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Low Carb Diet Linked to increased Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Winter is Coming


If you’re a fan of the Game of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin, you’ll recognize “Winter is Coming” as the motto of the House of Starks. As Lords of the North, they know that they have to be ready for the hardships winter will bring. For those of us in the real world, our hardships might include colder temperatures, snow and a lot less sunshine.  This change in our environment can cause us to feel down, or depressed, sometimes so much that our quality of life can be affected. This change in mood is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.


Symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Increased appetite with weight gain
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Unhappiness and irritability
  • Increased sleep
  • Hopelessness
  • Sluggish movements
  • Social withdrawal

Instead of hibernating this winter, take action to lessen the impact that SAD has had on you in the past. Consider these great suggestions by Alex Orlov, a writer for Life by DailyBurn, in his article, “9 Ways To Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder:”

1. Soak up morning sunshine.

According to Kalayjian, winter blues will be worst in the mornings when you’re rousing yourself from bed. She tells clients to open curtains as much as possible to get exposure to natural light right when the body is waking up.

2. Maintain your routine.
“The most helpful thing is to try to keep up everyday activities,” says Rohan. Once daylight savings time occurs, don’t neglect your favorite hobbies just because winter spurs an impulse to hibernate. You’ll feel better knowing you’re still making it to your weekly book club, basketball game or brunch with friends.

3. Work it out.
During a killer gym session, the brain works hard to override the temporary feelings of discomfort by telling the body to keep pushing. You’ll naturally release endorphins, which will make you feel happier and even euphoric. A meta-review published in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal in 2013 suggested that, for some individuals, exercise might be comparable to therapy or anti-depressants as an effective treatment for depression.

4. Flip a switch.
Research suggests that light boxes can help up to 50 percent of people who suffer from SAD. The bright light emitted from these devices helps the body awaken in the morning and decreases the hormone melatonin that keeps us asleep at night. And for those seeking a quick fix: Studies show that light therapy can spur a mood lift in just several days. “Based on the literature, [light therapy] is a very effective treatment,” says Rohan. However, since the FDA does not regulate light boxes, she recommends consumers pursue light therapy under the supervision of a professional. “It takes some trial and error to get it just right,” she says, emphasizing that timing, positioning and potential side effects should all be discussed with an expert before you begin treatment.

5. Ditch the sugar.
It’s common knowledge that too much of the sugary stuff will make us gain weight and puts us at risk for developing diabetes and certain cancers. And research shows that sugar has a sour effect on mental health, too. Countries that consume the most sugar have higher rates of depression, and scientists hypothesize that it hinders the body’s ability to cope with stress and can worsen anxiety. Many people crave sweet and starchy foods in the wintertime because they provide a temporary energy boost, but these treats will ultimately leave you just as sluggish as before. Instead, opt for eating complete meals with good sources of protein and fiber.

6. Get outside.
Both Rohan and Kalayjian recommend breathing in some fresh air each day. Studies confirm that spending time outside can relieve stress, so bundle up and brave the cold for at least five minutes to lift your spirits. “It turns out that going for a walk in the morning after sunrise can be especially effective,” says Rohan. “It gets light to the retina, but it’s also physical activity.” Two birds, one stone!

7. Develop wintertime interests.
Bummed that you can’t play beach volleyball every weekend? Rohan recommends finding substitutes for the mood-enhancing activities you enjoy in the summer. “Having fun is central to having a good mood,” she says. “What are things to do in winter that are fun to do?” Strap on some snowshoes, check out a new fitness class, take a spin on an ice rink or step up your game in the kitchen — you just might find a new passion.

8. Practice relaxation.
Some down dog could help you get out of the dumps. Practicing yoga, studies show,can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Plus, preliminary research on meditation reveals that breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises can actuallychange neural networks and decrease stress. Kalayjian also recommends progressive relaxation, a technique that promotes body awareness by tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout the body.

9. Book a trip.
Prepare for takeoff, because quality vacation time will certainly boost your mood. Those that suffer from seasonal depression will benefit from additional sunshine if they head south, but taking a break from work is important for anyone’s mental health. Studies show that people even experience pleasure from anticipating trips. “Across the board, SAD patients will tell you they feel better [after vacation],” says Rohan. But she cautions against depending on getaways for happiness. “I think it’s important to learn to tolerate the place where you live instead of jumping on a plane.” While you count down the days ’til your beach holiday, find ways to get joyous about the winter wonderland in your own backyard. (See full article here.)


My Winter Wonderland!


Winter is coming. Be Ready!


Martin, George R.R. Game of Thrones. New York: Bantam Books, 1996. Print.


Hazards in the Snow


I remember sitting in a lecture during nursing school about heart problems, and being floored that sudden death is a “symptom” of a heart attack. Really? A person has to die to find this out?!

If you’re questioning whether or not it’s safe for you to shovel snow, take this test to see if you’re at risk for heart disease. You’ll need to know your cholesterol numbers, your blood sugar after fasting for 8 hours, your blood pressure, and your weight and height. This might mean a visit to your healthcare provider for a check up to get your numbers.

It’s never too late to reverse, or at least control, some of your risk factors. Educate yourself, then take action to make yourself the healthiest you can be! Don’t let the snowstorms in life prevent you from living.



Knit Therapy


One of my hobbies is knitting, and I was happy to spot an article today posted on Facebook that shows how knitting can be beneficial.

Katherine Martinko, a writer for, did some research on the health benefits of knitting and wrote about them in her article, “Don’t stop knitting! It keeps you healthy.” Check it out!


Just Breathe

I just read an article in Health Day that states only one out of 136 caregivers participating in a study published recently in the Journal of Asthma knew all the steps to take when helping a child use an inhaler with a spacer (the study states 10 steps, but a quick look online shows variations anywhere from 8-12 steps).  As a healthcare provider, this is concerning to me.  I wonder how much of what I teach sticks with my patients?

The American Lung Association gives these statistics about children and asthma:

  • Asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders in childhood
  • Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalizations in children under the age of 15
  • Asthma is one the the leading causes of school absenteeism

Clearly, it’s important that inhalers are used correctly to keep children in school learning and out of the hospital. So, what are the steps to help a child get his/her asthma medicine? Here is a great patient handout produced by the Health Plan of San Mateo:


The two steps missed most commonly in the study were having the child take at least 6 slow breaths after the inhaler was pressed and waiting 30 seconds before releasing the second dose.

I plan to not only demonstrate proper inhaler use, but will reinforce the education with a handout similar to this. For all of you parents out there with asthmatic children, please make sure you are helping your child with his/her inhaler using all the recommended steps.  Remember to see your healthcare provider if you have questions about the use of, or how to give, any medicines. ¡Salud!

Viagra from Online Sources Mostly Fake

Viagra from Online Sources Mostly Fake.

Don’t buy medicines over the internet. You never know what you’re really getting!

Doomsday Prepping


Yes, I have actually watched the show, “Doomsday Preppers,” mainly because my husband had the remote control.  As he napped, I got caught up in the family whose dad made them run drills every so often to be ready for a hostile takeover by persons using biological warfare. Scary thought, huh? While I don’t believe in going as far as most of the preppers on the show do, I think the Boston bombings made me realize it would be a good thing to brush up on my first aid skills and to be prepared as a family in the event of an emergency. We were there two years ago watching my husband and his brother run; those people we saw on the news could have been us!

I realize most people who aren’t in the medical profession aren’t trained in first aid consistently enough to remember how to treat specific types of injuries. So, in the age of our smart phones, there’s an app for that!  The American Red Cross app for first aid teaches how to deal with burns, bleeding, broken bones, unconsciousness, etc. One really nice feature is that it has an “Emergency” tab that gives you get step-by-step instructions for different types of situations or injuries that includes a one button dial for 911.

All families need to have a plan for meeting back up if they’re separated at the time of an emergency. The first aid app also addresses this issue, and lists supplies that should be kept on hand for emergencies.

If you are interested in learning more about how to help in an emergency, you can take a class to learn how to become a First Responder. A First Responder is a volunteer who’s been specially trained to know what to do in emergencies or disaster situations. He or she can provide care until more highly trained personnel are able to get to the scene.  To find out more about this,  you can go to the American Red Cross website, or contact your local government to see if classes are offered.



Your Largest Organ

I think we’ve all been talked to to death about protecting our skin from getting burned and overexposed to the sun. If you’re at least 35 or older, you may even remember the days of baby oil mixed with iodine as the way to get a great tan. And the more tan you are, the more beautiful you are, right?Patricia Krentcil

Except when you over do it and look like leather.

I confess I still like the look of sun-kissed skin; however, I now attempt to get it out of a self-tanning lotion.


We had a scare in our family recently that makes me even more leery of getting too much sun. Last year my younger sister found a spot on her upper arm that wouldn’t go away. She thought it was just some type of pimple. It  wasn’t a scary looking black color, it was flesh-colored. It wasn’t larger than a pencil eraser or asymmetrical. The only thing that bothered her was that it wasn’t clearing up. She went to her primary care doctor for something else, and “by the way, what do you think about this thing on my arm?” Luckily, her doctor did not blow her off, but removed it and sent it for biopsy. About a week later, he called her to say it was melanoma.

That news was unexpected, and threw us all for a loop. If you start reading about melanoma, you realize that the odds aren’t good for survival. She had to go to a specialist who removed more skin in that area, looking at the cells under a microscope as he went, until he got to clear cells. That was a good sign, that he was able to get to normal cells instead of continually finding more cancer cells. Thankfully, my sister is cancer-free; she will be monitored on a regular basis for any recurrence for the next few years.

I’m sharing this story with you because I read an article today that says melanoma is on the rise in our teenagers. While our kids are still in our homes, we need to harp on them to use sunscreen, no matter how annoying we are. We also need to be good parents and slather our little kids (6 months and older) with sunscreen anytime they’re out in the sun. At the pool, the sunscreen has to be on at least 15 minutes before getting in the water for it to work, and reapplied often. Teach them at an early age that wearing sunscreen is important. But for those of us who grew up in the age of baby oil and iodine, it’s too late to reverse the sun damage that’s already happened. So, we have to keep an eye on our skin with regular checks of our largest organ, our epidermis.whaleskin


What makes you more prone to developing skin cancer?

  • If you had blistering sunburns as a teenager
  • If you had outdoor summer jobs for 3 or more years as a teenager
  • If you have pale skin that doesn’t tan easily (burns instead)
  • If you have red or blonde hair
  • If you have blue eyes
  • If you have many moles or freckles
  • If you have HIV or any condition that makes your immune system not work well
  • If you are taking immunosuppressants
  • If you have a family history of melanoma.
  • If you are older than 65 years of age.

People who are non-medical may feel they can’t tell if something is normal or abnormal. In school, I was taught this way to remember how to tell if a skin lesion could be a concern:

The A-B-C-D-Es of Skin Cancer


Anytime you find a spot that concerns you, please go see your healthcare provider to get it checked out.

It’s a good idea to have your skin checked out once a year, especially if you fall into any of the at-risk categories. In the meantime, use your sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher, limit your time out in the sun, especially between 10am to 4 pm, and dress in protective clothing such as a hat and sunglasses when you are outside. Take care of yourself. ¡Salud!

How I Got Started

Up until I hit about 30 years old, I was not much on physical fitness. I really didn’t have much trouble with gaining too much weight, or feeling like I had a real weight problem (meaning, I felt like I might be happy to lose 5 lbs, but didn’t feel motivated to do so since I was at a normal weight). I ate pretty much what I wanted to and stayed at the same size. That is, until I gave birth to my first child.

I didn’t gain over 28 lbs with that pregnancy, but I didn’t lose the last 8lbs before getting pregnant with my second. With him, I gained 33 lbs and  was at a high weight (for me), 164 lbs, about 40 lbs over my normal weight. I didn’t like my body at that weight, my clothes didn’t fit,  and I was going to have to actually work to get the weight off.

My 10 year anniversary celebration was the same year I gave birth to my second. We planned on going on a cruise that October, so I had to lose about 20 lbs before that. I had managed to get down to about 145 naturally. I began exercising at 6 weeks postpartum, right after my check up, doing some aerobic exercise video tapes (Jane Fonda, I think!) with a friend. I weaned my son from breastfeeding at the end of July; I planned on restricting my calorie intact and knew this wasn’t a good idea while nursing. I had decided that running was the easiest and cheapest way to exercise and lose weight. I only needed shorts, t-shirt, socks and running shoes. No gym membership required!

My first time out, my goal was to keep going for 15 minutes, walking or running. I found I could only jog for about 2 minutes before getting out of breath (did I mention I had 5 weeks of bedrest with both pregnancies? Yeah.) Slowly, over the course of 3 weeks, I was finally able to jog for the entire 15 minutes!

In the meantime, I was using the Slim Fast plan as my eating plan. I added in some extra carb calories (maybe 200-300) to keep hunger at bay. The pounds started coming off and this inspired me to keep going. Instead of emphasizing how far I went on my runs, I went  by minutes. After I made it jogging straight for 15 minutes, the next week, I went 17 minutes three days that week. The next week, it was 19 minutes for three days, and so on, until I was able to jog without stopping for 30 minutes. After that, I actually started taking my car out after my runs to clock the mileage (oh, the days before affordable GPS!)

When my husband and I left for our cruise, I had gotten back down to about 125, my pre-pregnancy weight. I hadn’t seen that number for about two and a half years and I really felt great! Our trip was fantastic and we had a memorable anniversary. After we got back home, I continued with my running. The next year, I decided that maybe a marathon wasn’t a crazy lunatic idea after all, and decided to train for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. I had a great running buddy, Dianne, who would run part of my long runs with me, then bike beside me (and around me) as I finished up my mileage. I was following the training schedule in Jeff Galloway’s Book on Running for a 4 hour marathon finish time. I highly recommend his book. I finished my first marathon in 4 hours, 14 minutes and 19 seconds, a little off my goal, but I finished!!

I’m telling my story to you because I really didn’t believe that I could ever be a runner. A marathon sounded like an incredible feat of physical endurance that only crazy people wanted to accomplish. I didn’t like running (it hurt), I wasn’t athletic (I quit track in junior high because one girl was faster than me). After that first marathon, I would look back and think about the years before my kids were born, all the time I wasted that I could have been so involved in a running club! Runners are fun people, they’re nice, they encourage each other. You’re making an effort to be healthy, races usually raise money for a good cause, having a race as a goal keeps you motivated to get out there and train.

If you’re looking for something to get into, don’t want to spend a lot of money and are willing to put the time in, I would encourage you to try running. Even if you have to walk/run like I did, get out there. Time spent moving your body will reap rewards in lower cholesterol, lower blood sugars, muscle building and fat loss. It’s amazing, too, the psychological benefits of knowing that you can run a mile without stopping.

So, that’s my story of how I got started with my running. If I could do it, you can, too. Let your stubborn, willful self take over and get you out the door. You can do it. No think about it.

My daughter, husband, and I at the 2011 Little Rock Half Marathon

My daughter, husband, and I at the 2011 Little Rock Half Marathon

Under Pressure


Stress plays a big part in many of our lives. I’ve always heard that a certain amount of stress can be healthy, leading us to get things done or change a bad behavior. It’s when stress is a constant part of your life that it can affect your health. Stress has been linked to causing or worsening heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, a weakened immune system, and psychosomatic illnesses.

A psychosomatic illness is an illness that begins with emotional stress or damaging thought patterns, and progresses with physical symptoms.  For instance, have you heard of “nervous stomach” or someone breaking out in hives because of stress?


It can be difficult to avoid stress; there are pressures to pay bills, do well at your job, keep your job, volunteer at your kid’s school, take on responsibility at church, etc. You may be raising teenagers or trying to work things out with your spouse or dealing with the serious illness of a family member. Life just tends to throw things our way, and we have to deal, right?

Knowing that I need to develop better techniques myself, I went in search of tips for dealing with stress. I found a great article listing 25 stress relievers by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. and I wanted to share it with you. Go and take a look at the article, then try to use a couple every week until you find one that really does it for you.

Be good to yourself! ¡Salud!




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