So you’re getting ready to take your daughter to your mother’s house for the weekend. After all, your daughter loves spending quality time with Grandma! Right before you leave, Grandma gives you a call. “Make sure my granddaughter brings a heavy coat with her. There’s a storm coming. I can feel it in my knees.” It’s easy to hear that and roll your eyes. But for those suffering from arthritis, they really can “feel a storm coming,” and there’s a reason for that. Science hasn’t homed in on the reason that cold weather can exacerbate arthritis joint pain and stiffness, but there are a few possible explanations. A fall in barometric pressure, which often occurs as a cold front approaches, can cause joints to expand, which may result in pain. While predicting the weather might be a fun superpower associated with arthritis, very little else is fun. Those with arthritis have constant flare-ups, and they get worse in the wintertime. There are some remedies, though, that could help weather winter arthritis:
- Stay active: It may seem counterintuitive. It hurts when you move, but you’re supposed to move more? Exercise, though, is crucial for people living with arthritis. Physical activity helps ease pain, increase strength and flexibility, and boost energy. Avoiding exercise because you’re worried it can make your arthritis worse is a big misconception. Bundling up and taking a daily walk around the neighborhood could actually help.
- Keep warm: If winter freezes your joints, summer thaws them. Meet the seasons halfway by cuddling with a heavy blanket and staying as warm as possible. Heat makes the blood flow, and that blood flow helps improve pain tolerance. Warmth also relaxes muscles to decrease spasms and reduce stiffness.
- Dress in layers: No matter how warm you are under a blanket at home, going outside seems to freeze your joints all over again. You have to keep that warmth going, and it’s important to have the tools you need to remain warm in the conditions. Dressing in layers helps, even more so than one large heavy coat, to keep you warm and the joint-shattering chills away.
- Get your Vitamin D: We all need Vitamin D, and most of us get it in the summertime, as sunlight is the best source for Vitamin D. Arthritis sufferers need Vitamin D, as studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiencies are connected to major rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. Even though there’s less sunlight in the winter, and thus less Vitamin D, take a Vitamin D supplement and help stave off those flare-ups.
The weather has been cold for three or four months now, and depending on whether the “groundhog” sees his shadow, there’s still some winter left to weather. If that fills you with dread - and you’ve been filled with dread for a couple months now - you might just be “SAD,” which in this case stands for “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” It helps provide a name and a reason to what you may be calling “the winter blues.” What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer. What are the signs? Your “winter blues” could manifest in many different ways. You may be oversleeping or really craving those high-carbs sweets more than normal. You may also describe it as being “blah” but consider whether you feel any of these possible symptoms:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
When we think about Valentine’s Day, we often think about a big red heart that signifies our love for our Valentine. Just as you may think about the health of your relationship with your Valentine (and how your Valentine’s gift could positively or negatively impact that relationship!), it’s important to think about your actual heart - the one that pumps blood to keep your body running. February is American Heart Association Month, and while it’s always important to monitor how you can practice positive heart health, care for your heart and for the Valentine that owns your heart could be a great combination that will make for a great Valentine’s Day. So instead of focusing on that great Valentine’s Day meal, focus on the whole month, using February’s focus on heart to re-boot your health. Heart-healthy diet January is the month that everybody seems to be trying out a new diet. Often, people seem to pick a fad diet, and by February, many fail because so many fad diets require a severe cutback of many vital nutrients. Those that are still running strong with their new diets by February, though, are likely those that opted for a more balanced diet. Focusing on heart-healthy foods is a sustainable way to eat healthier and, unlike what your Valentine does to you, keeps your heart from skipping a beat. Some dos and don’ts for a heart-healthy diet include:
- Control your portion size: You don’t need seconds! Whatever you choose to eat, keeping your portions under control helps your heart health. A good way to start that is to eat on smaller plates at home.
- Fruits and vegetables: Load up on fruits and veggies as your heart-healthy diet gets underway. If possible, go for fresh fruits and vegetables, or secondarily, those from your grocer’s freezer. If you opt for canned fruits and veggies, make sure that they’re canned in water or juice, and are low in added sugar and salt.
- Whole grains: Get used to wheat bread, brown rice and whole-grain pasta. Whole grains pack extra fiber which helps your body to operate more smoothly.
- Opt for healthy fats: Not all fat is bad! Trade in the deep-fried food for “healthy fats” like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Remember to watch your portions!
- At an Italian restaurant: Avoid the alfredo. Chicken Alfredo or similar decadent Italian dishes are packed with salt and fat. Go for a wine sauce, which is just as decadent, but much more heart-healthy
- At a seafood restaurant: Skip the pan-fried or deep-fried fish entree. Target dishes rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, cod and tuna.
- At a steakhouse: Many people think that a heart-healthy usually cuts out red meat. But it doesn’t have to. Skip the Porterhouse and New York Strip, and go for the “loins,” like sirloin or tenderloin.
In 2020, there is a high awareness of healthy eating and its positive impacts on health. More and more people are generally trying to eat better and exercise in order to improve their quality of life. Despite that, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are still quite prevalent in the United States. According to the Eating Disorder Association, 10 to 15 percent of Americans suffer from some type of serious eating disorder. There is plenty of debate about the core causes of eating disorders, whether it’s psychological issues like depression or social impacts from media and advertisements. Often overlooked, though, are the specific factors that impact young athletes. Sometimes, there are no obvious signs that a teen athlete is struggling with an eating disorder. Any signs displayed are often hidden by a teen’s presentation as supremely healthy. Knowing which signs to look for, though, can help parents guide their children to building positive health habits. Why young athletes are susceptible to eating disorders Athletics are a great way to build self-esteem, promote physical conditioning, and demonstrate the value of teamwork, but not all athletic stressors are positive. The pressure to win and an emphasis on body weight and shape can create a toxic combination. One study found that over one-third of NCAA Division I female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms that placed them at risk for anorexia nervosa. Male athletes aren’t immune, though, as many sports lend to a higher prevalence of eating disorders. The stringent weight and size requirements in sports such as wrestling, bodybuilding and running push some men to develop unhealthy habits that lead to eating disorders. Know the signs of eating disorders Just because your teen athlete seems to be in good shape and focused on health, it’s important to keep an eye on them daily to make sure they are not developing unhealthy habits.
- Exercising and training too hard: With such a focus on regimented eating habits to create peak physical performance, athletes can become vulnerable to overtraining. Monitor your child’s training habits, paying focus on whether or not they are eating enough to fuel that training.
- Underweight or notable weight loss: As a culture, we are taught that anybody who is not “overweight” and “obese” is considered “healthy.” Often times, it’s true. But being “underweight” is of significant concern, especially for young athletes and doubly so for female athletes. Enter your child’s height and weight into a body mass index (BMI) calculator online. Any BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight.
- Stress fractures and injuries due to overuse: A trend among athletes with eating disorders is a focus on excessive exercise. Another trend among athletes is to “play through pain.” It’s a toxic combination that together can be a very telling sign of an eating disorder. If your child gets diagnosed with a stress fracture, it could be a first sign that you should evaluate whether your child is showing other signs of an eating disorder.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it offers a reminder to parents to prioritize their child’s dental health. For children especially, dental health is important because the health of primary teeth can change quickly. Even in just the six months between regularly dental visits, diet or hygiene changes, along with oral habits like thumb-sucking, can open the door to tooth decay or misalignment. However, once individuals reach adulthood, those regular dental visits they had as kids begin to fall away. According to the “Oral Health and Well-Being in the United States” survey conducted by the American Dental Association, only 37 percent of adults have visited a dentist in the past year. By comparison, 65 percent of children visited a dentist in the past year. Why is dental health important for adults? The impact of poor oral health on adults is sometimes obvious. Individuals with poor oral hygiene report anxiety and embarrassment due to the condition of their teeth. Between 35 and 40 percent of adults that reported poor oral condition have reported feelings of anxiety and embarrassment, and avoid smiling. Many of those attribute their poor oral health to their inability to interview well for jobs or find a mate. But dental health is important for more reasons than mere attractiveness. Adults that do not take proper care of their teeth are at higher risk for disease and chronic conditions. What conditions are connected to poor oral health? Like other areas of the body, your mouth teems with bacteria — mostly harmless. But your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria are connected to larger health conditions. According to Mayo Clinic, the following health conditions can be related to poor oral health:
- Endocarditis: This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease: Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
- Pregnancy and birth complications: Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
- Pneumonia: Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.