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Five Myths and One Truth about Colds and Flu

pharmacist-patientSpring may be here, but colds and flu are still in season. Sometimes speaking with a doctor isn't convenient when you're sick, so many reach out to friends and family, desperate to find some way to feel better. More often than not, the home remedies they're given are nothing more than old wives' tales.

A better plan of action is to turn to your pharmacist for help. Often more accessible than a doctor, all you have to do is walk up to the counter and ask them for expert advice. If you've ever wondered how to prevent a cold or how to feel better when you do have one, registered pharmacist and health expert, Jim Morelli, is here to weigh in on some of the most pervasive cold and flu myths, and point you to what really works.

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Take Your Medicine: 5 Steps to Make Sure You Don't Miss a Dose

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Did you remember to take your medication today? If the answer is no, you're not alone. People all over the country make the same mistake every single day. Research shows more than 50 percent of prescription medication users fail to take their medications when they are supposed to. And if you're taking more than one type of medication, it gets even harder to remember.

As people's days have gotten busier than ever, it's not surprising regular medication doses are forgotten. At the same time, traditional helpers such as pillboxes, calendars, alarms and plastic bags simply aren't effective reminders. They just seem to add more stress.

"The entire system puts so much burden on the individual," says TJ Parker, co-founder of PillPack, a full-service, online pharmacy. "They're not only stressed about their condition but are also keeping track of multiple refills, calling their doctors, coordinating with their insurance companies, constantly having to remember to take their pills - it's a lot for anyone to have to manage. And then their chronic condition isn't just a life hurdle, it's all-consuming."

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Five (Real) Reasons Grandma Won't Eat

reasons-grandma-wont-eatEvery parent knows good nutrition is critical for your kids, and getting them to eat well can be an on-going struggle. But what if you're also helping care for an aging parent? Ensuring older adults eat well can be even more frustrating than getting children to eat right, but it's every bit as important.

Malnutrition in seniors can lead to a host of health problems, including a higher risk of infection, weakened ability to heal, breathing problems, muscle weakness and depression, according to the Caregiver Partnership. Yet it's a prevalent problem in the U.S.

One 2014 study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found more than half of the seniors studied were malnourished and more were at risk of becoming malnourished. While many studies have confirmed a link between poverty and malnutrition in many age-groups, lack of access to nourishing food isn't always the cause of senior malnutrition.

"Seniors who struggle to eat well or who seem disinterested in a good diet aren't just being stubborn," Kevin O'Neil of Brookdale Senior Living says. "A number of physiological changes can affect appetite for older adults."

Factors that influence appetite in seniors can include:

  • Caloric needs - A moderately active woman older than 50 needs about 1,600 calories a day, and a 50-plus man who is moderately active needs about 2,200-2,400, according to the Institute of Medicine. Sedentary seniors will likely require fewer calories, and those who are very active may require more.
  • Gastrointestinal changes - Age-related changes in the stomach and intestines can make seniors feel full sooner and remain feeling full for longer.
  • Loss of taste and smell - As people age, their ability to smell and taste can diminish. Medications may also affect how things taste and smell to seniors. Both senses are tied to appetite; seniors may say they don't want to eat because nothing tastes good to them.
  • Dental or oral health - Seniors who experience oral issues, such as mouth ulcers or ill-fitting dentures, may find eating to be uncomfortable or even painful. Dry mouth is very common and may be related to medications or an underlying medical problem.
  • Illness - Some diseases can cause a decrease in appetite, or medications to treat illness or chronic health issues may also affect the desire to eat.
  • Depression - Seniors who feel lonely or depressed may be less inclined to eat.
  • Dementia - If they're experiencing dementia or Alzheimer's, seniors may simply forget to eat meals.

"With patience and persistence, and empowered by knowledge, caregivers can help their elder loved ones improve their diets," O'Neil says.

First, he advises, talk to your loved one and his or her doctor about the possible source of appetite loss; it's important to rule out any serious underlying medical issues. If your loved one's poor nutrition is linked to one or more common age-related factors, consider these steps:

  • Encourage more flavorful but healthful food choices to combat a diminished ability to taste and smell. Adding herbs and spices to meals can help an elder more enjoy the taste of food. \
  • Drink plenty of water and fluids. Only take vitamins and supplements if you have a demonstrated deficiency and then with the guidance of a physician, nutritionist or dietician.
  • Be guided by the USDA's Food Pyramid when choosing healthy foods. Since seniors need fewer calories, the quality of calories they consumer is critical.
  • Seniors who eat less due to depression or loneliness may benefit from a senior living situation where they never have to eat alone, and professionals are on hand to offer guidance and nutritious meals.
  • Share meals with your loved one. No one likes to eat alone, and sitting down together for a meal - even if you only have a cup of coffee while they eat - can help seniors enjoy their food more.

 

Protect Your Eyesight with This Little Known Nutrient

eye-checkupThere's an existing nutrient that is incredibly important to your eye health. However, odds are you've probably never heard of it.

The nutrient is called zeaxanthin (pronounced Zee-ah-zan-thun). The antioxidant, along with lutein, is found in the back of the eye as a component of the macular pigment.

Zeaxanthin and lutein are antioxidants that protect against light-induced oxidative stress, functioning like "internal sunglasses". In nature, lutein and zeaxanthin appear to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, especially from high-energy light rays called blue light.

Increasing zeaxanthin intake helps maintain visual performance over the long term, including:

  • Enhanced visual acuity - improved vision in fine detail situations like needlepoint or reading in low light situations.
  • Reduced glare recovery time - faster recovery from temporary "blindness" caused by high intensity lighting, such as automobile or stadium lights.
  • Improved contrast sensitivity - ability to discern objects from their background, e.g., seeing a white golf ball or baseball clearly against a light blue sky.
  • Diminished light sensitivity and visual discomfort - less visual discomfort in sunlight or when exposed to bright light.
  • Increased visual processing speed - seeing an object more clearly, enabling improved processing speed and reaction time.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet are associated with a lower incidence of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD destroys central vision and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over the age of 55. There is no current cure for AMD and the effects are irreversible.

Eating turnip greens and cooked spinach, which contain zeaxanthin, quitting smoking, incorporating a healthy diet and having a healthy body mass index are ways to reduce the risk of AMD. Incorporating a supplement with lutein and zeaxanthin, like EyePromise, can also help protect as well as preserve vision. (BPT)

The Best Gift Any Grandparent Can Give a Grandchild

gift-of-healthFor grandparents, giving is quite possibly the best part of the holiday season. When you gather with your kids and grandkids this holiday season it's wonderful to share your homemade cookies and heartfelt gifts, but two things no one in your family should ever give to a loved one are influenza (flu) or whooping cough.

Most people have heard of the flu and understand how contagious it may be. However, many people might not know how serious it can be, particularly for young children and older adults who are at high risk for severe complications. In fact, each year the flu causes an average of 200,000 hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths. Pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough, may not be as well-known as the flu; however, it is also a serious and highly contagious disease that affects the respiratory tract. It can cause severe coughing fits that can last up to 10 weeks or more, and it spreads from person to person much like the cold and flu viruses - through coughing and sneezing. People of all ages can get whooping cough, but the disease is especially dangerous for infants and young children to whom it can cause severe and even life-threatening complications.

Sadly, about half of children under 1 year old who get whooping cough end up in the hospital and approximately 1 out of 100 infants hospitalized for whooping cough will die. Because the disease may be milder in adolescents and adults, many people may not realize they actually have whooping cough, and accidentally spread it to others. In fact, babies are most likely to catch whooping cough from a family member. One recent study of infants with whooping cough showed that approximately 85 percent of babies got the disease from a member of their immediate or extended family, when a source could be identified.

A simple solution to help keep your family healthy

No one likes to be sick during the holiday season, but thanks to the extra travel and large family get-togethers, someone always seems to fall ill. As a grandparent, you may take the normal precautions, such as frequently washing your hands and coughing and sneezing into a tissue, but these are not enough to stop the spread of the flu and whooping cough. Fortunately, there is something you can do to help prevent these diseases. Talk to your healthcare provider about what vaccines you need to help keep yourself and your family members healthy.

Getting the word out

Despite the seriousness of both flu and whooping cough, the number of adults who get vaccinated against these diseases remains alarmingly low. While the CDC recommends everyone, especially those around babies get vaccinated against whooping cough, only 14 percent of adults 19 years and older, and 26 percent of adults living with an infant have had the recommended Tdap vaccination, and only 43.6 percent of adults were vaccinated against the flu last season.

"Grandparents are such an important part of their grandchildren's lives," says Amy Pisani, Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Every Child By Two. "That's why it's important that they speak to their healthcare providers about getting vaccinated against the flu and whooping cough. We want every grandparent to be able to play a happy, healthy, helpful role in their grandchildren's development, for many years to come."

To help raise awareness about the importance of timely vaccination for people of all ages, Every Child By Two is launching the Vaccinate Your Family program. The program includes a new website for the public - VaccinateYourFamily.org - and a number of new resources including the "Grandparents Toolkit." The toolkit includes a number of materials including tips on how to soothe a fussy baby, ideas for the perfect baby shower, a guide to discussing whooping cough with your healthcare provider, and much more.

To learn more about influenza and whooping cough, and how you can help keep yourself and your family safe through vaccination, visit the Vaccinate Your Family web site and download the free toolkit.

Dealing with the Dark: Six Tips to Boost Your Mood This Winter

winter-dark

It's that time of the year again, when the days grow shorter and the weather becomes colder. Approximately 45 million Americans are negatively affected by the change of seasons and darkening of the summer light. They experience a drop in energy, have trouble getting up, feel down, crave carbs and become irritable or withdrawn. The severity of these symptoms can range from mild, but tolerable, to severe and debilitating. It not only affects their health, but it also affects their everyday life.

The problem typically starts gradually as the days become shorter in late summer or fall, and peaks midwinter in regions like the northeast. Researchers believe these seasonal mood changes are caused by the decreased amount of daylight people are exposed to during the fall and winter months, and that sunlight acts as a signal that synchronizes our body's circadian rhythm. When we do not receive that morning light signal, the winter blues may occur.

Numerous studies have identified several ways that can help alleviate the symptoms caused by this sunlight deficiency. Here are six tips to help you deal with the winter blues.

Get more light. Get outside in the fall and winter during the day as much as possible. Just 15 minutes of sun on your face and hands two to three times per week is enough for many people.

Purchase a bright light therapy lamp. Patients are advised to sit in front of a specially designed light box that emits about 10,000 lux of UV-filtered white light, most often in the morning for 20-30 minutes. Bright-light therapy has been found to be the treatment of choice. The clinically-proven Day-Light Classic by Carex Health Brands or the more compact Day-Light Sky, can be found in retail stores or purchased online.

Get some exercise. Regular exercise, in the mornings, can be a natural energizer that can help maintain a positive outlook.

Watch your diet. A healthy, well-balanced diet relatively high in protein and low in carbohydrates provides the nutrients needed to stay active and alert.

Take part in social activities. Stay in touch with friends and family to avoid isolation. This might include a sunny vacation.

Get some sleep. Maintain a regular sleep schedule to keep your circadian rhythm in balance.

For moderate to severe winter blues, some people may need to seek professional help. One option often used by health care professionals is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). A trained therapist can help a person develop behavioral tools to deal effectively with the winter blues. Success rates for CBT are high and the skills learned can be utilized whenever symptoms begin to appear.

Winter blues can begin as early as August and may continue into April. If symptoms are severe, look to your doctor for help as mood changes can have a severe impact on your daily life.

 

Winter woes: Dry eye is more prevalent in winter weather

Our wardrobes aren't the only things that change when the weather turns chilly. Our bodies are often affected not only by the outdoor changes, but inside changes as well. The body part that receives most of the brunt from winter weather is our eyes.

Between the harsh winter winds and the dry heat radiating inside, our eyes can suddenly feel irritated and scratchy this time of year. In fact, exposure to these atmospheres can cause moisture to evaporate inside our eyes. As a result, our tear glands cannot adequately produce the fluid needed to maintain the eyes' protective, liquid coating. The result is itchy, dry eyes that can cause pain, blurred vision, a burning sensation or even watery vision as our eyes try to compensate for the dryness.

While it is difficult to avoid dry eyes altogether during the winter months, there are several steps that you can take to ensure your eyes stay soothed while indoors this season.

Help for the home

During the frigid winter months, a home's humidity level can easily dip below the 30-55 percent range required for our eyes to stay lubricated. Offset this dry air by using a humidifier in your home. An alternative is leaving off the exhaust in your bathroom while you shower.

Also, refrain from using a ceiling fan while sleeping at night, as drafts can also exacerbate symptoms. To keep this culprit in check, light a match in the room you are in to find where the draft is located.

Fill up on fluids

Even mild dehydration can negatively affect how dry your eyes feel, as cold temperatures can dampen the body's thirst mechanism and artificial heat hastens tear evaporation. Keep eyes hydrated by sipping water throughout the day. Also, increase your intake of fluid-rich foods like soup, fruits and veggies. Adding a cup of hot tea or water with lemon can not only keep you cozy on a chilly day, but ensure proper hydration as well.

Nourish your body

Many clinical studies show omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential fatty acids, may protect adult eyes from dry eye syndrome. Omega-3s support healthy tear production and keep eyes moisturized. In addition to omega-3s, other ingredients like Vitamin A, D3, green tea and evening primrose oil can significantly accelerate the time it takes to feel relief. A formula like EyePromise EZ Tears, which contains nine soothing ingredients to target symptoms from the inside, offers rapid results with the dietary ingredients mentioned.

Watery eye help

In cold and windy conditions, many complain their eyes water more than normal. Typically the symptoms of watery eye are excessive tearing, which is made worse by being outdoors. Wearing spectacles will provide protection against the wind, even if you don't usually wear them outdoors. In some cases, excessive watering of the eyes may be a sign of a blockage of tear ducts or infection of the eye.

If you are concerned about the health of your eyes - whether tear production is suboptimal or you suffer from watery eyes, visit your eye care professional.

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