What are some healthy prescriptions for chronic pain?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

From a stubbed toe, a sprained knee, or back pain after overdoing it in the yard, many of us experience some kind of pain every day. Some pain, like a stubbed toe, is easily described (perhaps with a shouted four-letter word.) and generally goes away on its own. Acute pain usually has a physical cause, like injury, disease, or surgery, and is resolved once you’ve healed after treating the cause. Most of us keep over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen and Aleve, in our medicine cabinet to deal with everyday pain.

Chronic pain is persistent, continuing for at least three months. Some people live with it for years. An estimated 76 million people suffer from chronic pain in the United States.  Chronic pain may be the result of an initial injury, like a back sprain or a surgery, but there isn’t always a clear cause. Living with chronic pain is challenging, as the condition is often incurable. Management is possible and best accomplished by working in partnership with your physician.

One of the most common tools to treat pain is prescription painkillers. When used as recommended, prescription painkillers safely and effectively ease our hurts. In recent years, however, the dangers of prescription painkillers have become clear. In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult all day, every day, for an entire month. That same year, one in twelve people, beginning with 12-year-olds, used those same painkillers for non-medical use, many using the drugs recreationally.

The high produced by opioid painkillers like hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone and oxymorphone is strikingly similar to the high produced by heroin. Unfortunately, the two drugs are also similarly addictive. Since 2008, around 15,000 people have died every year from painkiller overdoses.

Prescription painkillers are often an essential part of treating chronic pain. Although very few people who are prescribed opioids and use them as directed become addicted, anyone using opioids should be carefully monitored.  Long-term users may become physically dependent on the drugs (this is not the same as an addiction disorder.)

If you are prescribed opioid painkillers, keep them safely stored and make sure that you are the only person with access to them. You can learn more about storing opioids on the NIH website.

Alternatives to prescription drugs can be used to successfully manage chronic pain. For some of us, the idea that acupuncture or meditation can ease pain seems farfetched. But many non-drug interventions can and do work as pain relievers.

Acupuncture is sometimes represented in pop culture as a trendy treatment. The therapy that consists of pricking the skin with needles does work, though we’re still not sure why. It won’t work for every patient, but there are no side effects if it doesn’t.

Exercise is medicine. Though going out for a walk or a swim may seem impossible when you’re not feeling great, exercise may be just what you need. Physical activity improves mood and boosts energy. Health conditions may mean that you need to avoid certain types of exercise, so always check with your doctor before getting started.

Yoga, hypnosis, massage, and biofeedback can all help manage chronic pain. Each activity is useful for reducing stress. Pain is stressful, and living in a state of stress increases pain. Breaking out of the painful, stressful cycle is very helpful when working to manage chronic pain.

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What foods belong on the “no-no list?”

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Last week, Panera Bread announced a “no-no” list of 150 food additives the company will phase out by the end of 2016. The list includes ingredients with complex chemical names such as titanium dioxide and azodicarbonamide. The presence of these ingredients (and others with names similar names) is upsetting to a growing number of American consumers. Panera’s public relations firm touts their dedication to consumers and their health as the impetus for the no-no list. But before we continue, let’s settle on this: Panera and companies like it are making these choices primarily because of their concern for consumers’ wallets.

In North America, one-in-four people say they’re willing to pay more for foods that are “all natural” and devoid of artificial colors. Globally, 43 percent of people consider it to be “very important” to have foods containing all natural ingredients, without genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These statistics come from a January 2015 global survey conducted by Nielsen for their Global Health and Wellness Report.

Nielsen reported some encouraging news; healthy categories of food are growing faster than indulgent categories. Younger consumers may continue to drive this trend as they are the group most willing to pay higher prices for health attributes.

The demand for food that’s good for us is growing globally as well. World-wide, consumers want ingredients that help fight disease and promote good health. This is great news! Anyone who seeks out fruits and vegetables in lieu of foods in the “indulgent” category welcomes this shift.

What’s behind the concern about the “unnatural” in our food? There are a few possible reasons. First is fear: we don’t understand these ingredients. We have trouble pronouncing them and we’d never see these compounds sold alone on grocery store shelves. Second is trust: American faith in the FDA and “Big Food” is low. People wonder how to know if these organizations are being honest about safety.

Concern about food is understandable. We’ve learned that the standard consumables on grocery store shelves may be cheap and save time, but they’re not healthy. We’ve watched our nation struggle with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and myriad other diseases caused in part by poor diet.

So, back to Panera and the 150 no-nos you won’t see on their menu come 2017. Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring oxide of titanium, used extensively as a white pigment. It’s what gives mozzarella the bright white appearance we’ve become accustomed to. Panera’s head chef, Dan Kish, realized it was solely cosmetic and decided he and Panera’s patrons were better off without it.

Azodicarbonamide you may have heard of already. It’s a dough conditioner, once used in Subway’s bread. Subway stopped using the chemical after The Food Babe, an influential blogger with a large following, launched a petition to have it removed. Azodicarbonamide is also used in yoga mats – this discovery was the stimulus for the Food Babe’s campaign. Subway was swayed and Panera has followed suit, but the compound is still used in almost 500 foods on the market today. But don’t panic just yet! Azodicarbonamide does not pose a risk to us in small amounts. And as the article I’ve linked to says, just because a compound is used in something that isn’t food doesn’t mean it’s bad. Calcium sulfate, used to make tofu, is also used to make drywall.

Consumer concern about food ingredients is high enough that companies including Chipotle, Kraft, Pepsi, Nestle, General Mills and McDonalds are making serious changes to their products. Pepsi ditched aspartame (a sweetener), Kraft and Nestle are forgoing artificial dyes, General Mills made Cheerios GMO-free while Chipotle has gotten rid of GMOs altogether. McDonald’s,  a company that’s been struggling, has said it will begin using chicken raised sans antibiotics.

Some of these changes should be loudly applauded. The use of antibiotics in meat animals is dangerous – the CDC gives a brief rundown of why in the infographic below. Scientists the world over have provided strong evidence that the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals can have a negative effect on public health.

The additives Panera put on their no-no list sound scary. It may be well that they’re gone if that means Panera replaces them with healthier alternatives. For you and your family, here’s a no-no list that’ll lead to better health.

A No-No List to Live By

  • • Say “No” to Eating Meat Every Day. You don’t need as much meat as you think you do. Americans are eating less meat than we have in the past, but we’re still eating far too much of it. Eat red meat only two to three times a week and keep the portions reasonable. (A deck of cards is a good size comparison.)
  • • Say No to Not Eating Your Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses and the more of them you eat, the better you’ll feel. It’s recommended that we consume 4½ cups of fruits and vegetables a day (2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of veggies.) When is the last time you can remember doing that? If it isn’t yesterday, get to the grocery store and buy some produce. Try something new and get all the vegetables you need to be strong and healthy!
  • • Say No to Sugar. Most sugar, just most! I’ve written several articles about sugar and why you should kick the habit. Occasional treats are fine, but the typical consumption in America is not good for your health.
  • • Say No to Being Sedentary. Sitting is the new smoking – really. Get moving and get away from the television. Take walks, take breaks at work, join a team or a running group, just get your body moving!
  • • Say No to Eating Out So Often. The food in restaurants tastes so good. It’s why you’re there! Quick, convenient and with no dishes to do afterwards, restaurant food is appealing for many reasons. It’s better for your waist and your wallet though, to cook meals at home. When you do go out, try to get the healthier option (less meat, fewer breads/starches and more veggies; avoid fried offerings) and watch the portions.

Link to the infographic: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/from-farm-to-table.html

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What are the easiest vegetables for beginning gardeners?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Last week, I wrote about Victory Gardens. I wished they’d make a comeback in the States, since the health benefits of gardens go beyond the simple nutritional value of the produce grown in them. Gardens, or rather the act of gardening, can help lower blood pressure, prevent myopia in children, and help you lose weight.

This week, I’d like to focus on some of the most nutritious foods you can grow this summer in a Georgia garden. If you don’t have space for a traditional plot, don’t fret. There are creative ways to grow food, including window box gardens, indoor planting, and participating in a community garden. Some apartment gardeners even grow microgreens indoors in plastic containers.

I hope you’re inspired to plant a garden this summer. When your seed bears fruit, let us know! We want to share our reader’s personal victories in the garden on the VeinInnovations Facebook page. Produce Pride Photos could be anything good, green, leafy or heirloom, but above all else, we hope they’ll be tasty. Before you buy your seeds or young plants ready for transplant, here’s a guide to some of the best produce you can grow in Georgia.

Two Vegetables Suited to a Georgia Garden

 Pole Beans

 If your garden is just about ready for planting, make a quick trip to the store for seeds and pick up a variety of pole beans. The University of Georgia recommends Blue Lake, Dade, Kentucky Blue, and Mocassin varieties. The planting season for these beans lasts until May 10th.

Beans are known as a meat substitute because their calories are comparable to meat. Beans are more than a substitute for meat; nutritionally, they just might have meat beat. Beans are full of fiber and water, two ingredients that make you feel full, and do so quickly. Beans help you manage your calorie intake without feeling so hungry.

Most Americans struggle to get enough fiber in their diets. One cup of cooked beans contains 12 grams of fiber, or almost half the daily recommended amount. It’s no wonder then that dietary guidelines suggest we eat three cups of beans a week. (The newest guidelines may recommend cutting down on red meat intake – you can use your garden-raised pole beans as a healthy alternative!)

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are sure to delight fresh from the garden and still warm from the summer sun. As with pole beans, you’ll have to hurry to get yours in the dirt. The time is past for raising your plants from seedlings. Go to your local gardening store to buy young plants ready to transplant.

The University of Georgia recommends Early Girl, Big Boy, and Beefmaster (if you’re hoping for big tomatoes) and Jolly or Sweet Baby Girl if you’re interested in cherry tomatoes. It’s best to plant a mix of varieties. Enjoy a medley of tomatoes this summer in everything from salsa to salads. Plain slices with a dash of salt are a complement to any meal. Served with mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil, and a little balsamic vinegar, they become a meal.

Tomatoes contain antioxidants (certain vitamins and minerals that protect your body from damage caused by harmful molecules known as free radicals.) Three great antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E are found in tomatoes. They are also rich in potassium and lycopene. Tomatoes are a great addition to your diet and the fresher they are, the better. They’re also quite simple to prepare: the best tasting tomato in hot weather can be served sliced or diced alone, or with a little onion and some avocado, or eaten handheld, straight from the garden with a dash of salt and pepper.

So get your garden growing, and send us your Produce Pride pictures when you do! We’d love to help you show off the fruits of your labors. Please send them to nclarke@veininnovations.com, and then watch our FaceBook page for your inspiring produce.

More resources to get you gardening

UGA Extension: Vegetable Gardening in Georgia

Vegetable Planting Chart for Georgia

Walter Reeves: The Georgia Gardener

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How many ways can gardening improve your health?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Google “nutritional benefits” and the first items that pop up are all veggies. Kale, mushrooms and beets all top the list. All those foods are good for you (save poisonous varieties of mushrooms!) but what’s missing from that list are the nutritional benefits of the place those foods come from: the garden.

Americans are no strangers to gardens, though it may feel that way now. During World War II, there were more than 20,000,000 “Victory Gardens” all over the United States. By 1944, Victory Gardens produced 40% of all produce in the US. These gardens weren’t solely in rural areas or suburbs; city dwellers grew food in window boxes or in rooftop gardens. School children tended gardens on their school grounds and used the produce in their lunches.

The war ended and the Victory Gardens soon became a thing of the past. If only we’d kept them. Who knows what better access to fresh food and a true understanding of where that food comes from would do for our nation today. The nutritional value of food coming from a garden is only part of what benefits us. So in honor of National Gardening Month, here are a few of the many benefits to gardening.

Five Ways A Garden Benefits Health

Gardening can lower your blood pressure.

Moderate physical activity and a diet high in fruits and vegetables are two of the most vital changes to make when trying to prevent or control high blood pressure. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests engaging in 30 to 45 minutes of daily gardening in their guide to lowering blood pressure.

They also recommend four to five daily servings (each) of vegetables and fruits. The closer to the source, the more nutritious a food generally is, so when you eat from a garden you’re getting even more of what’s good for you. A few foods that are easy to grow for beginners are radishes, bok choy and strawberries. And all of them are good for lowering blood pressure!

Gardening can help your kid’s eyes develop and prevent myopia. Shortsightedness is endemic in parts of southeast Asia. In Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, more than 80 percent of 20-year olds have myopia. The long-persistent myth is that spending too much time reading books or staring at computer screens causes myopia.

Now, researchers believe the culprit is too much time spent indoors. They’re still not sure what it is about being outside, specifically, that prevents myopia. Some researchers suspect the sunlight is stimulating the release of dopamine from the retina, which prevents elongation of the eyeball – which in turn causes myopia.

Time spent in the garden provides a needed break from devices, gets kids out of the house, and keeps their eyes sharp.

Gardening can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

It’s not a secret that Americans struggle with obesity. 69 percent of adults over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese. In Georgia, almost 17 percent of 10 to 17 year olds are obese. Our nation (and our state!) can do better than this.

Forget fad diets or crash programs for a moment. Simple, slow, and satisfying is the way to plan a diet and exercise plan for better health. Starting a garden, especially a community garden, can have a huge impact on health. Tending to your garden gets you outside and engaged in physical activity. The CDC says that even moderate physical exercise, if undertaken regularly, can decrease the risk of obesity and high blood pressure, reduces your risk of heart disease and some cancers… the list goes on. Exercise is the best kind of medicine.

In addition to the benefits of exercise, you’ve got access to fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have an abundance of something, you’ll enjoy sharing it with friends and neighbors. They’ll enjoy the gift and the nutritional benefits.

There are many more benefits to gardening and time spent outside. There are too many to list here. But it’s National Garden Month, so in the waning hours of April, take some time to read about them.

Michigan State University: What are the Physical and Mental Benefits of Gardening?

Multiple Benefits of Community Gardening

How Gardening is Helping People With Dementia

Grow Your Own (GYO): Gardening to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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What are some healthy prescriptions for chronic pain? 

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

From a stubbed toe, a sprained knee, or back pain after overdoing it in the yard, many of us experience some kind of pain every day. Some pain, like a stubbed toe, is easily described (perhaps with a shouted four-letter word.) and generally goes away on its own. Acute pain usually has a physical cause, like injury, disease, or surgery, and is resolved once you’ve healed after treating the cause. Most of us keep over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen and Aleve, in our medicine cabinet to deal with everyday pain.

Chronic pain is persistent, continuing for at least three months. Some people live with it for years. An estimated 76 million people suffer from chronic pain in the United States. Chronic pain may be the result of an initial injury, like a back sprain or a surgery, but there isn’t always a clear cause. Living with chronic pain is challenging, as the condition is often incurable. Management is possible and best accomplished by working in partnership with your physician.

One of the most common tools to treat pain is prescription painkillers. When used as recommended, prescription painkillers safely and effectively ease our hurts. In recent years, however, the dangers of prescription painkillers have become clear. In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult all day, every day, for an entire month. That same year, one in twelve people, beginning with 12-year-olds, used those same painkillers for non-medical use, many using the drugs recreationally.

The high produced by opioid painkillers like hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone and oxymorphone is strikingly similar to the high produced by heroin. Unfortunately, the two drugs are also similarly addictive. Since 2008, around 15,000 people have died every year from painkiller overdoses.

Prescription painkillers are often an essential part of treating chronic pain. Although very few people who are prescribed opioids and use them as directed become addicted, anyone using opioids should be carefully monitored. Long-term users may become physically dependent on the drugs (this is not the same as an addiction disorder.)

If you are prescribed opioid painkillers, keep them safely stored and make sure that you are the only person with access to them. You can learn more about storing opioids on the NIH website.

Alternatives to prescription drugs can be used to successfully manage chronic pain. For some of us, the idea that acupuncture or meditation can ease pain seems farfetched. But many non-drug interventions can and do work as pain relievers.

Acupuncture is sometimes represented in pop culture as a trendy treatment. The therapy that consists of pricking the skin with needles does work, though we’re still not sure why. It won’t work for every patient, but there are no side effects if it doesn’t.

Exercise is medicine. Though going out for a walk or a swim may seem impossible when you’re not feeling great, exercise may be just what you need. Physical activity improves mood and boosts energy. Health conditions may mean that you need to avoid certain types of exercise, so always check with your doctor before getting started.

Yoga, hypnosis, massage, and biofeedback can all help manage chronic pain. Each activity is useful for reducing stress. Pain is stressful, and living in a state of stress increases pain. Breaking out of the painful, stressful cycle is very helpful when working to manage chronic pain.

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Shortsightedness about time outdoors leading to myopia?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

The childhood taunt of “four eyes” may be used for the last time sooner than eye care professionals ever expected. Increasingly, the kid without glasses is in the minority. Myopia, or shortsightedness, is increasing in children around the globe, and is particularly prevalent in Asia. In southeast Asia, (Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) 80 to 90 percent of urban 18-year-olds are shortsighted. Why on earth are so many young people sporting spectacles?

When you are shortsighted, distant objects are blurred. Of course, glasses can do for us what our eyes cannot. Kids that can’t see the board one day are amazed the next when the world opens up through their glasses. Although the fix is easy, the complications of myopia can be serious. Children who suffer myopia early are more likely to progress to high myopia. High myopia  is associated with retinal detachment, glaucoma, early-onset cataracts, and blindness.

While myopia is endemic in parts of Asia, rates are rising in the United States and Europe, as well. Is it solely genetic? Well, no. Myopia does tend to run in families, but like many conditions, it develops due to a combination of genes and the environment. Is it reading too much or staring at screens all day? Possibly. Researchers do worry about kids overusing their eyes and straining them. That’s certainly worth considering in China. The typical 10-year-old student spends the day at school and then studies 4-5 hours at night. A 15-year-old in Shanghai has about 14 hours of homework a week. For comparison, students have six hours of homework a week in the US and five hours in the United Kingdom.

That’s a lot of homework. If you think that’s excessive, you’re likely convinced that the culprit behind myopia must be the workload. Surely it’s the time you’re forced to be a bookworm! This idea that reading too much causes shortsightedness began more than 400 years ago on a hunch. Johannes Kepler, a German astronomer and optics expert was shortsighted and blamed it on his many hours of study. The idea was appealing. By the 19th century, some ophthalmologists were suggesting the use of a headrest to avoid looking too closely at books.

But evidence points towards a different malefactor: spending too much time indoors. Before I get into why scientists think this may be the exacerbating factor in rising myopia, I want to repeat what’s become the health mantra of this column: Everything in moderation. Even if there were no evidence linking myopia to a lack of time outdoors, we’d still need to spend more time outside.

We’re inside and sedentary for entirely too long during the day. Americans in every age group, from two to 65, watch at least 20 hours of television in a week. That’s a lot of time spent passively. Most of the major health concerns facing this country stem from a sedentary lifestyle. Spend one week recording how much time you spend indoors. How much time do you spend in sedentary pursuits? You’ll likely find that it adds up to a number you didn’t expect, and likely aren’t pleased about. We should think about physical activity and time spent outside the way we do sugar and alcohol. All good things in moderation. If you’re not spending enough time moving and in the sun, find small ways to make changes. The next time a friend asks you to meet for coffee, swap locales and head to the park for a walk while you drink. Take the stairs whenever you can. Eat lunch outdoors.

Now, as for myopia: researchers studied two groups of ethnic Chinese students in 2008. The groups lived in Singapore and Sydney and both groups had similar study habits. Twenty-nine percent of the Singaporean students had myopia, while only three percent of the Australian students had it. The main difference between the two groups? The amount of time they spent outdoors. Researchers aren’t sure what it is about being outside that makes the difference. A co-author suspects that sunlight may stimulate the release of dopamine from the retina, inhibiting the elongation of the eye — the cause of myopia.

Whatever the cause, I suspect there are more than a few schoolchildren — as well as office-bound adults yearning for a breath of fresh air — who would love the excuse to put down their homework and go play outside.

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Less meat; more vegetables better for humans and our environment. Start a garden?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

In February 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture released updated proposed guidelines that set the meat industry’s teeth on edge. For the first time, the USDA guidelines consider the health of people and the environment. Since meat production leaves a massive carbon footprint, recommended meat consumption will be lowered.

There are compelling reasons to take the environment into account when creating dietary guidelines. As disconnected as modern humans may feel from the earth as we move from brick and mortar buildings in cars, we still rely on this planet. “The pale blue dot” as Carl Sagan called it, is the only home we’ve ever known or will know (at least until we settle Mars.) And after all, there’s no point to dietary guidelines if there are no humans around to use them.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee says, “Linking health, dietary guidance, and the environment will promote human health and the sustainability of natural resources and ensure current and long-term food security.” If you agree with that statement (or vehemently oppose it) make your voice heard. The period for public comments has been extended to May 8, 2015.

What’s Good For the Planet is Good For You, Too

Americans do tend to eat too much “shelf food” and not enough vegetables. “Shelf food” are the food goods typically found in the center aisles of the grocery store. Food that only requires one step, like add water and microwave, is generally unhealthy. No, the food that’s best for human beings is food that gets pulled out of the dirt or off a tree: vegetables and fruits.

Let’s follow the USDA’s lead for a moment. Fruits and vegetables are good for health and require less energy to produce than meat. But how good is it for the planet when our grocery bags are full of produce from far flung places like Chile, Mexico or the opposite side of the country? How much energy and fossil fuels went into putting those nutrient-rich greens on the table? If we wish to get healthier while tending to the environment, what’s the best option? Simple. Tend a garden.

Gardening is possible for everyone, though what we can grow differs. If you’re an apartment dweller, you can plant salad greens in a box on your balcony. Don’t have a balcony? Set some potted herbs by the window and you’ll enjoy more flavorful food when you cook at home. If you’re lucky enough to have a yard or access to a public garden, you can garden in a raised bed.

In 1943, the era of the “Victory Garden”, 20 million gardens were producing 8 million tons of food. Spurred by patriotism and a sense of duty, Americans aided the war effort by turning every nook and cranny of land into a garden. These small-scale gardens produced around 41 percent of all the vegetables that were eaten in America. Today, we need a new era of victory gardens. We’re fighting for healthier, happier citizens and children. We’re fighting for fruits and vegetables that are good for our bodies and the planet we live on and in.

If you’d like to start a garden, here are a few resources that will make your mouth water and get you on your way.

Walter Reeves Food Gardening in Georgia

Georgia Organics: Starting Your Spring Garden

Atlanta Organic Gardening and More Meetup

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Ready to be proactive in the war against allergens?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Spring started a couple weeks ago and the first major spring celebration, Easter, is around the corner. But one harbinger of spring beat both events to the punch: allergy season is back. In some parts of the country, allergy season 2015 started even before spring did on March 20. From cold season to allergy season, sometimes it’s hard to catch a break!

For the unlucky people who really suffer from allergies each year, now is the time to be proactive. One of the best ways to control your allergies is to reduce allergens in your home. Recruit some other family members (or a friend who owes you one) and tackle your home in a round of spring cleaning.

  • To combat mold, use some elbow grease in the kitchen. Start with the sink, scrubbing it down thoroughly, especially around the faucets, to kill and remove any mold. Don’t leave dishes in the sink if you can help it, because they make mold more prone to grow.
  • If allergies are a serious issue for you, consider replacing the carpet in your home. Look at wood or tile flooring, as carpeting traps allergens and gives mold a great place to grow.

If you know that the pollen coming in on the breeze does a doozy on your sinuses, resist the urge to ride with the windows down in the car. Keep the windows shut at home, too. The less you interact with pollen, the better.

Natural remedies some swear by include

  • The neti pot or NeilMed – use either to deliver saline rinse to clear the sinuses.The NeilMed comes with packets of buffered saline, which doesn’t burn delicate tissues; you just add warm water. Some physicians recommend adding a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil to the salt water to constrict blood
  • To help keep airways clear when pollen counts are high, add a dash of horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard to your food — all act as natural, temporary decongestants. Some allergist touting herbal remedies claim butterbur to be the Singulair of the herbal world, saying it it has the best evidence behind it because it appears to work as a leukotriene inhibitor, which blocks some chemicals that trigger swelling in the nasal passages. Stinging Nettle, which is often used as an allergy treatment, contains carotene, vitamin K, and quercetin. There’s some evidence that using stinging nettle after the first sign of allergic symptoms can help a bit. Be sure to choose extracts of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) leaf, not the root, which is used to treat prostate Despite its common use, however, there’s not much research backing up stinging nettle’s effectiveness as an allergy remedy.
  • HEPA filters. Use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which should trap some of the allergens circulating in your home. Get one for your vacuum cleaner, too. Without it, your vacuum will just shoot the tiny allergens back into the air — and into your nose.
  • If you’re heading out to clean a dusty garage or rake during pollen season, gear up. Be sure to wear a mask over your mouth and nose, but don’t forget your eyes. You need goggles, as many allergens enter the body through the eyes.
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Do you know how to welcome the sun safely?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Light spring weather sends us to the back of the closet where we’ve stashed shorts, t-shirts and swimsuits. (In Atlanta, where the weather seems to snap back and forth between glorious spring and frigid winter until the end of April, switching closets now may be premature.) But no matter how unending the cold weather may seem, summer is on its way.

The most important accessory for summer, beating out flip-flops and a new swimsuit, is protection from the summer sun. Worldwide, one in three diagnosed cancers is skin cancer. The majority of malignant melanomas (cancerous tumors) are caused by excessive sun damage. One of the best defenses against skin cancer is sunscreen. But for the last few years, consumer anxiety about sunscreen safety has grown. Is it warranted?

Alternative “health” sites like Mercola argue that sunscreen is toxic. (It’s prudent to note that Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website is not a trustworthy resource; I mention it, however, because it is well known. Its eponymous founder has been sent multiple warning letters from the FDA for making false claims.) Certainly, there is debate about certain ingredients in sunscreen, but there is little scientific data supporting the claim that sunscreen use can lead to health problems. To date, there are no recorded health concerns linked to the proper use of sunscreen.

Another complaint lodged against chemical sunscreen is its interference with our body’s natural ability to make vitamin D from exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is vital and many of us don’t get enough of it. But we can get it from food and supplements, which is fortunate since the sun isn’t a reliable source of vitamin D for everyone. Our skin’s ability to produce vitamin D is affected by season, cloud cover, the time of day, the latitude where we live, and which body parts we expose, as well as our age and the color of our skin.

Really, there’s not much cause to be skittish about sunscreen. Especially when you consider the risks of skin cancer.

  • The average person’s risk of melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns.
  • Melanoma accounts for six percent of all cancer cases for teens 15 to 19. It is the most common form of cancer for 25 to 29 year olds.
  • The incidence of melanoma increased 1.9 percent a year from 2000 to 2009. Of the seven most common cancers in the United States, melanoma is the only one whose occurrence is increasing.

Which Sunscreens Are Safest?

If you’re still not convinced, I have great news! There is effective sunscreen that contains none of the chemicals some consumers are worried about. You can use a resource like Good Guide (a company that is dedicated to evaluating the health, societal, and environmental impacts of products.) If you click the link, you’ll find a list sunscreens ranked by their health impact. Many brands, like Badger, KINesSYS and even the more mainstream L’oreal, score a perfect 10 on the health scale. This means they contain no ingredients that raise a health concern. All are available for purchase through Amazon, as is Bare Belly Organics (via third-party link), which was created by an Atlanta pediatric ICU nurse who was shocked by the number of childhood cancers she was seeing!

How Can You Protect Yourself Without Sunscreen?

  • Cover up. Find a stylish, broad brim hat or two and wear them to protect your face. Invest in lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants for yard work and a day on on the beach. You’ll avoid harsh rays and save your skin.
  • Try to avoid direct sunlight when UV rays are the strongest, between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Bring back the parasol. In other countries, many people (mostly women), still carry a summer parasol. There’s no better way to get out of the sun than by creating and carrying around your own shade

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Did you know vein disease affects about half of people over the age of 50?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Last week, I wrote about venous disease, specifically deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. I’m especially passionate about venous disease – it is the reason VeinInnovations exists, after all! Venous disease is underdiagnosed, which is a shame because it is so easily treatable and the results from treatment are impressive, providing almost instant relief. So this week, I’d like to discuss another venous disease, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI.)

Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition that occurs when veins in the leg struggle to send blood back to the heart. In healthy veins, blood is only able to travel in one direction, towards the heart. In an unhealthy vein, faulty valves allow blood to flow backwards. This can cause blood to pool in the legs. Without treatment, CVI can cause pain, swelling, restlessness, and host of other uncomfortable symptoms.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency Risk Factors

  • Age. The older you are, the higher your
  • Tall height
  • A family history of venous disease, including deep vein thrombosis
  • Past trauma to the leg from previous blood clots, surgery, or injury
  • Being female
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Sitting or standing for long periods of time

The first five risk factors are, unfortunately, out of our hands. But the remaining five risk factors are within our control! I hate to beat a dead horse – I feel like I repeat this advice all the time – but if you’re a smoker, stop right now. This instant. Smoking increases your risk factor for a litany of health problems. There’s no reason not to quit.

If you fall into the “lack of exercise” risk group, you’re at risk for the “obesity” group as well. Kill two birds with one stone and start exercising. Even moderate exercise, such as a daily walk around the park, can lower your risk for a seemingly endless list of diseases.

The modern office and home habits of watching hours of television or game playing are to blame for an increase in the amount of time we spend sitting. Sitting has been called the new smoking for good reason. Though we’re meant to move about during the day, you might not want to go as far as installing a standing desk, because standing for too long has bad effects as well. They key is to mix things up. If you sit most of the day, keep a timer at your desk. Every 30 to 45 minutes, stand up, stretch out and do a loop around the office. If you stand for the majority of the day, try to take a break every hour and rest.

Finally, we come to pregnancy. During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases by 25 to 40 percent. The extra blood is necessary to support two bodies, but does put extra pressure on your blood vessels. As the uterus enlarges to accommodate the growing baby, it puts pressure on blood vessels in the pelvis. To learn more, read my earlier article about pregnancy and varicose veins.

CVI is the culprit behind a slew of unpleasant symptoms, including troublesome and unsightly varicose veins. CVI and varicose veins can cause symptoms of restless leg syndrome (RLS),  which may impact your ability to sleep. The pain of varicose and spider veins prevent some people from exercising. For this reason, CVI can become a quality of life issue, as ones quality of life is diminished by an inability to rest and exercise. Other common symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the legs
  • Itching and tingling in the legs
  • Painful tightness in the calves
  • Pain during walking that subsides with rest
  • Skin color changes, especially near the ankles
  • Venous stasis ulcers, which are difficult to treat and heal.

Luckily, there are a number of fairly simple treatments for CVI. Some of them you can do on your own. Lose weight if you are overweight. Tend leg and foot wounds conscientiously, or seek treatment,  if you have an open sore or infection.. Don’t sit or stand for long periods. If your legs swell, wearing compression stockings will help – for as long as you wear the stockings.

There are, of course, a number of minimally-invasive, virtually painless treatments that provide relief. When medically indicated, most treatments are covered by insurance. These office-based treatments  include sclerotherapy, EVLA, Venefit, and laser treatment. For in-depth information on treatments, I will direct you to the VeinInnovations website!

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