May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, and a great time to learn about strategies to detect and prevent skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 1 in 5 Americans developing it in their lifetime. Fortunately, when diagnosed and treated early, skin cancer can almost always be cured.
Skin Cancer Basics
Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells. It can affect people of all colors and races, but is more likely to occur in those with fair skin. The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Both cancers are highly curable, though if left untreated, can cause serious damage and disfigurement. Melanoma is the third most common—and deadliest—skin cancer. Melanoma generally develops in a mole or appears as a new dark spot on the skin.
The majority of skin cancers develop due to overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light is a type of radiation produced by the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps. It is invisible to the human eye, but can penetrate and damage skin cells. Minimizing exposure to harmful UV rays is key in skin cancer prevention.
Reduce Your Risk
Stay out of the sun as much as possible.
The sun’s rays are strongest between 10am and 2pm, so seek shade during these hours or protect your skin with clothing. Consider wearing long sleeves, pants, sunglasses and a wide brim hat. Be especially aware if you’re near water, sand, or snow. These surfaces can reflect and intensify the damaging effects of the sun.
Always wear sunscreen.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or what the weather is like. If you’re spending time outdoors, it’s important to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin. Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply it every 2 hours and after you swim or sweat.
Check your skin regularly for changes.
Check out this infographic from the American Academy of Dermatology for how to spot signs of skin cancer. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.” This April, let’s educate ourselves on the hazards of distracted driving and learn how to make the roads safer for everyone.
Driving safely requires your full attention and awareness of the road. Sending a quick text might seem harmless, but accidents happen in a split second. Texting, talking on the phone, talking to passengers, or changing the music are all distractions that take your attention away from the task at hand. Engaging in these behaviors while driving leads to delayed braking times, missed traffic signals and an increased risk of crashing. When you’re in the driver’s seat, it’s critical not to get sidetracked by these extraneous activities.
Commit to being an attentive driver.
In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the National Safety Council is urging us all to take the Just Drive pledge:
I pledge to Just Drive for my own safety and for others with whom I share the roads. I choose to not drive distracted in any way – I will not:
Have a phone conversation – handheld, hands-free, or via Bluetooth
Text or send Snapchats
Use voice-to-text features in my vehicle’s dashboard system
Update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media
Check or send emails
Take selfies or film videos
Input destinations into GPS (while the vehicle is in motion)
Call or message someone else when I know they are driving
Taking the pledge is a great first step in tackling the issue of distracted driving, but how else can we initiate change? Choose to be a voice in your community. Support local laws and educate those around you on the dangers of driving distracted. If you’re a parent, make sure your teen driver understands the importance of being an attentive driver and encourage them to spread the word amongst their peers. We all have a role to play in the fight to save lives by ending distracted driving.
Many of us start the year with resolutions to eat better and exercise more. But during the long winter months of January and February, it’s easy to let those goals slip. Maybe it’s a hibernation instinct or simply a lack of Vitamin D, but the short days and cold weather lead us straight to Netflix and comfort foods. Luckily, March is here! Let’s welcome the first signs of spring with a commitment to healthier food and exercise choices.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month in March each year. For 2017, their theme is “put your best fork forward”, reminding us that every bite counts. Eating better doesn’t have to mean a complete dietary overhaul; it’s ok to start small. Consider trading that soda for a sparkling water. Switch from refined flours to whole grains. Little shifts in your diet can pay off big for your health.
March into health with these simple nutrition tips:
Emphasize Fruits & Veggies.
Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Fresh produce is full of nutrients, vitamins and fiber and it’s easy to incorporate into your diet.
Keep portions under control.
How much food you eat is just as important as what you eat. Consider your age and weight to determine a healthy amount of daily calories to aim for. Be mindful of your portion sizes and keep track of just how many calories you’re consuming. Many foods provide more than you think!
Limit salt and added sugars.
According to the CDC, about 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet! To cut back on salt, choose fresh foods, cook at home more often and minimize processed foods like cheese, cured meats and canned soups.
Added sugars are another huge contributor to our country’s obesity epidemic. Added sugars increase calories without providing any nutritional value! By reducing the amount of added sugars in your diet, you can improve your heart health and control your weight. The American Heart Association lists major sources of added sugars in American diets as: regular soft drinks, sugars, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks; dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk); and other grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles). Be aware of this and try to cut back on the sweets, eat fruit instead or make your own homemade version with less sugar.
We hope these tips help you lead a more nutritious lifestyle! Continue educating yourself on what makes a healthy diet and encourage those around you to do so as well.
February is American Heart Month, and the perfect time to make your heart health a priority.
Did you know that heart disease accounts for a whopping 1 in 4 deaths in the United States? It’s currently the leading cause of death for both men and women. As a country, we must start taking heart health seriously.
No matter what your age, you can reduce your risk of heart disease through simple lifestyle changes and by managing existing medical conditions with appropriate treatment. For a healthy heart, follow the advice below:
Quit Smoking! (Or, if you don’t smoke, don’t start!)
Smoking causes real damage to your heart and blood vessels. To reduce your risk of developing and dying from heart disease, avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. No matter how much or how long you’ve smoked, quitting will benefit you and can even help reverse heart damage. Need help quitting? Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW quitline (1-800-784-8669) for free resources and assistance.
Keep your blood pressure under control.
Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to coronary artery disease, an enlarged left heart and heart failure. It is a leading cause of both heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can occur with no signs or symptoms so it’s a good idea to have your blood pressure checked annually. Follow these healthy lifestyle choices to help keep your blood pressure under control:
Limit the amount of salt and alcohol in your diet.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Depending on your overall health, your doctor may also recommend medication to lower blood pressure.
Know the symptoms of a heart attack.
According to the CDC, the five major symptoms of a heart attack are:
Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
Chest pain or discomfort
Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
Shortness of breath
If you are experiencing these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. The sooner emergency treatment begins, the higher your chances of survival.
Our new year’s resolutions often look inward and focus on personal improvement. Lose weight. Exercise more. Get organized. But what if this year, we looked outward instead? How can we, as individuals, positively impact our communities in 2017?
One simple way is to donate blood.
Every January, the American Red Cross celebrates National Blood Donor Month and this year, their mission is even more critical. Several cities across the country are facing emergency blood shortages. Complex therapies such as chemotherapy, heart surgeries and organ transplants require a large amount of blood and blood products. A shortage in our nation’s blood supply can delay urgent medical care for our community’s most vulnerable patients. Donating blood is a simple, life-saving act. It takes less than 1 hour and a single donation can help up to 3 people
If you’re able to donate blood, now is the time to do so. Below, we’ve outlined the blood donor eligibility requirements, tips to prepare for your appointment and how to find a blood drive near you.
Blood and Platelet Donors Must:
Be in good general health and feeling well*
Be at least 17-years-old in most states, or 16-years-old with parental consent if allowed by state law – see more information for 16-year-old donors »
Weigh at least 110 lbs
Other aspects of your health history will be discussed prior to blood collection. Your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin are also measured beforehand. If you have specific questions about eligibility, the Red Cross offers in-depth information on donor Eligibility Criteria by Topic.
Tips to prepare for your appointment:
Eat a healthy, low-fat meal
Get a good night’s sleep
Bring your donor card, driver’s license or two other forms of identification
Bring the names of any medications you are taking
Wear clothing with sleeves that can be lifted above the elbow
During the holiday season, incidents of drunk and drugged driving occur more frequently and pose a threat to everyone on the road. To keep our streets safe this December, let’s educate ourselves on impaired driving prevention and hold ourselves — and those around us — accountable. Below, we’ve outlined basic tips and knowledge to help you avoid preventable tragedies.
Understand the many ways in which alcohol affects driving ability.
Consuming alcohol reduces a driver’s capacity to make sound and responsible decisions. It makes concentration difficult and impairs basic comprehension and coordination. On the road, a driver needs to quickly interpret signs, signals and situations in order to react safely. Under the influence of alcohol, this is simply not possible. In addition, alcohol reduces visual acuity and impairs the ability to judge distance and depth perception. Learn more about the effects of alcohol intoxication on driving from the CDC.
If you plan on drinking, also plan for a sober ride home. Designate a non-drinking driver when with a group, or consider calling a cab or ride-sharing app at the end of the night. It’s dangerous and irresponsible to get behind the wheel.
Help others get home safely.
Don’t let friends drive drunk. If you’re faced with a situation where someone who’s impaired tries to drive, MAAD offers these helpful tips to stop them:
Be as non-confrontational as possible
Suggest alternative ways they can get home, or that they sleep over
Enlist a friend for moral support; it’s more difficult to say “no” to two (or three or four) people
Talk slowly and explain that you don’t want them to drive because you care
Today, 1 in 11 Americans has diabetes, and an estimated 86 million more are at risk of developing it. The disease can cause serious health complications and is currently the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. In an effort to raise awareness and understanding of this all-too-common disease, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recognizes November as American Diabetes Month. We’re joining in on the cause and focusing on how to prevent diabetes.
While there is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune disease usually diagnosed in children and young adults), there are lifestyle choices you can make to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes. Before we get into these prevention tips, let’s learn a bit more about Type 2 diabetes.
Understanding Type 2
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of cases in the United States, and is caused when the body does not produce or use insulin properly. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes and having diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes). Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose (sugar) with healthy eating and being active; others may require oral medications or insulin, especially as the disease progresses. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as older adults (American Diabetes Association).
You can prevent diabetes by…
Getting enough exercise.
Exercise is key in preventing many diseases, and diabetes is no exception. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. An easy way to remember this is 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition to aerobic exercise, incorporate resistance training for strong bones and muscles. The combination of aerobics and strength training will help you lose weight, lower blood sugar and increase your sensitivity to insulin.
Maintaining a healthy weight.
If you are overweight or obese, you are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight can affect your body’s ability to produce and use insulin, as well as cause high blood pressure. Take the necessary steps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In addition to the exercise tips discussed above, try the following diet tips:
Choose whole grains
Limit red meat
Avoid trans fats
Skip sugary drinks
Need another reason to quit smoking? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “smokers are roughly 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, and heavy smokers have an even higher risk.”
We hope these tips help. Let’s all stay active and eat right to prevent diabetes.
For most of us, the flu is a mild, albeit miserable, respiratory illness that lasts a few days. The symptoms — fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches — are unpleasant, but we recover and get back to our daily routines. For those with compromised or weaker immune systems, however, the flu can cause severe, life-threatening complications. Young children, adults 65+, pregnant women and people with certain chronic illnesses are all at a higher risk of developing scary complications such as pneumonia, organ-failure, sepsis or worsening of an existing condition.
What can we do to protect those at risk? It’s simple: get a flu shot.
By doing so, you are not only protecting yourself, but also those around you. Flu is a contagious respiratory illness that spreads person to person through droplets when we cough, sneeze or talk. You can infect someone up to 6 feet away, and spread the virus without realizing you have it. According to the CDC, “most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick,” and children can spread the virus for even longer.
Flu is contagious and not all of us have the immune system to fight it. Do your part and protect the most vulnerable by getting vaccinated today. The more people who get vaccinated, the harder it is for the flu to spread.
It’s as easy as a flu shot to keep yourself and your community healthy.
For the past decade, FluMist nasal spray offered a needle-free alternative to the standard flu shot. Now, doctors and health officials are warning against it.
After reviewing data from 2013-2016, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices discovered that the popular nasal spray only reduced incidence of flu by 3% compared to those who went unvaccinated. The traditional injected vaccine lowers the risk by 63% and is currently the only recommended option to protect against influenza.
While a shot may be unpleasant, influenza vaccination is critical to personal and public health. Seasonal flu accounts for an estimated 200,000 hospitalizations and up to 49,000 deaths each year in the U.S.. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual seasonal influenza immunization for everyone 6 months and older. It is especially important to get vaccinated if you care for or spend time with people at a higher risk of complications from influenza. This includes infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Flu Season can begin as early as October, so don’t wait. Get vaccinated today.
Refined grains — such as white rice, white flour and white bread — are milled, a process which removes the bran and germ to extend shelf life and improve texture. Unfortunately, this refining process also “strips away more than half of wheat’s B vitamins, 90 percent of the vitamin E, and virtually all of the fiber” (Harvard School of Public Health). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half the grains you eat are whole. So, how can you incorporate those healthy whole grains into your diet?
5 Easy Ways to Choose Whole Grains
Start your day off with whole grains by eating oatmeal or buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.
Add quinoa or wheat berries to your salads.
Cook soups with barley or soba noodles.
Snack on popcorn. It’s a whole grain and can be a healthy snack if you cut back on added salt and butter.
Making a sandwich? Build it on a whole grain pita or slices of sprouted grain bread.