Tag: health

Let us give thanks

By: Courtney Luecking, MPH, MS, RD Doctoral Candidate: Nutrition

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is an opportunity to take time away from routines, gather with family and friends, and literally give thanks. The history buffs can check their knowledge about the origin of Thanksgiving, but I would like to concentrate on the science behind the power of gratitude.

Check out this beautiful infographic for a more in depth summary, but the short of the long is that expressing gratitude has numerous physical and mental health benefits. Studies have linked gratitude with improved sleep, increased energy levels, and increased self-esteem. One trial also found those who kept a gratitude journal for 10 weeks were 25% happier than the group who did not keep a journal.

Read more about the benefits of expressing gratitude here and here.

With all these benefits, why limit it to one day a year? Instead, why not find some space for gratitude all year long?

be-thankful

Here are some ideas to intentionally acknowledge what or who you are grateful for throughout the year:

  • Snap a daily photo. Get inspiration from 365grateful, a stunning display of all the wonderful – big and small – things in the world
  • Keep a journal or list – paper, word document, or note on a phone or tablet
  • Try an app
  • Write a thank you note – for a purpose or just because
  • Jar of happiness
  • Meditate
  • Pray
  • Count your blessings

Let us give thanks not only this Thanksgiving holiday but more frequently in the upcoming year. After all, don’t we have much to be thankful for?

 

You are what you Tweet?

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Are you someone who puts your mood, food, or physical activity on social media? If so, you may be helping researchers develop and test new ways of tracking health behaviors.

funny-food-house-quote-sweet

 

It is known that the places where we live, work, play, and learn positively and negatively influence our health. But due to the time and other resources necessary to gather and update information about neighborhood characteristics, there is a lack of information to really understand how characteristics influence our health or why those effects might differ across town or the U.S.

As an alternative, a group of researchers explored the usefulness of using geotagged tweets to generate neighborhood level information to characterize happiness, food, and physical activity. By linking tweets to census tract level information, investigators found correlations (relationships) between happiness, food, and physical activity information and health behaviors, chronic diseases, death, and self-rated health.

And although this wasn’t the intention of the study, you might be interested to know the top 5 most tweeted about foods and forms of physical activity in the 1% random sample of publicly available tweets from April 2015 – March 2016:

Foods

  1. Coffee
  2. Beer
  3. Pizza
  4. Starbucks
  5. IPA (beer)

Physical Activity

  1. Walk/walking
  2. Dance/dancing
  3. Running
  4. Workout
  5. Golf

Any chance your tweets over the last year included one of those words?

This study, like all others, has limitations, and it is important to remember this is a first look at the usefulness of geocoded Twitter information. Having said that, these results show promise that Twitter or other social media data could be a useful and cheaper, more efficient way to create neighborhood profiles. More information about our neighborhoods could provide insight about important targets for change to improve the health of our communities. Now that is something to #tweet about!

 

Resources:

Cara, E. Top 10 Food Tweets Reveal Diet and Physical Activity Patterns of Twitter Users. Medical Daily. October 16, 2016. http://www.medicaldaily.com/heres-top-10-tweeted-about-foods-and-what-they-mean-our-health-401413

Nguyen QC, Li D, Meng HW, Kath S, Nsoesie E, Li F, Wen M. Building a National Neighborhood Dataset From Geotagged Twitter Data for Indicators of Happiness, Diet, and Physical Activity. JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2016;2(2):e158. DOI: 10.2196/publichealth.5869. PMID: 27751984

The Importance of Sticking to the Childhood Vaccination Schedule [infographic]

Guest Blogger: Carrington College

Childhood illnesses such as influenza can easily be prevented via a simple vaccine, and yet, as USA Today reports, nearly half of the American population skips their annual flu shot. Immunization rates are better for other diseases, but many children remain vulnerable to influenza, hepatitis, tetanus, and a whole host of other concerning illnesses. Thankfully, the risk of these diseases can be greatly diminished by sticking to the recommended vaccination schedule.

When Should Children Be Vaccinated?

Appropriate vaccination times vary based on the illness. Some vaccines only need to be administered once, while others require regular updates. For example, children ought to receive the influenza vaccine every year, beginning when they reach 6 months. The number of doses and the way the vaccine is administered may vary somewhat based on the child’s age and vaccine history.

Like the flu shot, many vaccinations start when the recipient is just a baby. The first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine should occur within 24 hours of the child’s birth. The rotavirus, inactivated poliovirus and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) vaccinations typically occur around 2 months of age. Additional doses of these vaccines may be scheduled at 4 and 6 months.

Other vaccinations such as varicella begin a bit later (around 12 months), but continue with additional doses as late as 4 to 6 years old. For those caught up on their vaccines, a significant break in non-influenza immunization may occur between the ages of 6 and 11. Furthermore, the vaccination schedule recommends that all children between the ages of 11 and 12 receive the meningococcal vaccine.
Why Stick to the Vaccination Schedules?

Vaccination vigilance can keep even vulnerable children healthy. The best way to ensure that children are up to date on all of their vaccines is to begin a vaccination schedule early and stick to it throughout childhood. Parents should consider using the below childhood vaccination checklist created by Carrington College to keep track of their child’s vaccinations in order to protect them from dangerous diseases.

child-vaccine-schedule-checklist

What does it mean to be healthy?

Today is National World Health Day!

At first, it seems obvious what this day is all about- promoting health. But health is not a simple concept when you examine it more closely. So, what is health?

Most of us automatically think of a healthy person as someone who is free of disease. However, this is a narrow definition that does not take into consideration other mental, social, or environmental factors that can impact the quality of a person’s life. According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Because health is a subjective state of well-being and not an objectively classifiable disease-free state, health can actually differ radically from person to person. Perhaps even stranger to consider is the fact that what is considered “healthy” or “diseased” is not consistent across cultures, in fact, both of these terms represent socially constructed concepts.

For example, in Anne Fadiman’s novel The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, she follows the true story of Lia Lee, the young daughter of Hmong immigrants who suffers from what Western society calls epilepsy. However, to her family and others in their culture, Lia’s condition is not a disease but is a mark of spiritual distinction. The struggles that subsequently ensue between Lia’s Western doctors and her family is a lesson in the importance of communication and cultural understanding when different definitions of health and illness clash.

So, since there is no set definition for what it means to be healthy, celebrate National World Health Day this year by defining what being healthy means to you, then try talking to your friends or family about their definitions of health and see how they compare!

Feel free to share your thoughts about health in the comments below.

Host a Healthy Holiday

In recent years, attention has been shifting away from medication-only treatment plans to incorporating special diets into comprehensive disease management strategies, for example rather than just giving a patient a pill to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, a doctor will prescribe a diet low in sodium and fats (saturated and trans) as well as refer the patient to a dietitian. Consequently, many Americans are following, or at least should be following, a “special” diet. From a health professional perspective, it is encouraging to see efforts to reduce medication, which often have numerous side-effects, and increase healthier long-term lifestyle changes.

However, all the holiday parties, feasts, and edible gifts can be a real threat to staying committed to healthful diets and lifestyle habits. A lot of pressure is placed on the individual to resist temptation, exercise moderation, or swap unhealthy options for healthier choices. Yet little attention is focused on the host or hostess for providing less healthy options.

If you are planning a holiday meal, I encourage you to be cognizant of your friends’ and family’s health and lifestyle choices. Just because you make “the best creamy mashed potatoes” every year, doesn’t mean you can’t find an equally delicious substitute or alternative. It’s only logical; if a dish is available, it has a chance of being consumed, but if it’s not available, it can’t be eaten.

tableLuckily, there are a wide variety of recipe websites dedicated to special diets, such as Allrecipes.com, MyRecipes.com, FoodNetwork.com. I would suggest trying out the recipes prior to the “big” feast, as light cooking or cooking with substitute ingredients is not always the same and may take a practice run or two. Try not to think of creating a healthier meal as an inconvenience or break in tradition, but rather a fun, worth-while challenge and opportunity to show loved ones you care about their health. After all, we want to celebrate many more holiday seasons with all our friends and family.

Please post links to your favorite healthful recipes or websites for others below.

Good luck and happy holidays!