February Flu Blues
Each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu, and we’re currently in the midst of one of the worst epidemics in recent years. To make matters worse, this flu season, which kicked into full gear nearly a month ahead of schedule, has brought on the resurgence of the H3N2 influenza—a strain featuring stronger symptoms than the typical variety. While the virus has already hit the Peoria area hard, there are still precautions you can take. The Centers for Disease Control offers the following tips:
- Get a yearly flu vaccine. It’s not too late! The vaccine takes between two and three weeks to offer maximum effectiveness, but it can protect you for the rest of the year. High-risk persons are especially encouraged to get vaccinated.
- Cover your mouth! Don’t forget to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap is not available.
- Keep your fingers away from your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth—these are easy-access entries for the virus to get into your body.
- Avoid the ill! Try to stay away from those who are already sick, and limit your contact with others as much possible if you are infected. If you do get sick, it’s recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has broke.
Six Screenings to Consider in 2013
They say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” yet too often we forego our routine checkups and recommended screenings. This year, consider asking your doctor about the following exams, which could help you identify health issues before they become serious.
- Bone density test. Osteoporosis affects about 10 million people in the U.S. each year. A bone density scan is an easy and non-invasive way to determine the health of your skeletal system and whether any treatment is needed to prevent future fractures. The test is suggested for women ages 65 and older, and men ages 70 and older. If you have a family history of osteoporosis, ask your doctor if you should be screened earlier.
- Skin exam. It’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. It’s the most common type of cancer, but a comprehensive skin examination by a dermatologist can detect any suspicious moles and prevent a potentially life-threatening run-in with the disease. Everyone ages 21 and up should have their skin checked.
- TSH test. The fastest-growing disease in the states, thyroid disease can cause a multitude of symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia and constipation, and increase the risk of heart disease and some cancers. A TSH—thyroid-stimulating hormone—test can determine whether or not medication is needed.
- Eye exam. According to the American Optometric Association, more than a third of adults don’t get regular eye exams—although 43 million Americans suffer from some sort of degenerative eye disease. The AOA recommends having a visual exam (to evaluate how well you see) and an eye exam (to determine how healthy your eyes are) once a year or every other year.
- Prediabetes test. If you’re overweight and over the age of 45, the American Diabetes Association recommends you get tested for prediabetes—a condition in which your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to constitute type 2 diabetes. Without medical intervention, prediabetics are likely to develop diabetes. If you have other risk factors (high blood pressure or cholesterol, history of diabetes), you may need to be tested sooner.
- Fasting lipoprotein profile. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are the two primary factors contributing to cardiovascular disease, but monitoring your levels closely can help you thwart heart problems later in life. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends adults ages 20 and up undergo a fasting lipoprotein profile, which measures your total cholesterol (LDL, HDL and triglycerides), every five years. All adults should also have their blood pressure checked at least once every two years.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
The Truth About Your Toothbrush
It’s something we all use every day, but how much do you know about your toothbrush? Maria Lopez Howell, dentist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA), offers some tips on what you need to do to maintain that healthy smile.
Buy a new brush. As the bristles of your toothbrush wear down, they lose their effectiveness at scraping away plaque, leaving you susceptible to cavities and gingivitis. You should replace your toothbrush about every three to four months. Mark the expected replacement date on your toothbrush to help you remember.
Don’t bug out about bacteria. You don’t need to worry about replacing your toothbrush every time you get sick. The ADA has found no evidence that toothbrushes can re-infect users after they’ve had a cold or the flu. The enzymes in our mouths are able to fight off these types of germs.
Don’t disinfect. Don’t try to prolong the life of your toothbrush by disinfecting it at home. The intense heat of boiling water or a microwave can warp the bristles and make it less effective. As long you rinse your toothbrush and leave it out to dry after each use, it will be clean enough.
Find a comfortable fit. While there are a multitude of different toothbrushes, no one type is really better than another. A good toothbrush should be ADA-approved, soft-bristled and fit your preference. You can invest in a fancy, electric variety, or take advantage of the freebies your dentist provides at your semiannual checkups. The choice is yours!
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Not only do Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and Serena Williams have more gold medals than you, they’re also likely to outlive you. According to a study published in the medical journal BMJ, Olympic medalists live an average of 2.8 years longer than the rest of the population, regardless of nationality or sport. Health experts suggest that non-Olympians can obtain similar longevity benefits through regular exercise.
Number Two Brew
Some of the world’s most expensive coffee comes from a particularly pungent source, according to a recent AP story. Featuring an “earthy and fruity flavor,” the $500/pound Black Ivory Coffee is made from beans hand-picked out of fresh elephant dung! The elephants’ stomach acid breaks down a key protein attributed to bitterness in the beans to produce a very smooth cup of Joe. However, it takes 72 pounds of raw coffee cherries to produce just two pounds of Black Ivory coffee! Don’t expect to be brewing it at home anytime soon; it’s sold only at a few luxury resorts in Thailand, the Maldives and Abu Dhabi.
A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau states that women comprise more than 80 percent of the 53,000 Americans who are more than 100 years old. Data collected from the 2010 census found that most centenarians are white, female city-dwellers living in the Northeast and Midwest. While still rare, reaching the century mark is much more common today than just a few decades ago. iBi