Does Spring Bring Suffering Along With Blooms?

Spring is officially here and so are the warm temperatures! But, are you finding yourself with the onset of a sudden, never-ending cold? If so, you may be one of the estimated 40 to 60 million Americans suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly referred to as “hay fever,” usually occurs in the spring, summer, and fall and is caused by “allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores or top pollen from grass, trees, and weeds.” Hay fever symptoms consist of a runny nose and congestion, wheezing, and itchy eyes or skin. Think of it as a season-long cold that just won’t go away. For some, hay fever is an entirely new experience. You may have welcomed spring in the past, but now you feel like you’ve been hit by a nasty cold, and that the usual Dayquil or Sudafed is not doing the trick. If so, it may be time to get tested and visit an allergist to pinpoint exactly what you are experiencing. Skin tests, which consist of injecting or pricking the allergen into the skin and waiting for results, or newer blood tests that only require one blood draw, along with clues about your lifestyle can help to identify your specific allergens. If you do find yourself a victim of seasonal allergic rhinitis, here are some tips to avoid exposure to your trigger allergens and prevent allergic reactions: Avoid going outdoors between the hours of 5 am and 10 am. Pollen counts are the highest between these hours on dry, windy, and warm days....

Spring: The Perfect Season for a Nutritional Fresh Start!

Relax! Winter is almost over! For most Americans, winter is a dreaded, gloomy time of the year when food becomes a great comfort. Due to the colder temperatures and snow/ice/wintry mixed- covered roads we stay inside and inactive. Fortunately, spring is only a few weeks away and as we step into March and rising temperatures, it’s the perfect time to reassess what we put in our bodies on a daily basis. For some, controlling snacking throughout the day is a huge struggle. With vending machines and fast food joints too accessible and convenient during the workweek, it’s definitely worth looking at healthy snacking alternatives to keep your metabolism rolling at high fat-burning levels! In recent years, our nation has seen a spike in obesity rates. Snacking is a dietary habit that has greatly contributed to the rising obesity rates due to the “empty-calorie” nature of most prepared snack foods. Empty calories provide very little nutritional value, and instead are packed with added sugar and solid fat. According to the USDA, men consume two to three times their limit of sugar and fats and women two to four times their limit! So what are some snacks that steer clear of empty calories? High-protein snacks are the way to go! Protein allows our bodies to feel full over a longer period of time. If you are filling up with protein during snacking periods, chances are you’re more likely to skip seconds and wait until lunch or dinner to eat again. Here are some protein-filled snacks that are also easy to carry around throughout the day: Nuts! Especially almonds and pistachios, as they...

Changes to Make for A Heart Healthy Lifestyle

Do you know how to properly fuel and protect the most vital organ in your body? The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system and needs proper care and nourishment to remain healthy. Nearly half of Americans are at risk for heart disease, a large percentage of which are due to poor diet. Luckily, making changes in one’s diet is a quick and easy way to start to protect your heart from heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery disease by controlling your weight and keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure in check. Here are some tips to get you started: Avoid fats! Cut out the foods filled with trans-fats and saturated fats, as well as those high in cholesterol. There are many healthier alternatives to these problematic food items, such as Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or skim milk in place of heavy whipping cream. Well-rounded diet! Try to include foods from several food groups to keep meals healthy and well rounded. Make sure to include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet as they are a great source of fiber and are low in calories. Fish is an excellent addition to your diet, rich with anti-inflammatory omega-3-fatty acids that may assist in lowering the risk of heart disease. Count calories! Although the task seems daunting, monitoring your daily caloric intake to manage your weight can help prevent stroke, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. It’s best to talk to your healthcare provider to gain insight on calorie intake for your weight, age, gender, and level of activity. Watch out for salt! Take note of your sodium...

Worried About Your Health? It Might Be Your Thyroid!

Did you know that thyroid disease is more common than heart disease or diabetes? Nearly 30 million Americans are aware of their thyroid issues, but another 15 million are not. January is Thyroid Awareness Month; a time intended to make more of us knowledgeable about the importance of the thyroid gland to our overall health.  The thyroid gland is small, located below the Adam’s apple, and it plays a vital role in our bodies, greatly influencing a body’s well being. There are two main thyroid issues that can affect your health, but which are often attributed to other health concerns, including aging, heart disease or anxiety.   The slowing down of thyroid processes is known as hypothyroidism, while the process acting in overdrive is known as hyperthyroidism. Both can be traumatic for the body, and can dramatically affect one’s mood and overall health. Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone. Although there are several possible causes for hypothyroidism, the result can make one feel fatigued and cause hair loss and weight gain. Hyperthyroidism is the exact opposite. Here, the thyroid produces too much of the thyroid hormone, causing one’s pulse to race and may cause overheating, weight loss and anxiety. Are You At Risk? Are you at risk for thyroid disease? Take a look at your family health history. A close relative with a history of thyroid disease may put you at a greater risk, as the disease often runs in families. There are also more cases seen in women than men.  Many cases of thyroid disease are caused by autoimmune diseases...

A Step-by-Step Guide to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Do you know your risk of developing type 2 diabetes?  If you are obese your risk is 20 times higher than that of someone of more moderate weight.  Not only will your weight increase your chances of developing diabetes, but if you have diabetes and are overweight, you increase your odds of heart disease and stroke.  Most people (90%) who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.  Diabetes is not only a hassle to manage but can lead to serious long term health problems including blindness, kidney failure and foot or leg amputations. You can prevent, and possibly reverse, the illness just by losing weight. November is Diabetes Awareness Month and a great time to take better care of yourself by following some of these tips to prevent type 2 diabetes.  Losing just 10% of your body weight dramatically improves your health and reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes.  Here’s how to get started: Walking – Start out slowly by taking walks after dinner.  Begin with 5 minutes a day and slowly increase the amount you walk. Eat more vegetables – Increase your intake of vegetables to 5 servings per day.  Add one additional serving per week to reach your goal. Pick an activity – Choose something you love to do so you’ll stick with it, like dancing, hiking or goofing around in the yard with your kids. Read food labels – Many packaged foods contain high levels of sugar and sodium so choose prepared foods with care. Get more physical activity – Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther away from the store. Eat smaller...

Increased Health Insurance Offerings May Mean More Affordable Healthcare

Has the Affordable Care Act benefited you and your family?  For some people, the insurance premiums are still too expensive and the gap between Medicare and the cost of health insurance, even with subsidies is still too big.  If you are one of those who is still struggling to find affordable health insurance, especially now that it’s required, there is good news. A recent report published by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that the Health Insurance Marketplace will have 25% more insurance issuers in 2015. The report demonstrates that the Marketplace is working to increase competition and lower costs for consumers. As with most products and services that we buy there is a correlation between greater competition and lower costs.    According to HHS, “an increase of one issuer in a rating area is associated with a 4 percent decline in the second-lowest cost silver plan premium, on average.  In 2014, consumers in regions with larger numbers of issuers were able to access a wider range of choices.” If you are still shopping for a health insurance plan, you will have more options and a wider range of plans than you had before.  And it’s important to remember that if you are young and healthy, a high deductible healthcare plan can save you money in the short term.  Many young Americans are opting for these.  This will force many of us to be smarter consumers and to find some of our health services at more competitive prices.  One example is a quick and convenient lab test that used to require a doctor’s order.  This can now be...