flourish and—the best part—pick your vegetables when ripe and enjoy!

How to Add Steps Every Day

Walking is a healthy habit that’s free and easy to fit into your day. Every step you take burns calories, strengthens your heart, eases joint pain, improves sleep, and boosts your immune system, your mood, and your energy. Walking may even prolong your life. So whether you’re a regular walker or taking baby steps to get there, remember that each step you’re taking adds to your overall wellbeing.

Every step counts—literally!

More Americans are seeing the benefits of walking and beginning to add more steps to their day. If you’re not currently a walker, start thinking of yourself as one! When it comes to creating a healthy habit, behavioral science has a few things figured out.

First of all, it helps to label yourself a walker and begin your new practice after a “fresh start,” such as your birthday, a meaningful life event, the first of the month, or even a Monday. By starting with a blank slate, your motivation to change behavior naturally increases, according to Katy Milkman, author of How to Change.

Secondly, make a plan and try to be specific. Here’s an easy formula to get started:
When [regular event] happens on [specific day] at [specific time], I will [insert healthy goal, such as walk 20 minutes].

After you set your plan, publicly commit to your goal, set visual or smartphone reminders (and take action right when they go off!), and get moving!

Ten Tips to Add Steps to Your Day

While we recommend that you aim to get a daily dose of 10,000 steps (the equivalent of about an hour and a half of walking), you don’t need to do it all at once. Read through these tips on how you can add steps here and there throughout the day, consider how you might apply some of them to your own life, and make a plan for how you can get there.

1. Make it fun! Behavioral science research shows that when you make exercise fun, you’re more likely to make a habit of it. So think zany: Walk like an Egyptian to your mailbox instead of grabbing it from your car window. Line up your family and imitate each other’s walking styles. The more fun the better!

2. Stroll in town. Purposefully pick a parking spot further away from your destination. If you have two or more places to be in the same neighborhood, walk instead of drive to them. Better yet, walk to work or errands if you can.

3. Walk while you wait. Americans spend 37 billion hours waiting in line each year, according to the New York Times. March in place when you wait in line or ask the person behind you to hold your spot while you do a loop. If you’re picking up kids from school or an after-school activity and you get there a few minutes early, turn off your engine and add some steps to your day.

4. Pair walking with indulgence. Behavioral scientists refer to this as “bundling”: take a pleasurable activity, such as listening to your favorite tunes or an audiobook, and indulge in it only when you engage in a healthy habit.

5. Take the stairs. You’ll build muscle and probably get there faster anyway!

6. Walk and talk. Strive for face-to-face communication. Instead of texting a coworker or calling out to a family member in the next room, walk over and talk to them in person.

7. Buddy up. Walk on your lunch break with your coworker and after dinner with your family or neighbor. Start a small walking group among friends. Take your dog on a weekend hike. Phone a friend while you stroll. When you partner social and physical activities, you do a great service for your mental health.

8. Walk farther. If you can’t get in the recommended 10,000 steps every day, don’t despair—just add more steps to another day. It all adds up! Looking for weekend fun? Grab a water bottle, slather on some sunscreen, and explore our beautiful state on foot. Maine by Foot has a great travel guide to hikes you can search by towns, including the areas surrounding all four DFD Russell Medical Center locations. Don’t have time to spare? Pick up your pace! You’ll get more steps in by walking faster.

9. Wander and wonder. Try meditative walking. Also known as kinhin, this practice consists of focusing attention on your movement and the world around you rather than your breath, as in traditional meditation. When you walk, you reap the benefits of relaxation and stress reduction alongside physical activity.

10. Go the long way. Sometimes we pick convenience because it seems like common sense. Challenge some of your usual routines: walk to the bathroom farthest away from you. Take the long way around the kitchen to get what you need. Opt for walking into a store or a bank rather than using the drive-thru. Return the shopping cart all the way to the grocery store instead of the nearest receptacle. When you add steps to every task you ordinarily do, you’ll easily get more exercise into your day.

What are two or three ways you’d suggest to someone who wants to get more steps in?

Check with your provider if you’re looking for more tips and a personalized plan on getting more physically active.

Keep Moving!

A Guide to Aging and Exercise


Think that exercise is only a young person’s game? It’s not! People of all ages should be participating in regular exercise. It’s essential for maintaining our physical, mental, and emotional health as well as preventing injury, illness and disease.

Can I exercise as I get older?

Yes! You can absolutely exercise as you get older and we encourage it. If you’ve been sedentary for a while and are looking to restart an exercise routine, it’s important to start small and start where you are. Exercise goals are just that, goals, and they take time, patience and commitment.

What exercise activities should I be doing?

Generally, people of all ages need a combination of strength training, moderate-intensity aerobic movement and regular stretching.

Strength training is described as movement that makes your muscles work harder than usual such as bodyweight training and weightlifting. Moderate-intensity aerobic movement is exercise that gets your heart beating faster such as brisk walking, jogging or swimming. And don’t forget to stretch! They can be simple stretches or even yoga and pilates programs.

How often should I exercise?

Great question! How often you exercise will be dependent on your current physical fitness and personal medical situation. It’s always recommended to discuss your fitness goals with your healthcare provider before you start a new exercise program or activity.

If you’re currently moderately active, the general guideline is to aim for strength training at least twice per week in addition to 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Stretching should be done every single day, but especially before and after physical activity.

What are the benefits of exercising as I get older?

There are so many benefits to exercising while you age! Benefits will depend on your individual physical and medical situation, but these are some common benefits to look forward to:

Physical Benefits

  • Increases muscle strength and bone density
  • Improves balance, mobility and dexterity
  • Maintains a healthy weight
  • Reduces hypertension
  • Lowers risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and more

Mental Benefits

  • Independence, less reliance on others
  • Improves cognitive function and memory
  • Promotes quality sleep

Emotional Benefits

  • Improves social engagement
  • Boosts your mood, energy and outlook on life
  • Decreases stress, anxiety and depression


For ideas on strength training, stretching and aerobic exercise, we recommend speaking with your provider. Because each person is different and has different healthcare needs, ask your provider which exercises are safe and effective for you.

Snacking for Heart Health

Everyone loves snacks! However, when we’re hungry and reaching for something quick to eat, it’s very easy to grab what’s convenient—and not always the most healthy. Eating snacks between meals helps to maintain blood sugar, gives us extra servings of fruits, veggies and nutrients, and can give us a boost of energy.

To keep your snack game strong, we suggest a balanced eating approach. This means that while we don’t suggest depriving yourself of your favorite treats, we do suggest that you indulge in moderation by focusing on whole, minimally processed foods, and avoiding or limiting heavily processed foods. Let’s take at our favorite heart healthy snacks.

Leafy Greens

Okay, you probably won’t grab a handful of greens to snack on but these powerhouse vegetables serve up a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C. We suggest adding one to two handfuls of kale or spinach to your favorite smoothie recipe. For a nutritious (and quick) snack, blend up our “Greenest Smoothie.”

Berries

Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are the ultimate sweet treat. Berries feel indulgent because of their natural sugars but are actually packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We suggest starting with a serving size of one cup of frozen or fresh picked berries. Enjoy them as they are or add them to a smoothie or on top of a serving of plain yogurt or cottage cheese.

Pro-tip:

To avoid sugar spikes when snacking, add a serving of healthy fat and/or protein. Think banana with peanut butter or apple slices with cheese.

Avocados

This green, nutrient dense fruit is incredibly versatile. Packed with healthy fats to keep you feeling full and with a mild flavor, it can truly take on any form you’d like. Add 1/2 of a ripe avocado into a smoothie. Scoop out the flesh, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a dash of hot sauce and smear it on your toast. Or use it as a veggie dip with cucumbers, carrots, or sliced bell peppers (much like guacamole).

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are small, but pack a mighty punch with a satisfying crunch. Grab a handful of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, or macadamia nuts. Add chia seeds, flax seeds or hemp seeds to your smoothies or homemade dips. Be cautious of serving sizes as nuts and seeds contain a lot of (healthy) fat.

Hummus

Hummus is typically made from chickpeas but can also be made from white beans, black beans or even mashed cauliflower! Hummus can be store bought or made at home where you can control its ingredients. When made with chickpeas or beans, a serving of hummus offers a generous amount of protein and pairs perfectly with veggie sticks or multi-grain crackers.


While we suggest limiting packaged and processed foods, it’s important to note that not all packaged or prepared foods are bad and should be avoided For instance, washed and packaged leafy greens, pre-cut and washed vegetables, fortified juices, and nut butters are completely acceptable to purchase and enjoy. For best practice while grocery shopping, read all nutrition labels.

On the other hand, we do suggest limiting or completely avoiding heavily processed packaged foods that appear in the store as “ready to eat.” Typically, these food items contain a high amount of processed sugars (e.g. corn syrup), sodium (e.g. salt), trans fats, preservatives and other harmful ingredients. Consider limiting:

  • Chips, popcorn, most crackers
  • Cookies, candy and candy bars
  • Soda, energy drinks or other sugary drinks
  • Dried fruit and fruit cocktails
  • Flavored yogurts


When wanting to choose healthier snacks, try having healthier choices at home that are convenient and ready to eat and therefore easy to choose. Try the following:

  1. Rinse and portion leafy greens so that they’re ready to be blended into your smoothie.
  2. Wash, cut, and store carrot sticks, cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables for dipping in the fridge.
  3. Pre-portion nuts and seeds and nut butters so you can grab the correct serving size without accidentally overdoing it.


Remember that snacking is a great way to maintain your blood sugar and keep you satisfied until your next meal, but it’s not meant to make you feel too full or will have a sugar crash!

If you need help determining which snacks are best for your lifestyle, consult with your primary care provider or with a certified nutritionist.

The Best Foods to Boost Your Immune System

During the holidays and the chilly winter season, we tend to gather more often with others indoors. As a result, flu and cold viruses quickly make their way around. You can protect yourself and your family from illness by wearing masks, washing your hands, and getting flu shots.

However, you can also be mindful of what you eat and drink as a preventative measure to stay healthier. Consider adding the following foods to your diet to keep your immune system humming along—no matter what time of year it is.

Bluberries

These powerful berries contain antioxidants that have been proven to aid the respiratory tract defense system. Add 1/2 cup to one whole cup of blueberries to your cereal, oatmeal, smoothie, salads or yogurt every day.

Fish

Oily fish such as tuna, salmon, anchovies and sardines are packed with Omega-3 healthy fats that can reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases and heart disease. It’s recommended to eat two servings per week at three ounces per serving.

Broccoli

This crunchy, dark green vegetable is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, true heros fighting for your immune system. Some studies have shown that 2-3 servings per week may help to reduce risk of certain cancers. Try adding one cup of cooked or raw broccoli to your meals at least twice a week for its health benefits.

Spinach

Another dark green vegetable, spinach is a powerhouse when it comes your immune system. It’s packed with vitamins A and C that are known to enhance immune system function, as well as carotenoids and flavonoids that help prevent the common cold in healthy individuals. Add two cups of dark, leafy greens such as spinach to your food intake every day to get the most benefit from its nutrients. Spinach is great cooked as a side dish or raw in salads and smoothies.

Ginger

Ginger is a slightly spicy, warming ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties. It can be cooked into your favorite dishes, added to smoothies, or enjoyed with a cup of tea. Ginger has been known to calm upset stomachs and soothe sore throats. Try adding a tablespoon of grated or chopped ginger to your next stir fry or soup recipe. If you’re feeling unwell, add a few slices to a cup of warm lemon water as a way to stay hydrated.


While we don’t suggest a restrictive diet any time of year, we do suggest being aware of certain foods. Consider limiting:

  • Fried foods
  • Fast food
  • Candy
  • Soda and sugary drinks
  • Alcohol and caffeine


Indulging in eggnog and pumpkin pie happens, so don’t be too hard on yourself this holiday season! Give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite holiday treats and allow yourself to truly savor them. Just keep in mind your portions and sugar intake and remember to eat a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

November is Diabetes Awareness month and an important time to talk about healthier food choices. During this holiday season, you can manage your diabetes while enjoying your family, friends and festivities.

What is Diabetes?

At its very basic, diabetes is a chronic disease where your body’s blood glucose is too high. When blood sugar increases, your pancreas releases insulin to manage the excess sugar. For those living with diabetes, their body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use the insulin as well as it should. For more information on the types of diabetes, check out our blog here.

How can I manage my diabetes during the holidays?

We all celebrate the holiday season in different ways, but it is likely that we all celebrate with food! To enjoy this time without overextending yourself, try to follow some of these tips:

  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you have a drink, enjoy it with food to help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Consider carbs. If you want to have dessert, be careful with how many carbs you eat before the sweets such as bread, stuffing, and potatoes.
  • Don’t skip meals. Also, try to eat at the same times every day.
  • And don’t skip your favorites! ’Tis the season for family recipes and seasonal favorites. Have a slice of pumpkin pie or glass of eggnog and savor it! As long as you are mindful about the other food choices you’ve made throughout the day.
  • Keep exercising.Walks, stretching, and simple workouts approved by your doctor can help manage stress as well as your mood.
  • Prioritize sleep. The holidays can be both enjoyable and exhausting. When the body doesn’t rest properly, it has a harder time managing blood sugar.

Simple Swaps to Manage Blood Sugar

Just because you’re living with diabetes, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy delicious, rich foods! However, you do need to be deliberate with your food choices. For those moments where you may want a healthier option, try one of the healthier swaps below.

Swap:

Chips and Dip for Veggies and Hummus

You’ll get at least one serving of vegetables and some protein from the hummus. Protein aids in regulating your blood sugar.

Mashed Potatoes for Mashed Cauliflower

You’ll get another serving of low-carb vegetables—just be sure to watch added butter or cream.

Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes for Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and beta-carotene and are sweet enough without added sugar.

Green Bean Casserole for Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Rich in fiber, Brussels sprouts are a better option than the creamy, salty, deep-fried onion casserole.

Fried Turkey for Roasted Turkey

Deep-fried turkeys are trending, but they’re very heavy in fat. Keep your proteins as lean and clean as possible and opt for lean poultry or healthy fat filled fish such as salmon.

Pecan Pie for Pumpkin Pie

Still sweet and filled with festive spices, pumpkin pie has less sugar, less fat and more vitamins from the pumpkin puree.

One in three Americans do not know that they have diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that may have been present at birth, developed during adulthood or during pregnancy. It should be carefully monitored and managed as it could lead to injury or further illness if mismanaged.
If you think you may have diabetes or need help in managing your diabetes diagnosis, DFD is here to help. Reach out to your primary healthcare provider to discuss your options.

Take Control of Your Breast Health

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and a prime time to take your health into your own hands! No matter what your age is, you can take steps to lower your breast cancer risk and improve your overall health.

Healthy Habits at Every Age

The following recommendations should be considered no matter your age or gender.

  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day.
  • Prioritize proper rest and stress management.
  • Quit smoking for good.
  • Aim for 160 minutes per week of moderate-high intensity exercise. Consult your physician before starting a new workout program or routine.
  • Move and stretch your body daily. This includes walking, stretching and yoga.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits.

A woman’s risk of breast cancer doubles if she has a mother, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed.

What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?

Preventative measures, such as following a healthy lifestyle and getting regular screenings, can dramatically decrease your odds of breast cancer and other illnesses. Awareness and education are essential. Consider the following risk factors:

  • Smoking or using drugs
  • Drinking alcohol to excess
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Women who don’t have children or have them after age 30
  • Women who have their first period before age 12
  • Women who start menopause later in life or who take hormonal drugs during menopause for longer than five years.


If you need help managing any of the risk factors above, contact your primary care provider to discuss your options.

Nearly 85% of breast cancer cases occur in women with no family history of breast cancer.

How often should I get screenings?

Screenings and other diagnostic tests will vary depending on your age, health condition and family history. However, you should absolutely visit your doctor annually for a physical exam and ask them what actions you can do for your breast health.

Additionally, it’s recommended that every woman perform a self-breast exam each month. Your breasts go through numerous changes throughout the month depending on hormones, stress, lifestyle and pregnancy. Get familiar with your breasts by performing a self exam the same time each month.

Check for texture and size changes on both breasts by:

  • Standing in front of a mirror, arms down and then arms raised.
  • Standing with arms raised, applying pressure with three fingers to breast and armpit area, side to side, top to bottom, and in a circular motion. Be sure to repeat on the other side.
  • Lying down on your back, one arm raised. Repeat the same motions mentioned above, feeling for any changes. Repeat on the other side.

If you notice any changes in contour, swelling, dimpling, puckering, or changes in nipples, contact your healthcare provider right away.


Takeaway:

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States and globally. Thankfully, actions such as preventative care, screenings, and lifestyle changes help to lower risk and detect any changes early on.

If you have not had a mammogram and are over age 40, contact your healthcare provider to schedule an exam. Your provider can also help you decide what changes you can make to your lifestyle that may decrease your risk of illness, including breast cancer.

How to Prevent and Identify Head Lice

Hooray, it’s back to school season! Your children may have attended in-person classes the past year or this may be their first time returning to the classroom at all. Either way, back together in school unfortunately means one unwelcome nuisance has the potential to show up too—head lice. Know the causes, signs, and how to treat an infestation so your child won’t miss out on any more in-person learning.

What are lice?

Lice are small parasites spread by close human to human contact. They are brown in color and are the approximate size of a sesame seed. Lice are highly contagious nuisance and can cause severe discomfort among children and adults.

The most reported symptoms are:

  • Relentless itching
  • A tickling or crawling feeling on your head, hair or body
  • Red bumps and/or sores that develop from scratching
  • Irritability and/or difficulty sleeping

 

Where can I contract lice?

Lice can be found in your hair or on your body. All lice are spread from being in close contact with another person who is infected. Be cautious in these situations:

  • At schools, daycares, playdates
  • During sports practices/games, other activities with close contact
  • Sharing clothing such as hats and jackets
  • Sharing hairbrushes, hair clips/ties, headbands, etc.

How do I know if I (or my children) have lice?

If you’re suffering from uncomfortable itchiness, it could be caused by skin conditions such as dandruff, eczema, allergies, or reactions to certain skin products. However, it may be best to check for lice as they are highly contagious especially if you have school-aged children.

Follow these steps to check for lice:

  1. Wet your hair/your child’s hair. This slows down lice so they’re easier to spot.
  2. Using a fine-tooth comb, part the hair. Lice combs can be found online and in pharmacies but are not necessary.
  3. Shine a bright light onto scalp. If you see tiny, brown insects moving or nits (eggs) fixed onto individual hair strands, you should seek a lice treatment immediately.
  4. If unsure, see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

 

How do I treat a lice infestation?

If you’re certain that you or your child has lice, it’s best to act right away. There are over the counter (OTC) shampoos and treatment kits to help with eradicating lice. There are also medicated lotions and shampoos that are prescribed by a doctor.

In addition to treating lice at the source, it’s also important to do the following:

  • Launder bedding and clothes worn in the two days before treatment
    • Wash with hot water and use a high-heat dry cycle
  • Wash backpacks, hats, jackets—anything that may have had contact with lice
  • Place sofa cushions or car seats into a plastic bag. Don’t touch for two weeks.
    • Lice will die within 1-2 days without human contact
  • Sanitize brushes and combs
    • submerge in a pot of hot water for up to ten minutes
  • Vacuum the floors in your home
    • Lice cannot survive without human contact or in a cooler temperature

 

Facts about lice:

It’s no surprise that there is a stigma associated with lice. However, it’s important to be armed with the facts.

  • Lice are not a sign of poor hygiene
  • Head lice do not carry viral or bacterial diseases
  • Lice do not go away on their own
  • Lice cannot “jump” from one person to another (they only crawl)
  • Treatments such as smearing mayonnaise, butter, olive oil or margarine into hair and scalp will NOT eradicate head lice
  • You do not need to fumigate or use harmful chemicals to clean your home.

To prevent a possible lice infestation, tell your children not to share clothing or personal items, be aware of any symptoms, and have a plan to quickly act if someone in your household accidentally contracts lice. Although it may be a headache to treat and clean, contracting lice is quite common and highly treatable.