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Tips for a Fun and Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather together with family and friends and to remember years past and create new memories for the younger generations. It’s also the time of the year when the food train leaves the station and seems to offer non-stop decadence until the new year. Here are some tips to enjoying the day without ruining your waistline.

Eat Breakfast

Eating a small breakfast sets your metabolism and gives you control of your appetite. When you eat a healthy breakfast such as a hard-boiled egg and whole wheat toast, you’ll keep yourself from nibbling throughout the day and potentially save yourself 1,000 calories!

Run for Fun

Thanksgiving Day is day when there are more 5K races all across America than any other day of the year. Many organizers allow walkers and runners alike so don’t be intimidated if you don’t think you can run the whole way. So, why not make it a family event? You’ll all get the chance to burn off extra calories and make room for that piece of pie you’ve been eyeing.

Cook Together

Get the kids involved in the kitchen. Let them wash the veggies, smash the potatoes and set the table. This will help them appreciate the work that goes into preparing the meal and when everyone’s involved, it sets a good example for them.

Lighten the Fare

Oftentimes, we are cooking using old family recipes that are filled with butter, cream, and sugar. You can lighten up these recipes with a few of these tricks:

– Use fat free chicken broth or vegetarian broth to baste the turkey and make gravy.
– Use sugar substitutes instead of sugar in baked goods.
– Reduce the amount of butter and oil whenever you can.
– Use plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in dips, mashed potatoes and casseroles.

Watch your Portions

Ever hear the saying “my eyes are bigger than my stomach?” Thanksgiving Day is one of the biggest eating events all year and that phrase tends to hold true to its meaning. A bountiful meal is lovingly prepared and we cannot help but to indulge our selves and eat two or three day’s worth of calories in one meal. Try to pace yourself with these tips:

– Choose the best on the buffet. Choose white meat turkey, plain vegetables, roast sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
– Don’t go back for seconds — leftovers are better anyway the next day — and save room for dessert.
– Eat slowly so your stomach can properly digest and send signals to your brain that you are getting full.
– Don’t drink too much alcohol. While you can enjoy a glass of wine, take it easy and limit the calories while staying sober.

Enjoy your Family and Friends
When everyone is involved from start to finish during the day, it has a way of bringing us all closer together and creates memories for a lifetime.

Tips for Avoiding Dangerous Food and Drug Interactions

Whenever you get a new prescription do you take the time to read the labels and warnings? If your answer is no, then you’ll want to read these important facts about drug interaction with food, beverages and other medications.

Drugs with Food and Beverages
Consequences of drug interactions with food and beverages may include delayed, decreased, or enhanced absorption of a medication. Food can affect the degree and rate at which a drug is absorbed into your system,, metabolism, and excretion of certain medications.

Examples of drug interactions with food and beverages …

Alcohol: If you are taking any sort of medication, it’s recommended that you avoid alcohol, which can increase or decrease the effect of many drugs.

Grapefruit juice: Grapefruit juice is often mentioned as a product that can interact negatively with drugs, but the actual number of drugs the juice can interact with is less well-known. Grapefruit juice should not be taken with certain blood pressure-lowering drugs or cyclosporine for the prevention of organ transplant rejection. That’s because grapefruit juice can cause higher levels of those medicines in your body, making it more likely that you will have side effects from the medicine. The juice can also interact to cause higher blood levels of the anti-anxiety medicine Buspar (buspirone); the anti-malaria drugs Quinerva or Quinite (quinine); and Halcion (triazolam), a medication used to treat insomnia.

Licorice: This would appear to be a fairly harmless snack food. However, for someone taking Lanoxin (digoxin), some forms of licorice may increase the risk for Lanoxin toxicity. Lanoxin is used to treat congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. Licorice may also reduce the effects of blood pressure drugs or diuretic (urine-producing) drugs, including Hydrodiuril (hydrochlorothiazide) and Aldactone (spironolactone).

Chocolate: MAO inhibitors are just one category of drugs that shouldn’t be consumed with excessive amounts of chocolate. The caffeine in chocolate can also interact with stimulant drugs such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), increasing their effect, or by decreasing the effect of sedative-hypnotics such as Ambien (zolpidem).

Drugs with Dietary Supplements
Research has shown that 50% or more of American adults use dietary supplements on a regular basis, according to congressional testimony by the Office of Dietary Supplements in the National Institutes of Health.

The law defines dietary supplements in part as products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary ingredient.” Dietary ingredients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs or botanicals, as well as other substances that can be used to supplement the diet.

Examples of drug interactions with dietary supplements …

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): This herb is considered an inducer of liver enzymes, which means it can reduce the concentration of medications in the blood. St. John’s Wort can reduce the blood level of medications such as Lanoxin, the cholesterol-lowering drugs Mevacor and Altocor (lovastatin), and the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (sildenafil).

Vitamin E: Taking vitamin E with a blood-thinning medication such as Coumadin can increase anti-clotting activity and may cause an increased risk of bleeding.

Ginseng: This herb can interfere with the bleeding effects of Coumadin. In addition, ginseng can enhance the bleeding effects of heparin, aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen. Combining ginseng with MAO inhibitors such as Nardil or Parnate may cause headache, trouble sleeping, nervousness, and hyperactivity.

Ginkgo Biloba: High doses of the herb Ginkgo Biloba could decrease the effectiveness of anticonvulsant therapy in patients taking the following medications to control seizures: Tegretol, Equetro or Carbatrol (carbamazepine), and Depakote (valproic acid).

Drugs with Other Drugs
Two out of every three patients who visit a doctor leave with at least one prescription for medication. Close to 40% of the U.S. population receive prescriptions for four or more medications. And the rate of adverse drug reactions increases dramatically after a patient is on four or more medications.

Drug-drug interactions have led to adverse events and withdrawals of drugs from the market, according to an article on drug interactions co-authored by Shiew-Mei Huang, Ph.D., deputy director of FDA’s Office of Clinical Pharmacology. The paper was published in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

However, market withdrawal of a drug is a fairly drastic measure. More often, FDA will issue an alert warning the public and healthcare providers about risks as the result of drug interactions.

Examples of drug interactions with other drugs …

Cordarone (amiodarone): FDA issued an alert in August 2008, warning patients about taking Cordarone to correct abnormal rhythms of the heart and the cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor (Simvastatin). Patients taking Zocor in doses higher than 20 mg while also taking Cordarone run the risk of developing a rare condition of muscle injury called rhabdomyolysis, which can lead to kidney failure or death. “Cordarone also can inhibit or reduce the effect of the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin),” said Huang. “So if you’re using Cordarone, you may need to reduce the amount of Coumadin you’re taking.”

Lanoxin (digoxin): “Lanoxin has a narrow therapeutic range. So other drugs, such as Norvir (ritonvair), can elevate the level of Lanoxin,” says Huang. “And an increased level of Lanoxin can cause irregular heart rhythms.” Norvir is a protease inhibitor used to treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Antihistamines: Over-the- counter (OTC) antihistamines are drugs that temporarily relieve a runny nose, or reduce sneezing, itching of the nose or throat, and itchy watery eyes. If you are taking sedatives, tranquilizers, or a prescription drug for high blood pressure or depression, you should check with a doctor or pharmacist before you start using antihistamines. Some antihistamines can increase the depressant effects (such as sleepiness) of a sedative or tranquilizer. The sedating effect of some antihistamines combined with a sedating antidepressant could strongly affect your concentration level. Operating a car or any other machinery could be particularly dangerous if your ability to focus is impaired. Antihistamines taken in conjunction with blood pressure medication may cause a person’s blood pressure to increase and may also speed up the heart rate.

Tips to Avoid Problems
There are lots of things you can do to take prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications in a safe and responsible manner.

Always read drug labels carefully.
Learn about the warnings for all the drugs you take.
Keep medications in their original containers so that you can easily identify them.
Ask your doctor what you need to avoid when you are prescribed a new medication. Ask about food, beverages, dietary supplements, and other drugs.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking an OTC drug if you are taking any prescription medications.
Use one pharmacy for all of your drug needs.
Keep all of your health care professionals informed about everything that you take.
Keep a record of all prescription drugs, OTC drugs, and dietary supplements (including herbs) that you take. Try to keep this list with you at all times, but especially when you go on any medical appointment.


Sources: WebMD and the FDA

Learn the signs of Menopause

Menopause is part of a gradual and natural process in which the ovaries produce less and less of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and menstrual periods gradually disappear. For most women this process begins silently somewhere around 40 years of age when periods may become less regular. This time of change is called perimenopause or premenopause. The average woman complete menopause when she is around 51 years old. Some women experience menopause at younger ages due to premature ovarian failure, cancer therapy or surgical removal of both ovaries.

Each woman experiences menopause differently. Changing hormone levels can cause a variety of symptoms that may last from a few months to a few years or longer. Some women have slight discomfort or worse. Others have little or no trouble. The most common symptoms include:

Change in periods — One of the first signs may be irregular periods. Some may have a lighter flow than normal; others have a heavier flow and may bleed a lot for many days. They may come more often and last longer. There may be spotting between periods.

Hot flashes — A hot flash is a sudden rush of heat in the upper part or all of your body. Keep a diary to track what sets off your hot flashes. Caffeine? Alcohol? A hot room? Stress? All are common causes. When a flash starts, take slow, deep breaths, in the nose and out the mouth. For tough cases, talk to your doctor.

Problems with the vagina and bladder — Vaginal dryness, itching andburning can make sexual intercourse painful. Vaginal infections can become more common. Try nonprescription, water-based vaginal lubricants or vaginal moisturizer. You can also ask your doctor about prescription vaginal creams or rings, or prescription pills for vaginal dryness and painful sex. Some women have more urinary tractinfections or problems with holding urine.

Sex — Some women find that their feelings about sex change with menopause. Some have vaginal dryness that makes sexual intercourse painful. Others feel freer after menopause, relieved that pregnancy is  no longer a worry. Until you have had one full year without a period, you should still use birth control if you do not want to becomepregnant. After menopause, a woman can still get sexually transmitted diseases and should make sure her partner uses a condom.

Sleep problems — Some women find they have a hard time getting a goodnight’s sleep. They may not fall asleep easily or may wake too early. They may need to get up to go to the bathroom and then not able to fall back to sleep. For some women night hot flashes can interfere with sleep. Choose layers of light blankets and use a bedside fan tokeep air moving. Yoga, tai chi, and learning to meditate have all been shown to help you sleep. Any exercise can make a difference; just be sure to quit three hours before bedtime.

Mood changes — There may be a relationship between changes in estrogenlevels and a woman’s mood. Shifts in mood also may be caused by stress, family changes or feeling tired.Yoga and tai chi can help here, too. So can doing things with others that you enjoy. A low-dose birth control pill, antidepressants, and even alternative treatments are sometimes recommended for mood changes.

Headaches – Migraines can worsen at or around the time of menopause, or show up for the first time. Keep a diary to see what triggers them and if they show up along with hot flashes so you can take steps to lessen them. Eating small meals through the day can help if hunger is a headache trigger. Lack of sleep is another one, so nap if your nights are messed up. Treatments vary and can help prevent migraine frequency or severity. Talk with your doctor.

Acne – You expect to have acne in your teens but not in your 40s and 50s. Make sure your moisturizer, sunscreen, cleanser, and other face products are gentle. Look for the words “oil free,” “won’t clog pores,” “noncomedogenic,” and “non-acnegenic.” Even tough cases can clear with time and a doctor’s help.

Memory problems – Challenge your brain in new ways. Learn something new, like a hobby or language. Lowering your stress level can help, too. Women with more hot flashes have more memory complaints.
In addition to the signs that menopause is on its way, other changes are common and can start to happen at menopause.
Osteoporosis – Every day your body breaks down old bone and replaces it with new healthy bone. Estrogen helps control bone loss, so losing estrogen around the time of menopause causes women to begin to lose more bone than is replaced. In time, bones can become weak and break easily. This condition is caused osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor to  see if you should have a bone density test to find out if you are at risk for this problem. Weight-bearing exercise and a diet high in
calcium and Vitamin D can help.

Heart disease – After menopause, women are more likely to have heart disease. Changes in estrogen levels may be part of the cause. But, so is getting older. As you age, you may develop other problems, like high blood pressure or weight gain, that put you at greater risk for heart disease. Be sure to have your blood pressure and levels of triglycerides, fasting blood glucose and LDL, HDL and total cholesterol checked regularly.

Talk to your doctor about what you can do to protect your bones and your heart before the onset of menopause. Changes in habits now can only help you later.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer accounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

There’s no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but you can reduce your risk if you:

Don’t smoke. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start. Talk to your children about not smoking so that they can understand how to avoid this major risk factor for lung cancer. Begin conversations about the dangers of smoking with your children early so that they know how to react to peer pressure.

Stop smoking. Stop smoking now. Quitting reduces your risk of lung cancer, even if you’ve smoked for years. Talk to your doctor about strategies and stop-smoking aids that can help you quit. Options include nicotine replacement products, medications and support groups.

Avoid secondhand smoke. If you live or work with a smoker, urge him or her to quit. At the very least, ask him or her to smoke outside. Avoid areas where people smoke, such as bars and restaurants, and seek out smoke-free options.

Test your home for radon. Have the radon levels in your home checked,especially if you live in an area where radon is known to be a problem. High radon levels can be remedied to make your home safer.For information on radon testing, contact your local department ofpublic health or a local chapter of the American Lung Association.

Avoid carcinogens at work. Take precautions to protect yourself from exposure to toxic chemicals at work. For instance, if you’re given a face mask for protection, always wear it. Ask your doctor what moreyou can do to protect yourself at work. Your risk of lung damage from workplace carcinogens increases if you smoke.

Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Choose a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Food sources of vitamins and nutrients are best. Avoid taking large doses of vitamins in pill form, as they may be harmful. For instance, researchers hoping to reduce the risk of lung cancer in heavy smokers gave them beta carotene supplements. Results showed the supplements actually increased the risk of cancer in smokers.

Exercise most days of the week. If you don’t exercise regularly, start out slowly. Try to exercise everyday.

It’s important to report any unusual physical feelings to your doctor. Often, these unusual feelings can be attributed to other causes, such as bronchitis. But you doctor should check anything that is unusual or worrisome. The signs and symptoms of lung cancer can take years to develop and they may not appear until the disease is advanced.

Symptoms of lung cancer that are in the chest:

  • Coughing, especially if it persists or becomes intense
  • Pain in the chest, shoulder, or back unrelated to pain from coughing
  • A change in color or volume of sputum
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes in the voice or being hoarse
  • Harsh sounds with each breath (stridor)
  • Recurrent lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Coughing up phlegm or mucus, especially if it is tinged with blood
  • Coughing up blood

If the original lung cancer has spread, a person may feel symptoms in other places in the body. Common places for lung cancer to spread include other parts of the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, brain, liver,
and adrenal glands.

Symptoms of lung cancer that may occur elsewhere in the body:

  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Muscle wasting (also known as cachexia)
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches, bone or joint pain
  • Bone fractures not related to accidental injury
  • Neurological symptoms, such as unsteady gait or memory loss
  • Neck or facial swelling
  • General weakness
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots

Despite the very serious outlook of lung cancer, some people with earlier stage cancers are cured. More than 400,000 people alive today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point.

Sources lungcancer.org, cancer.org and the american lung association.