The Importance of Doctor’s Check-Ups

Most of us find plenty of reasons to drag our feet when it comes time to get a medical check-up.

After all, if you’re feeling fine, why bother? You’re a busy individual, with plenty on your plate already at work and at home. Maybe the idea of finding something wrong even makes you uncomfortable, which causes you to push off even thinking about it.

 

Benefits of the Check-Up

While it’s easy to find reasons to push off a check-up, your health is no place to slack off. Studies have shown that being proactive about your health can really pay off. In the long run, you may be buying yourself more time, both in healthy active hours (versus those spent in bed sick or being treated in a hospital), and also in overall life longevity.

On the off chance there is something wrong, catching it early can be life-saving. But even if no health issues are found, a checkup still offers a few important health benefits.

To start, you get the ease of mind of knowing for sure that you have a clean bill of health. You also get important baseline on your health metrics in these appointments, including your weight, height, blood pressure and more, which establishes a record of what is normal for your body. If you suddenly deviate from those metrics without a reason (such as going on a diet), that can serve as a red flag that something is wrong.

A periodic check-in is also an opportunity to build a relationship with your primary physician. If you have questions about your health, this is the time to ask! A doctor can be a great time to get feedback about your diet, exercise or other self-care habits or concerns.

 

The Annual Check-Up Under Scrutiny

A few years ago, the annual checkup came under fire when a study revealed that recent medical breakthroughs mean the annual checkup was less necessary than it used to be.

But that doesn’t mean a person only needs to see the doctor when they’re feeling ill. Rather, modern technology allows physicians to make more personalized recommendations for individual patients. Based on factors like family history, personal history and test results, one individual may benefit from coming in every six months, while another may be fine to go two years between checkups.

Technology also enables patients to seek medical advice from anywhere, thanks to communication tools like Skype and email that allow doctors to take an initial look and let a patient know if that funny-looking mole on their shoulder is worth a closer look. Studies have shown that regardless of how patients get in touch with their doctors, the health benefits of checking in are the same.

 

Be Proactive About Your Health

While the annual medical checkup may be on its way out, regular communication with your physician will never be out of style. Be sure to communicate with your physician to determine how frequently you should come in for a checkup, and how to best stay in touch between office visits.

Whether you go for the traditional once-a-year approach, or work out a more customized schedule with your own doctor, be sure to be proactive about your health.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD), previously called sensory integration dysfunction, is a condition in which a person’s brain has trouble taking in and responding to information gathered through the senses.

Individuals with SPD may be overly sensitive to one or several of the senses, such as sound or touch. Others may be under-responsive to one or more senses. Additional symptoms of include poor coordination, difficulty relating socially, and difficulty engaging in play.

SPD is often seen in developmental disorders such as autism. People with SPD are generally as intelligent as their peers, if not more so. But their brains work differently, so they need extra support to adapt.

Treatment for SPD typically involves occupational therapy and sensory integration therapy to help accustom the person to get used to the things they struggle to process. Left untreated, SPD can lead to anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, and more.

It’s not clear what causes SPD, but research to date indicates it may be genetically linked. Though it’s not currently recognized as a stand-alone medical disorder, many believe that should change.

Top Reasons for Summer ER Visits

Summer is a time for outdoor adventures, travel and relaxation. But among health professionals, it’s known as “trauma season”—with good reason. With summer comes an influx in health risks and emergency room visits.

Don’t let your summer get derailed by trips to the ER. Protect yourself and your loved ones by being aware of these most common reasons for summer ER visits, and how to reduce your risk.

 

Sunburn/Sun Poisoning
A sunburn may sound pretty innocent compared to most things we consider major injuries, but a serious sunburn is not only painful, but also very dangerous.

Beyond increasing your risk for skin cancer later for life, a major sunburn can lead to sun poisoning, a serious condition with symptoms including dehydration, headaches, fever, nausea, confusion, and skin infections. If a person experiences these serious symptoms of sun poisoning, it’s time to get to the hospital.

To reduce your risk, always use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply it every two hours while outside. As much as possible, avoid being out in the sun when it’s strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Children under six months old should never be exposed to the sun. For children younger than a year old, always treat a sunburn as an emergency.

 

Dehydration
One of the top symptoms people report as a cause for their ER visit is dizziness, one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. It’s a serious summer health issue that can be caused by prolonged periods out in the heat and/or sun.

Additional symptoms of dehydration include extreme thirst, little or no urination, shriveled skin, fever, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, confusion, and in the most serous cases, delirium.

To guard against dehydration, avoid spending long periods in the sun, especially during its peak hours between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol, as well as drinks high in sugar or caffeine.

Babies and the elderly are at especially high risk for dehydration, as are individuals on certain medications such as diuretics or blood pressure medications.

 

Food poisoning
There are two reasons why food poisoning incidents increase in the summer. First, summer’s high temperatures are an ideal environment that allows the bacteria that causes food poisoning to thrive. Secondly, there’s a lot more outdoor cooking in summer, which means people are away from the kitchen’s controlled environment and the tools that usually help them guard against food poisoning risks.

Symptoms of food poisoning can include cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. To protect against food poisoning, follow all standard food safety guidelines no matter where you cook, and refrigerate leftovers right after eating—never eat food items including egg, milk, seafood or meat if they have been unrefrigerated for more than an hour in temperatures over 90° F.

 

Pools
Between slippery decks, deep waters, and a lot of horsing around, it’s easy to see how pools can become high-risk zones.

A person can drown within a matter of minutes. It’s important to always have a responsible adult supervising play carefully—and, ideally, in the pool themselves.

It’s best for children to wear life jackets any time they are swimming, and basic safety rules like no running or diving should always be upheld to reduce the risk of falls and slips. When in the pool, keep a phone nearby in case you need to dial 911.

And learn CPR—it’s one o the best things you can do to stay safe in the water. In those long minutes between when a crisis occurs and an ambulance arrives, your skills can be the difference between life and death.

 

Outdoor toys
Summer is a great time for kids to play outside. But know the risks, and do what you can to protect them while they play.

Trampolines, for example, can lead to a wide range of serious injuries, including sprains, fractures and concussions. Children should only play on trampolines while under careful adult supervision, and only with precautions like safety netting in place.

Bikes, scooters, skateboards and other outdoor toys come with real risks, too. Children (and everyone) should wear a helmet while using them, and an adult should be present in case of a fall. Children should also wear sturdy shoes that cover their whole feet while playing, and be aware of traffic and safety rules.

 

Safe Summers are More Fun

With all the fun and adventure summer has to offer, the last thing you and your loved ones want to do is waste time in the ER. The best way to ensure you spend that time together—and not with a doctor—is to be aware of the season’s greatest risk factors, and take precautions to stay safe.

Armed with this knowledge, you can kick back and focus on enjoying all summer has to offer!

The Health Benefits of Fasting

People have fasted for thousands of years, and for thousands of years, people have held testament to this practice’s health benefits. And it turns out, they were on to something—the latest scientific research shows that the health benefits are real and manifold.

Fasting is the practice of not consuming food for extended periods. There are several different diets that incorporate fasting. The type of fast that is right for you depends on what fits your lifestyle best.

 

Regardless of the type of fasting you choose, studies have found a number of benefits to fasting, including:

Fat burn—When the body runs out of food to digest, it turns to glucose for energy. When it runs out of glucose, it starts burning fat. This leads to weight loss.

Metabolic boost—When the body has no food in it for a prolonged period, this causes the metabolic to fire up. This can also contribute to weight loss. One study showed fasting led to a 3-8 percent decrease in weight over a period of 3 to 24 weeks.

Preserve muscle—Because fasting causes growth hormone levels to increase in the blood, weight loss through fasting has been proven to preserve muscle better than diets that involve a prolonged reduction in calorie consumptiion.

Immune system—One study showed that longer periods of fasting (2-4 days) can clear out old immune cells and regenerate new ones, which strengthens the immune system. This immunity boost has been shown to help cancer patients reduce side effects during chemotherapy, when they fasted for three days prior to treatment.

Longer life—Two studies have even found evidence of improved longevity in fasting subjects at the molecular and genetic level—signs that fasting and modify your body’s gene expressions and help you life longer.

 

If you’re going to fast for the health benefits, it’s important to be aware of the risks, too. UK’s National Health Service has listed several, including dehydration, increased stress, disrupted sleep, headaches, and even heartburn. Some experts also correlate fasting to an increased risk for eating disorders. For these reasons, start fasting slowly and always listen to your body if you are struggling while fasting.

Promoting Summer Reading

Reading is more than a great way to pass the time. It expands vocabulary, develops empathy, and improves analytical skills. Research has also shown that how much a child reads over the summer has a strong correlation to how much they retain from last year’s lessons—the more a child reads, the less of a “summer slide” they experience.

But how can teachers motivate students to read over the summer? Even if students love reading, not all are lucky enough to have tons of books in their home or a library within walking distance. And getting students to want to read can be a challenge itself.

Here are some tips to get students motivated to read on their own all summer long:

 

Introduce a Book Series
It’s great when a child loves any book, but series can be especially great for encouraging students to read more, beyond the one story. Each time they finish a book, there is a clear next step to keep them reading.

Let Students Borrow from the School
For some students, the biggest hurdle to reading is access to books. This is especially true for socioeconomically disadvantaged students who suffer most from “summer slide.” Simply providing access to books they can hold onto and read over the summer can be one of the best ways teachers can encourage students to read.

Start a Facebook Page or Blog
Highlight age-appropriate books students will enjoy, and get them to share what they’re reading, too. This can helps students find good stories to check out even when they’re out of school, and the social factor can help them keep it up over time.

Read Book Excerpts to the Class
Select exciting passages from age-appropriate books, and read them out loud to the class with dramatic flair to entice them. Leave the book out during free times later, and be ready to lend copies to interested students.

Model Good Reading Behaviors
During class quiet times, show students that you love to read by modeling the behavior for them—simply pick up a great book and read it where they can see you. Tell them how interesting it is, and how you can’t wait to read more later.

Encourage them to Read What they Love
All kinds of reading counts when it comes to stimulating the mind. Support student reading in all its forms, whether its novels, comics, magazines, or something else entirely.

Encourage All Opinions
Ask students whether or not they liked a book, and respect their answer—no one likes everything! Even better, ask them why they don’t like the book, and get them to engage their critical thinking and express their thoughts.

Promote a Summer Reading Challenge
Tell students about summer reading activities at the local library or other challenges like the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, and encourage them to participate.

Reward Good Habits
Before students leave for summer vacation, get them as prepared to read over the summer as possible. Then tell them if they can meet a designated reading goal and come show their progress in September, there will be a special reward for them. Some fun pencils or other small prizes can go a long way to incentivize and reinforce good reading habits!

 

Good Summer Reading Habits Start in Fall

A passion for reading doesn’t just appear in June when school lets out—it’s got to be fostered throughout the school year.

The more teachers work with their students to develop a habit of reading for fun in fall, winter, and spring, the more likely these students will be to seek out and take advantage of opportunities to read over the summer.

The Health Benefits of Water

We all know water is important to stay hydrated, but do you know all the ways that water is helping you stay at the top of your game?

With zero calories and a long list of benefits, there are few things that are healthier or more essential for our bodies than water. Check out these lesser-known benefits to keeping your water bottle topped off.

 

  • Reduce Your Calorie Count
    Some confuse thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated can keep you from reaching for a snack. Substituting water for higher calorie drinks like juice or soda in your everyday diet can add up to a lot, too.
  • Energize Your Muscles
    When muscle cells get low on water, they don’t balance their hydration or electrolyte levels, so it causes you to feel fatigued. To get your muscles primed, start hydrating about two hours before exercising with about 17 ounces of water, and sip early and often throughout your workout.
  • Keep Your Skin Clear
    Water helps to keep your skin moisturized, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fights breakouts. 
  • Flush Toxins
    Your kidneys have the job of keeping the body cleansed of toxins. Keeping a good flow of water running through your body helps your kidneys process better. As a nice bonus, this reduces your risk of kidney stones.
  • Keep Yourself Regular
    Water also keeps things moving through your gastrointestinal tract, which helps you stay comfortable and avoid, well, backups.
  • Reduce Pain
    A well-hydrated body can better deal with aching joints, body cramps, and a whole slew of different bodily challenges, which means you’ll feel less pain overall when you drink more water.
  • Fight Infection
    People who are better hydrated tend to get sick less often, because water helps your immune system stay at its best and more efficiently fight germs.
  • Clear Your Thoughts
    Drinking water helps you focus and think better. One study even found a correlation between college students who brought water with them to class and those who got better grades.

 

The human body is about 60 percent water. So when we don’t have enough, we’re simply not at our best, and that shows itself in a myriad of ways. Fortunately, it’s easy to increase your water intake. Try trading a less healthy drink like beer or soda for a healthier option you like, or substitute a snack with water-dense fruits and veggies.

Whatever you choose, make a swap you can enjoy. You’re more likely to sustain the habit long-term, so don’t punish yourself by drinking tap water if you hate it.

How To Hold Onto Your Current Supporters

Only 43 percent of donors who gave to organizations in 2009 donated again to the same donations in 2010, according to a study by Urban Institute. And yet, most of those donors did make financial gifts again in 2010—just not to the same organizations.

For an organization looking to maintain and grow its [donations], retaining existing supporters is critical. It costs an average of five times more to earn a new donor as it does to retain a donor, according to data from NonprofitEasy.

Furthermore, this organization’s research showed that most donors don’t give their biggest donations the first time they give—the biggest planned gifts tend to come from donors who have given to a nonprofit 15 times or more over their lifetime.

All this adds up to major benefits for nonprofit organizations that can retain more of their donors. But how can an organization accomplish this?

 

Say Thank You
This simple action lets donors know that their contribution has been noticed, and that it is appreciated. In short, it establishes a connection, reinforcing to donors that they matter. And when donors know their contribution matters, they’re more likely to give again. 

 

Reach Out Frequently
You can send out communication to your donors as frequently as monthly without jading your audience. In fact, regular outreach can lead to better, longer-term donor relationships.

 

Don’t Ask for Money Every Time
Even more important than touching base with donors regularly, make sure that those communications have varied messages. Don’t keep asking for more money with every touchpoint. Invite them to your events, help them learn more about the organization, and show how they have already made a difference.

 

Be Genuine and Personable
People don’t make connections to things; they make connections to other people. So at least some of your communications to donors should come directly from a person at the organization. Use a genuine, personal voice in these communications to build a relationship.

 

Use Donor Personas for Better Targeting
More than one kind of person is donating to your organization—who are these donor groups? Use surveys and feedback from your donors to learn more about them. Even just breaking up audience by how new they are to your organization, or how much they give, and targeting your message accordingly, can personalize your message and improve response rates.

 

Ask for Feedback


Your loyal donors know you better than anyone. And, they offer an important outsider’s perspective that you can’t have as an employee of an organization. If you take the time to ask for and listen to longtime donor’s feedback, you now only strengthen your relationship with those donors, but also may learn new ways to better connect with new ones. 

 

Hold on to Your Organization’s Donors

Your donors are your organization’s best advocates and proven supporters. Retaining more of your existing donors is one of the best ways to maintain and grow your supporter base. Don’t let your valued supporters slip away—use these tips to build one-time donations into lifelong relationships.

Cancer: What to Ask Your Doctor

A cancer diagnosis can be hard to process at first. You may feel shock, anger, or even disbelief. But as a cancer patient, you are an equal partner with your doctor in your treatment and recovery. The more you understand what your body is going through, the better prepared you are to take care of yourself and make the big decisions necessary for your recovery.

So don’t hesitate to ask your doctor any questions you have about your diagnosis or treatment. Helping you understand your cancer is part of their job. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some recommended questions to ask about your cancer to get you started:

 

Understand Your Diagnosis

  • What type of cancer do I have?
  • Where is my cancer?
  • Has my cancer spread in my body? Where did it start?
  • What stage of cancer do I have?
  • How do I get a copy of my pathology report?
  • What are my odds for survival, as far as you can tell?
  • How can I reach you if I have questions later?

 

Understand Your Options

  • What is your experience treating the kind of cancer that I have?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Will I need additional testing before we can determine the best treatment?
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • What are the advantages and risks of this treatment?
  • Should I consider joining a clinical trial?
  • How can I learn more about clinical trials?

 

Understand Your Treatment

  • What is the goal for my treatment? Are we curing my cancer or controlling my symptoms?
  • Will additional specialists be involved with my treatment? Who will be in charge of my treatment plan?
  • What drugs will I be on? What will each of them do for me?
  • Will I need any additional drugs or other treatments?
  • What potential risks or side effects are associated with these drugs and/or treatments?
  • What side effects should I report immediately, should I experience them?
  • What should I do to prepare for treatment? Are there foods I should avoid? What about alcohol?
  • What changes should I expect to make to my day-to-day life? Can I exercise during treatment? Can I go to work?
  • How frequently will I need treatments? How long will each treatment last? How long will I need treatments for?
  • How will we know if the treatment is effective?
  • How likely is it that my cancer will recur?
  • How much will my treatment cost? How much will my insurance cover?

 

As a cancer patient, you play an active role in your fight to recovery. The better you understand your diagnosis and treatment, the better you can care for yourself during this time. So take an active role in your recovery and ask your doctor any question you have—it’s what they’re there for!

Spring Has Sprung: Dealing With Allergies

Spring means sunnier days, warmer weather, blooming flowers … and for some, the unpleasantness of seasonal allergies.

From stuffy noses to coughing to sore throats, allergy symptoms can have a significant impact on your quality of life. If you’re among those with springtime allergies, you don’t have suffer through the entire season. Follow these five tips for a more enjoyable, less sniffly spring.

Pick your protection
There are many medication options available to ease allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are the most commonly recommended medication to treat allergies, and many effective options are available over-the-counter. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, so always read the label

For stronger allergies, a doctor may recommend a nasal spray. These can be very effective, but because side effects can include more serious things like nosebleeds, burning or dryness, always go for the lowest effective dose.

A doctor might also recommend allergy shots if medication is not enough to relieve symptoms. It may take as much as a shot a month for three to five years, but these work by slowly building up the body’s resistance to pollen, so it’s a long-term solution.

 

Prepare Early
Don’t wait until you’re suffering to start treating your allergies. For those who suffer from the same allergies every season, it’s best to be proactive and start taking an allergy medication at least one to two weeks before the allergy season starts.

This allows the medicine to get into your system, which can not only keep symptoms at bay as the season starts, but also help reduce the severity of symptoms throughout the whole season.

 

Limit Time Outdoors
It may be hard to resist the beautiful weather, but limiting your time outside can significantly reduce your symptoms—after all, outside is where the allergens are. This can be especially helpful in the midday and afternoon hours, which is when allergens tend to be heaviest in the air.

When you do go outside, protect your eyes by wearing glasses or sunglasses, and use a face mask when performing activities likely to aggravate allergies, such as mowing the lawn. For exercise, opt for the gym instead of a trail at the park.

When you go back inside, avoid carrying allergens around with you by taking a shower,a washing your hair right away, and changing your clothes.

 

Stay Informed
For a heads-up on just how important it is to protect yourself on any given day, pay attention to the local weather report to stay informed abut the pollen and mold counts in your area. The higher the count, the more aggravated your symptoms are bound to be.

 

Protect Your House
During allergy season, take steps to keep the house clear of the allergens outside. To start, take off your shoes before walking through the house to avoid trekking pollen through the house, and make sure others do, too. Keep your windows closed, and run the air conditioner.

Additionally, use a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner—they trap 99.97 percent of microscopic particles in the air.

 

Fight Back Against Allergies

Don’t let allergies hold you back this spring. Take a pass on the sniffly noses, the sneezing, and the sore throats.

If you are proactive and take these five steps to protect yourself from the allergens in the environment, you can reduce and even avoid your allergy symptoms all season long.

Medication Safety

Medications can help us stay healthy, live more fully, and even extend our lives. But when safety measures aren’t followed or they are used inappropriately, they can do a lot of damage.

Following medication safety guidelines can keep you and your loved ones safe. Review and consider these top 10 rules for medication management to help stay safe while using prescriptions:

  1. Always take medications exactly as prescribed; don’t deviate, self-medicate, or change the dosage.
  1. Do not use a medication past its expiration date—they may be ineffective or even toxic. Even better, dispose of medications when their expiration date arrives to eliminate the risk of taking them by mistake.
  1. Create a list of the medications you take regularly, including over-the-counter pills and vitamins. Keep it with you, update it when necessary, and show it to your doctors at appointments.
  1. As much as possible, go to the same pharmacy for all of your prescriptions. This helps the pharmacy look out for you by keeping tracking of what you’re taking, and alert you to any potential interactions between medications.
  1. Store medications in a secure place out of reach from children or pets—ideally, in a locked cabinet.
  1. When traveling, leave medications in their original containers. Do not store pills in baggies or other unlabeled containers. This leaves you vulnerable to confusing medications, leaving pills easily accessible to children or others, or having pills get crushed or otherwise altered during travel.
  1. Medications should also be stored in a cool place that is not subject to significant changes in temperature or humidity (not the bathroom).
  1. Never take a medication prescribed to someone else, as this can lead to unexpected interactions between medications.
  1. Never crush or remove a medication from its capsules. This can alter how a medication breaks down inside your body (especially time-release or long-lasting medications).
  1. If you aren’t sure of something, ask! Doctors, nurses and pharmacists are all able to address questions about your prescriptions. Never take a medication without being sure you understand your doctor’s directions, or what it will do for you.

Medications important for many of us to maintain our best quality of life, but when something goes wrong, medications can quickly become a serious risk. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by following these important medicine safety tips.