How to Survive Family Road Trips

Whether you’re driving to a vacation destination or traveling cross-country to several locations, a summer road trip can be loaded with family fun and adventure. Planning ahead is key to ensuring a pleasant trip.

Think safety first. Pack a first-aid kit and any medications family members need. Have your car’s road worthiness checked. Make sure all seatbelts work properly and little ones have appropriately sized car seats, too.

Tips for a family road trip with more fun, less stress:

  • Pack plenty of refreshments. Keep them in reach so you don’t have to stop the car for a drink or snack. Pack wipes to clean hands.
  • Keep youngsters occupied. Bring small toys, but don’t forget old-fashioned participation games such as “I Spy” or family sing-alongs. Use books and brochures to share information about what you’ll see on your trip.
  • Stop for breaks about every 2 hours. Stretch your legs and supervise kids while they burn energy tossing a ball, jumping rope or playing tag in a safe rest area.
  • Bring along audio books and earplugs to avoid squabbles over movies; instead of screen time, encourage more scenery watching.
  • If an attraction is a dud, or you take a wrong turn, relax. Talk (and laugh) about it.
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Get in the Swim

Water exercise offers special rewards. First, no matter what the activity involves, doing it in chest-deep water takes added effort. And low-impact aqua workouts can leave you feeling calm and invigorated, not tired or achy.

Fitness benefits? Even the simplest pool exercise — walking forward and backward in waist-high water — can improve balance and flexibility and train your core muscles, all with help from the water’s resistance. Aqua aerobic routines will help you reduce body fat, lose weight and strengthen your cardiovascular health.

Pool classes offer a variety of exercise options. In addition to lap swimming, you can switch to shallow or deep-water activities that provide vigorous muscle workouts, especially by keeping your full range of motion under water.

Just starting or have limited mobility? Choose an introductory class and work with the instructor to identify your fitness goals and to learn proper form. If you don’t swim well, find a class that offers routines in the shallow end of the pool, such as water walking. As your strength grows, you can increase your pace for enhanced fitness.

Check with your health care provider first if you have chronic health problems (e.g., heart issues, arthritis, backache, injury and obesity), or pregnant.

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Get Savvy About Health Care

Understanding how your health care plan works is vital to protecting your well-being. Check your knowledge against these basic goals that help ensure quality coverage:

  • I have read my benefit plan description and know what’s required for copayments, deductibles and other fees.
  • I know how to access services, such as provider referrals, routine screenings or hospital admission.
  • I manage my basic health with a primary health care provider by asking questions, discussing treatment options and following self-care measures.
  • I maintain a strong, effective relationship with my provider, who listens, invites my questions and explains thoroughly.
  • I can exchange information with my provider using an online portal.
  • I usually offer my provider prepared, specific information about my health.
  • I use a current medical self-care guide.
  • I know when and where to get urgent care (other than my provider’s clinic or a hospital emergency room).

Once your provider has diagnosed your health condition or gives you a prescribed care plan, its success depends largely on you. Whether it’s taking medicine correctly, changing habits or watching for symptoms, do your best to stay in charge.

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Cancer Screening Guide for Guys

Busy men tend to put off checkups, especially if they feel fine. But that can be a serious mistake when it comes to health.

Men’s Health Month in June is an opportunity to learn more about the prevention, detection and treatment of diseases affecting men. Learning more can be lifesaving — especially when it comes to protection from cancer.

Case in point: Prostate cancer is the most common type of malignancy in men (besides skin cancer) and it’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men after lung cancer. But there’s good news from the American Cancer Society (ACS): The 5-year survival rate for non-spreading prostate cancer is nearly 100%.

Prostate exams: Do men need regular prostate cancer screening if they have no symptoms or elevated risk for prostate cancer? The ACS advises all men to talk with their health care providers about prostate screening based on age and personal risks, if they’re in the following groups:

  • Men age 40 and at highest risk for the disease because they have more than 1 first-degree relative (a father or brother) who had prostate cancer at an early age;
  • Men age 45 and at elevated risk due to being African American and/or having a father, brother or son diagnosed with the disease when they were younger than 65;
  • Men age 50, at average risk of prostate cancer and who expect to live at least another decade.

The ACS emphasizes health status and age because prostate cancer usually grows slowly and, if a man is seriously ill and not expected to live for another 10 years, cancer screening and treatment may not be indicated.

Prostate cancer screening involves a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood
test and often a digital rectal exam. If no cancer is found, future screenings
may be scheduled depending on the results of the PSA test. For example,
a PSA of less than 2.5 ng/ML typically is repeated every 2 years, while a
higher PSA level should be tested yearly, according to the ACS.

What other cancer screenings do men need? Colorectal cancer is highly
preventable with regular exams, such as a colonoscopy or fecal DNA test,
to find and remove pre-cancerous polyps. The ACS recommends men begin
colorectal screening at age 45 or earlier if they have risks such as a family
history of colorectal cancer.

Talk to your provider about other cancer screenings, including skin
cancer checks. Lung cancer screening for smokers and others at high
risk increases the chances of effective treatment. Inform your provider
immediately if you have lung-related symptoms, including a persistent
cough, rust-colored sputum and pain with deep breaths.

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Fish Power

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Dietary guidelines suggest that Americans eat at least two (3.5 oz.) servings of fish each week, and for good reason. Fish is a great source of protein and omega-3 fats, and contributes vitamins and minerals to the diet, including selenium, vitamin D, iron and zinc. 

Eating enough fish helps protect heart health, lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function, especially when you choose fatty fish such as salmon, trout and sardines. Fish may also help reduce the risk of depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The trouble is, most Americans aren’t eating enough fish. About half of all Americans eat fish only occasionally or not at all. 

Why is our fish intake so low? Some people simply don’t like fish, while others don’t know how to prepare it. And others are worried about possible contaminants such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Is this fear warranted? Researchers have calculated that if 100,000 people ate farmed salmon twice a week for 70 years, the extra PCB intake could potentially cause 24 extra deaths from cancer — but would prevent at least 7,000 deaths from heart disease. Levels of PCBs and dioxins in fish are very low, similar to levels in meats, dairy products and eggs. 

To avoid excess mercury, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or feeding young children, watch local fish advisories. Steer clear of shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Instead, choose shrimp, canned light tuna or salmon — which happen to be the most popular types of fish for eating in the U.S. anyway.

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Computer Vision Syndrome

May is Healthy Vision Month — a perfect time to focus on computer vision syndrome (CVS). Although not a vision-threatening problem, CVS can cause several symptoms, including eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, headaches and neck pain.

Studies show 50% to 90% of people who use a computer for 2 hours or more sometimes experience CVS symptoms. 

But there’s good news. Several simple self-help measures can help relieve and prevent CVS.

For example, the American Optometric Association advises adjusting your computer screen so it is about 4 to 5 inches below eye level. Position your computer screen to avoid glare, too. If you can’t change the lighting, consider a glare filter for the computer screen.

More eye-relieving tips:

  • Rest your eyes for 15 minutes after 2 hours of computer use.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: For every 20 minutes of computer viewing, take a 20-second break and refocus your eyes by looking 20 feet away.
  • Blink frequently to keep eyes moist; use moisturizing eye drops. 
  • Make sure your chair is comfortable to avoid neck and shoulder discomfort.
  • Get an eye exam. Uncorrected or under-corrected vision problems contribute to eyestrain. Some people benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for computer use, too.
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