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Remedies for a good night’s sleep

With so much going on this time of year, many of you are losing sleep. Perhaps it’s because you have too much going on and your mind is racing once you lie your head down. Or it could be too much caffeine, too little exercise, or late night screen time before finally closing your eyes. Sleep supplements might be a good option for a short-term solution to falling asleep and staying asleep, but before trying sleep supplements, doctors suggest taking these steps to sleep better.

  • Keep noise and light to a minimum. Use earplugs, window blinds, heavy curtains, or an eye mask.
  • Avoid large meals two hours before bedtime. A light snack is fine.
  • Don’t drink caffeine, including tea and soft drinks, four to six hours before bedtime.
  • Regular exercise like walking will reduce stress hormones and help you sleep better. But don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime. You may have more difficulty falling asleep.
  • Don’t nap late in the afternoon.
  • Stop working on any task an hour before bedtime to calm your brain.
  • Don’t discuss emotional issues right before bedtime.
  • Keep pets outside your sleeping area if you can.
  • Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Learn a relaxation technique like meditation or progressive relaxation.

Changing habits can help, but if that still isn’t enough, consider taking supplements to get your body and mind in rhythm for a good night’s sleep. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you should take a specific supplement and start with a low dose. Also, don’t take any sleep supplement long-term. It’s important to make other lifestyle changes to make sure other things aren’t interfering with sleep.

What’s been proven to work? What’s safe?

  • Chamomile tea
  • Melatonin
  • Valerian
  • Kava

Chamomile Tea for Sleep

People have used chamomile tea for sleep for thousands of years and studies confirm its calming effect. Experts agree that more studies are needed, but the FDA considers chamomile tea to be safe with usually no side effects.

However, use chamomile with caution if you are allergic to ragweed. Also, don’t take chamomile tea if you are pregnant or nursing.

Melatonin for Sleep

Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle – also known as circadian rhythm. Studies show that melatonin not only helps some people fall asleep, but also enhances the quality of sleep. There are two forms of melatonin. You can take the extended release capsules if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night. If you have trouble falling asleep, the immediate release form could be right for you.

Melatonin supplements can be effective in treating jet lag, too. Many of us travel quite a bit for work which can disrupt our sleep cycle. But, studies suggest you must time the melatonin you take carefully to help with jet lag. On the day you depart, take melatonin when it is bedtime at your destination. Continue taking it for several days. It works best when traveling eastward — and when crossing four or more time zones.A few cautions: Melatonin is considered generally safe for short-term use. However, there have been concerns about risks of bleeding—especially in people taking blood-thinners like warfarin. There also is increased risk of seizure, particularly in children with brain disorders.

Valerian for Sleep

Valerian root has been used as a sedative and anti-anxiety treatment for more than 2,000 years.

Studies suggests that valerian may help people fall to sleep faster and may also improve the quality of sleep. Valerian becomes more effective over time, so it’s best to take it every night for a short period of time.

Some people have stomach upset, headache, or morning grogginess with valerian. Taking valerian with sleeping medications or with alcohol can compound its effect, so don’t use it with other sleep aids. Start with the lowest dose, then increase over several days’ time. Valerian is considered safe to take for four to six weeks.

Kava for Sleep

The Kava plant has been shown to help relieve anxiety. One review of six studies showed reduced anxiety among patients who took kava, compared with those who got a placebo. Another small study showed that both kava and valerian improved sleep in people with stress-related insomnia.

The American Academy of Family Physicians says that short-term use of kava is okay for patients with mild to moderate anxiety — but not if you use alcohol or take medicines metabolized in the liver, including many cholesterol medicines. In fact, the FDA has issued a warning that using kava supplements has been linked to a risk for severe liver damage. Before taking kava, ask your doctor if kava is safe for you.

If changing your lifestyle and taking supplements still aren’t providing good sleep results, talk to your doctor about whether or not a prescription medication option if right for you.

Eating less while giving Thanks

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us. Another year to come together with family and friends around a table full of food. This season can be a challenge for those with diabetes or other disease states that can inhibit what we eat. It can also be a challenge for those of you who are striving to keep weight under control and not pack on the pounds that you’ve worked hard to take off over the past several months. The holidays can also be a stressful time for those without family and for those with family issues that arise when all are gathered together. These tips aim to give you ideas on how to keep the diet and the stress under control.

Make a plan to exercise

Many runners enjoy a Thanksgiving morning 5K to get their day going. These charitable races make you feel good physically and mentally by running or walking one of these events. They are a great way to set your metabolism for the rest of the day and even prepare your mind for your family gathering.

Locally, the Gallop for the Gravy and the Turkey Trot are held on Thanksgiving Day. If you are unable to participate in one of these on Thanksgiving day, more races are happening in New Hanover County area in the coming days and weeks.

No time to race that morning? Whether you’re the host or the guest, take the lead by announcing that you plan to take a walk after the meal. Get others to join in and it will be something fun to look forward to, plus it will give you an excuse to have a second piece of pie when you get back!

You can also schedule a fitness date with a friend the day after Thanksgiving. Perhaps meet a friend for a brisk walk or run if the weather cooperates. Knowing you’ve committed to burning off those extra calories from Thanksgiving allows you to splurge without feeling guilty.

Focus on friends and family 

Rather than obsess over the food at Thanksgiving, focus your attention on the big picture, including the once-a-year sights, sounds, and people at the event. Instead of sampling each and every appetizer before dinner, walk around and catch up with family and friends.

Instead of picking at the leftovers or helping yourself to a second (or third) dessert, offer to help the host clean up. They will appreciate the gesture, and physically removing yourself from the table will help take your attention away from the food. Cleaning up will also help you burn a few calories.

Instead of seeing how much you can eat, serve yourself a small, golf-ball-size serving of everything you want—no restrictions—but have only enough to satisfy your stomach without overdoing it. Remember, sometimes leftovers are better than when it all first comes out of the oven. If you want to save some calories at the main meal, make a plate for later!

Looking for an escape from the ordinary?

Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to plan a big meal or a larger crowd. Don’t feel guilty for breaking away from tradition and starting something new.

Pack a picnic lunch and visit a local state park or the beach for the day. Have a cookout and make turkey burgers or make turkey sandwiches if you must have turkey. Take a long walk or bike on a trail, or spend some time on the beach throwing a football rather than sitting and watching a game on TV (or do both).

Or, ditch it all and take a cruise or go to a mountain resort where the meal is prepared for you. No cooking and no clean up! Just be sure to appreciate and give thanks to those who are working on the holiday so you can enjoy your time off.

Sometimes we get so locked into  the way things are “supposed” to be or buy into the media hype about what a real Thanksgiving looks like. it brings much undue stress on us.

Think of something that you would be especially “thankful” for if you had the chance to do it.  Then instead of carving a turkey, carve out some time to do that for Thanksgiving.

Winning the Sore Throat Battle

We’ve all had sore throats around this time of year. Your throat feels scratchy and may hurt when you swallow. What can you do to soothe a sore throat? And when is it a sign of a more serious infection?

Most sore throats are caused by viral infections such as the common cold or the flu. These throat problems are generally minor and go away on their own.

To soothe your irritated throat, keep it moist. “Ever notice that a sore throat seems worse in the morning? It’s because your throat gets so dry overnight,” says Dr. Valerie Riddle, an infectious disease expert at NIH. “Having lozenges or hard candies—or anything that stimulates saliva production—will keep your throat moist. It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids.”

For young children who might choke on hard candies or lozenges, try cold liquids and popsicles. Throat pain might also be soothed by throat sprays and over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, but don’t give aspirin to young children.

Contact a doctor if your sore throat is severe, doesn’t feel better after a few days, or is accompanied by a high fever or swollen glands. These symptoms could be signs of a bacterial infection, such as strep throat. Taking antibiotics won’t help at all if your sore throat is caused by viruses, but they’re essential for fighting bacterial infections like strep.

Strep is the most common bacterial throat infection. Although it can occur in adults, strep throat is more common in children between ages 5 and 15. Riddle says strep can be harder to detect in younger children, because it can cause a runny nose and other symptoms that make it seem like a cold. “If your child has severe throat pain, a fever above 100.4 degrees, or swollen glands, you should get medical attention right away,” advises Riddle. Children with strep also may experience nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.

To see whether you have strep throat, the doctor will take a throat swab. If test results confirm strep, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. After 24 hours of taking them, you should no longer be contagious. You’ll likely begin feeling better within a couple of days, but to fully recover it’s important to finish all of the medicine.

Strep is highly contagious. Treat it quickly to prevent it from spreading to others. Riddle says, “Not only can the infection be transmitted, but there are potential complications from untreated strep throat.” These include ear infections, rheumatic fever and kidney problems.

Another fairly common throat infection is tonsillitis, which occurs when you have sore, swollen tonsils. It’s caused by many of the same viruses and bacteria that cause sore throats. If you have frequent bouts of tonsillitis or strep throat, you may need surgery (called a tonsillectomy) to have your tonsils removed.

The best way to protect yourself from the germs that cause these infections is to wash your hands often. Try to steer clear of people who have colds or other contagious infections. And avoid smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke, which can irritate your throat.

Here are some remedies to provide you with some relief for your sore throat:

  • Try hot tea with lemon or some hot soup.
  • Keep your throat moist with lozenges or hard candies.
  • Gargle with warm salt water or use ice chips.
  • Cold liquids or popsicles can numb the pain.
  • Throat sprays and over-the-counter pain relievers can help ease the pain and reduce swelling.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer, especially when sleeping, to keep air from getting too dry.
  • It’s also a good idea to throw away your old toothbrush and open a new one to help you get better faster and keep from spreading any viruses.
  • If the sore throat persists for several days, contact a health care professional.

Source: National Institutes of Health

Get ready for the Great American Smokeout®

Are you still smoking? Have you ever tried quitting? Perhaps you’ve quit in the past, but then you experience some sort of trauma that makes you pick them up one more time…

With the Great American Smokeout® coming up on November 19th, now is the time to make the decision to quit once and for all. And, since it’s American Diabetes Month and the cost of prescription medications and health care costs on the rise — these factors might be reason enough.

The American Diabetes Association has long advised diabetics to avoid tobacco smoke, says Robert Ratner, the group’s chief scientific and medical officer. Smoking impairs how the body responds to insulin, he says.

Ratner says the science on smoking and diabetes is not clear-cut. Though population-based studies show smokers have an increased risk of diabetes, Ratner says, “I am unaware of any data which directly links smoking to causing diabetes.”

Smoking creates a huge financial toll, as well, costing the country nearly $286 billion a year in direct medical costs of smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke, as well as in lost productivity due to premature deaths, the new surgeon general report says.

About 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. As of 2013, there were also 12.4 million cigar smokers in the US, and over 2.3 million who smoke tobacco in pipes — other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.

By quitting, even it’s it just for one day you will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and one that can lead to reducing your cancer risk. Taking the step in that one day, could lead to another day, and another, and another – you get the gist.

Just think about these facts and imagine how much better you’ll feel if you quit:

  • In just 20 minutes your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • After 12 hours  the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • In 2-3 weeks your circulation and lung function improve, so you can exercise and breathe more easily. Exercise will help you feel better on many other levels, too!
  • In one – 9 months you will regain your sense of taste and smell, and cough less. I’ve actually had people tell me that they experience this even after just a few days!
  • In one year your heart disease risk is lowered by 50%. Imagine the pain and cost that will save alone!
  • After five years your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancers are 50% less. Your risk of cervical cancer and stroke are the same as a non-smoker’s. Think about how many doctor’s visits can be avoided, just by not picking up another pack of cigarettes!
  • In 10 years you’re 50% less likely to die from lung cancer. Your risks of larynx, kidney and pancreatic cancers decrease. Hmmm… suffer and die from lung cancer or breathe easily for years to come? What’s your choice?
  • In 15 years your heart disease risk is that of a non-smoker.

Do we have you thinking yet? You can save time, money and your health simply by choosing to quit. You have the power to do this.

Now here are some tools to get you started:

The Quit For Life® Program, provided by the American Cancer Society and Alere Health, offers a free smartphone app for iPhone and Android that offers daily tips and motivation, a cost-savings calculator, and a calendar to track your success.

The National Cancer Institute also has a quit-smoking app that allows users to set quit dates, track financial goals, schedule reminders, and more. It also offers a text messaging service that provides round-the-clock encouragement and advice to people trying to quit. You can sign up by texting “QUIT” to iQUIT (47848) and selecting a date to stop smoking.

Eat Well, America! (SM)

Eat Well, America!(sm) That’s the American Diabetes Association message for this year’s American Diabetes Month®.

Every 19 seconds, someone in America is diagnosed with diabetes. Many of those who are diagnosed with this life-changing disease could have prevented it by eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fat, moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fruit. Eating well now will also save you money in the long run by saving you a lifetime of medical expenses.

If you are one of the millions of people with diabetes, eating a healthy diet will help keep your weight and blood sugar under control.

Paying attention and knowing your own body is also important to staying healthy. These symptoms of diabetes are typical, but sometimes people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild they go unnoticed.

Common Symptoms of Diabetes:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

Are you at risk for Type 2 Diabetes? Take the test here. We also have test kits in our stores, so you can pick one up if you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Diabetes Facts:

  • Diabetes affects nearly 30 million children and adults in the U.S. today—nearly 10 percent of the population.
  • Another 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Recent estimates project that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050 unless we take steps to Stop Diabetes®.
  • Every 19 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with diabetes.
  • African Americans and Hispanics are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.

Diabetes and its Impact on Your Body:

  • Diabetes nearly doubles the risk for heart attack and for death from heart disease.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among working-age adults.
  • The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for people without diabetes. Roughly 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.

The Cost of Diabetes:

  • The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. is $245 billion.
  • Direct medical costs reach $176 billion and the average medical expenditure among people with diabetes is more than two times higher than those without the disease. Indirect costs amount to $69 billion (disability, work loss, premature mortality).
  • 1 in 10 health care dollars is spent treating diabetes and its complications.
  • 1 in 5 health care dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes.

Eating well — whether you have diabetes or not, is important to your overall health, lifestyle, and well-being.


Source: American Diabetes Assocation