In the Know: Blood Donation

Donating blood is safe if you go through the proper channels and follow guidelines. The Red Cross uses new, sterile needles that are discarded after 1 use and uses safe blood collection techniques to prevent infection. While guidelines vary by state, the basic requirements for donating blood are:

  1. Being healthy and feeling well.
  2. Being at least 16 to 17 years old (varies by state).
  3. Weighing at least 110 pounds.
  4. Not donating blood within the past 56 days (some exceptions with different types of blood donations).

Search other eligibility requirements at redcrossblood.org.

Most people have little or no reaction to donating blood. However, call the blood donor center if you have any of the following symptoms after donating, including:

  • Nausea, lightheadedness or dizziness after resting, eating and drinking water.
  • A raised bump, continued bleeding or pain at the needle-stick site when you remove the bandage.
  • Pain or tingling down your arm, into your fingers.
  • Fever, headache or sore throat (cold or flu), within 4 days after your blood donation. Bacterial infections can be transmitted by your blood to another person via transfusion, so it’s important to contact the blood donor center so that your blood won’t be used.
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Tween-Ager Anxiety: How Parents Can Help

Kids are tweens by age 11 or 12 — transitional years from childhood to teenager. Kids often struggle as they experience rapid changes, new emotions and challenges they’re not quite ready to handle.

In fact, many of today’s kids are living with daily stress and anxiety from an increasingly demanding, complicated society.

Signs for concern: Your tween displays unusual disrespect, emotional outbursts, disobedience or belligerence, or appears depressed, antisocial and isolated from friends and family. At this stage, kids may seek answers or comfort in smoking, substance abuse or extensive screen time.

Cyberbullying is an increasing scenario among tweens and teens that uses digital communication to malign others. Examples: sending hurtful texts or instant messages, posting embarrassing photos or video on social media, and spreading damaging false rumors online or with phones.

The most important thing you can do as a parent is to stay observant and set aside time often to be with your children. Be persistent; reassure them of your love and support and ability to make life easier, provided they stay connected.

Together, create a plan your kids can use to resolve issues. Example: To combat the effects of cyberbullying, advise your child to actively step away from social media each day and take structured breaks from worries in general to refocus and find ways to enjoy themselves. 

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Cooking $mart

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Maximize nutrition and ingredients without breaking your budget

Some foods that are touted for their health benefits can also be expensive. Items such as chia seeds, quinoa and nuts are nutritious but not always affordable. The good news is that you can reap the same nutritional benefits from similar foods that cost much less.

Some examples:

Instead of quinoa, opt for oats or pot barley. Either of these options is filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals, and can be used to make anything from a warm breakfast cereal to a savory side dish. Oats and barley cost about half of what you’d pay for quinoa.

Instead of mixed nuts, buy peanuts, which are more affordable. You’ll get the same satisfying crunch, plus lots of protein and good-for-you unsaturated fats. The same is true for nut butters: Peanut butter is more affordable than almond or cashew butter.

Instead of chia seeds, choose flax seeds. They cost a third less and are a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

Instead of ground beef, try brown lentils. Both contain protein, but lentils are cheaper yet higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat compared to ground beef. You can also mix beef and lentils (in burgers, for example) for the best of both worlds.

Instead of pricey snack bars, make your own.

Instead of buying coffee or tea over the counter, make it at home. A $3 cup of tea? Buy tea bags instead for only cents per bag. These beverages help you stay hydrated, but the costs add up. Make them at home and tote them in a thermos. And bottle water yourself: Fill a reusable bottle with water from the tap. It costs less and is just as good as what you buy in the store.

TIP: Instead of pricey dried goji, acai or mulberries, stick with locally grown fresh fruits. Whether you like apples, berries or oranges, they
all contain beneficial antioxidants and vitamin C. Any fruit is a good choice.

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Exercise: Get More Outdoors

Why exercise with Mother Nature? It’s hard to argue with the many health benefits you can gain from regular exercise. And moving it outdoors offers some special benefits over indoor exercise, especially on beautiful sunny days. Let it broaden your horizons.

Just open the door. You’ll find countless routes and settings in your neighborhood, often quicker than traveling to a gym.

Forget boredom. You can choose a changing environment, especially if you live near a park, shoreline or designated bike path — much more fun than working on a machine, especially
with a friend.

Burn more calories. Headwinds make your muscles work harder to overcome the resistance against your body, especially when jogging or biking.

Connect with your community. Break from screen time to share the fresh air with fellow neighborhood walkers, joggers and bikers.

Make exercise family time outside. Take your kids routinely to a playground, go biking or hiking and break a sweat — a good step in raising confident kids who grow to appreciate fitness.

Boost your mood. There is research suggesting that exercise outside can benefit mental well-being more than the same type of exercise inside. One study found outdoor exercisers scored higher on measures of energy, enthusiasm and self-esteem and lower on tension, depression
and fatigue.

Reminder: Know your outdoor environment — find a setting that’s safe and meets your exercise needs. Consider traffic, weather and air conditions before heading out.

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Signs of Stroke? Think F.A.S.T.

Every year, about 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer strokes. A stroke happens when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced. Strokes can be devastating, but if you think F.A.S.T., then you may increase your chances of recovering, depending on the stroke’s severity. 

Use F.A.S.T. to identify the common symptoms of stroke:

Face: You try to smile and 1 side of your face droops.

Arms: You attempt to raise your arms and 1 side drops down.

Speech: You speak and you have slurred speech or your speech sounds odd.

Time: Call 911 immediately if you have 1 or more of these symptoms.

Other signs include: dizziness, trouble walking, trouble seeing with 1 or both eyes, confusion, numbness or weakness on 1 side.

Reduce your risk of strokes by practicing these safe habits: Get plenty of exercise (if okayed by your health care provider), manage your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, eat healthy and lose weight if you’re overweight.

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Benefits of Family Dinners

Busy parents and kids may have a tendency to skip sit-down meals together. But research shows family dinners are worth the planning and effort because eating together regularly has a host of benefits for children and parents.

For example, Emory University psychologists found that families who share an evening meal are more likely to discuss emotions, events and family affairs; this boosts youngsters’ self-esteem and may improve academic performance. Other benefits include a lower risk of teen pregnancy and depression, according to Columbia University researchers. What’s more, teens who eat dinner with their families are less likely to use drugs and alcohol or smoke.

Parents and kids who eat dinners together tend to eat more fruit and vegetables and keep weight under control better, too. A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed a 12% lower chance of being overweight, a 20% decrease in eating unhealthy foods and a 35% lower risk of eating disorders in youngsters who frequently ate dinner with their family. And University of Minnesota researchers found dads ate less fast food and moms engaged in fewer dieting and binge eating behaviors when family dinners were common.

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Foods Your Heart Loves

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

What do salmon, berries, leafy greens and nuts have in common? They are all heart-smart foods that ably nourish the body and help combat unhealthy cholesterol, hypertension and heart disease. But it’s not just a single food in isolation that can help protect your heart. Rather, it’s a combination of nourishing foods and a consistent pattern of healthy eating that has the greatest impact.

Studies show that 2 dietary patterns are particularly helpful for heart health: the Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. Both eating patterns are chock-full of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy, and recommend reducing the consumption of red meat, sweets and salty snacks.

Both eating plans emphasize whole, unprocessed foods instead of ultra-processed foods, such as processed meats and cheeses as well as refined breads and other carbs. So, preferably choose apples and carrots rather than apple pie and carrot cake.

Why are these food plans so powerful for heart health? Together, these foods provide fiber, which helps regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels; antioxidants to reduce inflammation; and a host of cardio-protective vitamins and minerals essential for good health. This approach is also lower in sodium, sugars and trans fat, which may raise your risk of heart disease when eaten in excess.

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Going Red for Women

With Knowledge and Action Against Heart Disease

Fact: About 80% of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented. Yet, heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among U.S. women every year — more than all cancers combined.

Fact: Risks for heart disease are similar for both women and men. Risk factors for heart attack you can’t change include family history and age (45+ for men and 55+ for women). But, with lifestyle changes and your health care provider’s help, you can control or treat the primary risks:

  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Unhealthy blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic obesity or overweight
  • Smoking

Fact: Heart attack signs in women can vary from what men experience. However, the most common heart attack symptom for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort — unusual pressure, squeezing or fullness in the center of your chest, lasting more than a few minutes off and on.

Women are somewhat more likely than men to also experience: shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting and jaw pain. Other symptoms common to both include pain or discomfort in 1 or both arms, the back, neck or stomach.

If you have any of these signs, call 911 for an ambulance to take you to the hospital. Note: Never drive yourself and never have non-emergency responders drive you.

National Wear Red Day on February 7 is the perfect time to learn more at GoRedforWomen.org. You’ll find the latest in lifesaving information for women of all ages and ethnicities and learn more specifics about heart disease prevention and related ongoing medical research.

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Workplace Safety Resolutions

Most of us make resolutions for the new year, so why not include safety resolutions at work? Start by considering these habits: 

  1. Inspect your personal protective wear and replace any damaged or worn gear immediately. Continue to inspect before every use. Store properly to prevent damage.
  2. Take a few minutes at the end of every work day to clean and inspect your work area. 
  3. Check for worn or damaged electrical cords; replace as necessary.
  4. Take turns inspecting coworkers’ work areas for hidden hazards while they inspect yours.
  5. Review your workplace fire evacuation route and note where extinguishers are located.
  6. Read the instruction manuals before using equipment that you aren’t familiar with.
  7. Get a good night’s sleep — at least 7 to 9 hours. If you feel fatigued at work, take a break.
  8. Check your computer workstation for proper ergonomics. Get an OSHA checklist at osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/checklist_evaluation.html.
  9. Avoid lifting anything too heavy. Get a handcart or ask for help.
  10. Stand up and stretch at least every hour if your job requires sitting all day. To prevent eye strain look away from your device screens by focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes.
  11. Know where all Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are located for chemicals or cleaning products you may use on the job. 
  12. Post these resolutions in your work area for a constant reminder.
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Mental Training

Can practicing mindfulness help our mental health? Studies suggest it can change our brains in ways that produce positive thinking and engagement, and ultimately help us cope with physical or emotional distress.

In a study of 144 workers,participants completed an 8-week mindfulness training program with 2-hour classes each week at work and 45 minutes of daily meditation homework. Upon study completion, participants reported feeling less fatigue, stress and depression; improved relations with people; as well as better sleep and fewer aches and pains. 

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing purposefully on what you’re experiencing, in the moment, without judgment. This includes awareness of your body sensations as well as awareness of your thoughts and feelings. It uses breath and body practices that relax the body and mind to reduce stress. Think of it as a form of mental training, and value it as you do physical training.  

15-minute easy ways to practice mindfulness: 

  1. Do a body scan focused on any tension or stress.
  2. Meditate as you focus on relaxing your muscles. 
  3. Focus on your breathing and allow it to become relaxed as it relaxes you.
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