SLCo Healthy Lifestyles Blog
Gratitude Health Hub
As Thanksgiving Day approaches many of us grow weary of the
word gratitude. We are bombarded with messages about the importance of being
thankful from our friends, family and the media. However, don’t be quick to
write off this advice. Emerging
research about the subject is revealing a multitude of benefits associated
with practicing gratitude in our daily lives. Healthy Lifestyles would like to
encourage you to begin your gratitude practice earlier this year and reap the
What is gratitude?
Put simply, gratitude
is being thankful. However, the term holds a deeper meaning in regards to
mindfulness. According to the Yale
Center for Emotional Intelligence gratitude is a state of mind that arises
when you affirm a good thing in your life that comes from outside yourself.
Some people or experiences are easier to be grateful for than others. The
important thing to remember about gratitude is that it does not depend on your
life circumstances. There is always something to be grateful for because even
bad experiences help us learn and grow. Gratitude is unlike other emotions
because it is a feeling that you can tap into at any time.
What are the health benefits of gratitude?
Practicing gratitude is great for both mental and physical
health! Dr. Robert A. Emmons and other researchers in the field have found that
gratitude increases feelings of happiness other positive emotions while
decreasing anxiety and depression. Gratitude is also a great stress management
Not only does gratitude increase our feelings of well-being,
it is also associated with better physical health. According to Emmons,
individuals who practice gratitude generally participate in other healthy
behaviors including physical activity, healthy eating and regular doctor
check-ups. Gratitude is also linked with optimism, which has been shown to
boost immune system functioning.
How can I begin practicing gratitude?
Like yoga or
meditation, gratitude is a skill that can be practiced. Begin by simply
observing the things in life you can be grateful for. These may be little
pleasures, joyful events, or even unpleasant experiences. Then, take a moment
to acknowledge or reflect on these things. There are many
ways to perform this step! Just a few examples include writing in a
gratitude journal, composing thank you notes, meditating or talking with a
Organic Or Not
There are a lot of mixed messages and opinions when it comes to organic produce, making it difficult to form our own opinions – especially when it can impact our health and finances. So what exactly does an organic label on my produce mean? Why is it more expensive?
Is organic actually better for me? For this month’s Health Hub we will lightly skim the surface of this extremely deep and complex issue to help clarify and reduce some confusion.
To be labeled organic, farmers must follow a set of
certification standards defined by the USDA (including soil and water quality, fertilization, and pest control methods), as well as be able to pay for the annual certification. These organic farming standards are mainly for ecological balance and conservation of resources and biodiversity - which
is a fancy way of saying it’s good for environmental health. In short, organic farming practices are believed to be better for the environment than conventional farming.
Organic produce is generally more expensive to buy at the store than conventional produce due to the expensive farming and handling practices required – unfortunately some of this cost is passed on to the consumer. However, many local farmers will even practice organic farming standards but do not pay the organic
certification fees to the USDA, so ask your local farmer about their practices.
Currently there is
no evidence that organic and conventional produce differ in their nutrient content. The main health concern – and most debated - is regarding the use of
pesticides. For produce growing plants a pesticide is a chemical used to protect from insects, weeds, diseases, and fungi. Now do not assume that just because organic produce has different health and safety regulations that non-organic produce
doesn’t have them at all. The FDA and EPA both play a role in ensuring that “residues of pesticides in foods
are not present at levels that will pose a danger to health”, for ALL produce. Contrary to popular belief, organic farmers do in fact use pesticides; they are just more limited in the types and amount they can use. Both organic and nonorganic produce can have residue from
pesticide and other spray treatments. Although neither will ever make it to the shelf of your grocery store if it exceeds government safety thresholds, it is always a good idea to wash and scrub your produce.
Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen
If you are
interested in purchasing organic but can’t afford to buy everything organic you may consider the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty
Dozen”. These lists, created by the Environmental Working Group, are intended to help us know which kinds of produce tend to have the highest (dirty
dozen), and lowest (Clean 15), amount of pesticides.
Regardless of your personal choice between organic or conventional produce, the experts still agree on one thing – Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important in
promoting health and preventing disease.
Vaccines Aren't Just For Kids
Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM)
Smallpox was one of the most devastating infectious diseases ever known
to mankind. Sometimes referred to as the
red plague, smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300-500 MILLION deaths in
the 20th century alone. Fortunately for us, due to the development
of a vaccine and effective immunization campaigns, smallpox was declared
eradicated in 1979. The month of August
has been dubbed as National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) to highlight
the value and importance of current day immunizations.
An important step in protecting against disease
A vaccine works by imitating an infection so the body can prepare for
and recognize exposure to the real infection in the future. Think of it as a fire drill, we practice our
response to an emergency before it actually occurs so we can be better prepared
to handle the real thing. In the immune
system’s case, it now has a supply of everything it would need to fight off the
real infection, this response is called immunization. A
vaccine cannot actually cause the virus it is imitating. Occasionally,
there may be minor fever like - symptoms after receiving a vaccine which is
normal when the body’s immune system is called into action.
Getting your vaccinations is one
of the most effective tools available to prevent infectious and sometimes
deadly disease. In addition to your individual protection, the increasing the
percent of people in a community who are vaccinated can decrease the ability
for the infectious disease to spread.
Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives
Birth – 6 year old
Preteens and Teens
The Flu vaccine is most well-known because
it is administered yearly, but there are many different vaccines recommended
throughout different stages of our lives.
Although we will not cover a complete list of all the vaccinations
currently recommended, the following will links will show which vaccines are
recommended and when we should get them:
course the safest bet will always be to consult with your physician to help
ensure that you are current with the recommended vaccinations. By speaking with a medical doctor one can
learn more about and potentially eradicate rumors and misconceptions regarding
vaccinations. As August is National
Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), this would be a great time to ensure you
are up-to-date and protected for a safer and healthier future.
NIAM Toolkit - National Public Health Information
Coalition (NPHIC).(2014). Retrieved July 30, 2015, from https://www.nphic.org/niam
Smallpox. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox
The Value of Hand Washing
The Sense of Touch
With the hustle and bustle of our busy work days, no one has the time to be sick.Think of a normal day and
all the different places you go. Think of all the things you touch in these places. Many of us don’t realize how often we touch our
face, which allows a bridge for all of the germs and bacteria we picked up to enter our bodies. Studies have shown that we touch our
face, on average, almost 4 times an hour and we touch other objects, on average, almost 3 times an hour1.
This frequent interaction with our environment gives germs and bacteria numerous opportunities to infect and spread.
Hand washing is the most effective method to remove germs and bacteria from our hands and decrease the risk of infection and spread.
20 seconds of washing will save you days of sickness and prevent the spread of germs like adenovirus, salmonella, and certains strains
Bathroom Hygiene Myth
Hand Washing Review
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides simple guidelines that include:
- Wet- use clean running water, standing water can be contaminated with previous us Lather- soap helps to remove dirt, grease, and germs from the skin
- Scrub- at least 20 seconds for effective germ removal
- Rinse – use clean running water, standing water can be contaminated with previous use
- Dry- try getting a paper towel or towel first, then going back to turn the faucet off with it, sink faucets are often some of the dirtiest objects.
Hand Washing Myths
The following are some common myths about hand washing:
Hand sanitizers can replace washing your hands with soap and water3
Hand washing is superior to sanitizers because of its ability to remove other germ-carrying substances like dirt and grease. The effectiveness of hand sanitizers is also influenced by amount used and drying time4.
The hotter the temperature of the water, the better for removing germs and bacteria3
No research exist that higher water temperatures improve effectiveness of removing germs and bacteria from hands. The best temperature to use is a comfortable one.
Air dryers are more hygienic than paper towels3
Studies have shown that air dryers increase bacteria counts on hands and also increase the risk of bacteria spread to others in close proximity, while drying hands with a paper towel decreases the spread of bacteria and effectively removes moisture that can contain germs and bacteria.
1.Rowan, Karen.Stop Touching Yourself, Flu Researchers Say. 28 November 2012. 1 June 2015.
Handwashing: Clean Hands Saves Lives. 17 October 2014. 1 June 2015 .
Wash Away the Five Most Commom Myths about Handwashing. 19 September 2014. 1 June 2015.
4. Pickering AJ, Davis J, Boehm AB.
Efficacy of alcohol-based hand sanitizer on hands soiled with dirt and cooking oil.
Water Health. 2011 Sep;9(3):429-33.
5. Burton M, Cobb E, Donachie P, Judah G, Curtis V, Schmidt WP.
The effect of handwashing with water or soap on bacterial contamination of hands.
Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 Jan;8(1):97-104.
Ultraviolet Light Rays
Image Credit: NS-Mart
Ultraviolet Light Rays
Ultraviolet (UV) light rays are a small portion of the suns light but have a big impact on our skin. We can be exposed to UV rays through artificial sources like tanning beds. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States. In 2011 over 65,000 people (38,000 men, 27,000 women) in the United States were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin. In the same year over 9,000 people (6,000 men, 3,000 women) died from melanomas of the skin1. The incidence rate of melanomas of the skin in Utah is 31.9, which is significantly higher than the national average of 19.7. The death rate of melanomas of the skin is also higher in Utah, 3.5, than the national average of 2.72.
Dear 16-year Old Me
ABC’s of UV Rays
In our quest to prevent cancer it’s important to understand UV rays and protections. There are three primary types of UV rays:
- UVA Rays: These are the rays primarily associated with aging and wrinkling and can increase the risk of certain skin cancers. UVA rays have the potential for the deepest penetration of skin layers because of its longer wave length compared to the other UV waves. Exposure to these types of UV rays is most common.
- UVB Rays: These rays have more energy than UVA rays and are associated with sunburn and a majority of skin cancers. These waves have a shorter wave length than UVA rays and do not penetrate past the upper layers of skin. Most of the UVB rays are cannot get through earth’s atmosphere.
- UVC Rays: These rays are the most energetic and have the potential to do the most damage because of they are relatively the shortest length in comparison with the other UV rays. The good news is that no UVC rays make it to earth’s surface because the atmosphere filters all of it.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It is the frontline of defense against weather conditions, hazardous and unhazardous materials, and especially against factors we can’t see. The proper sunscreen routine can increase your skin’s securit.
- SPF 15: This is the minimum threshold for incidental UV ray exposure. With this you can block up to 93% of UV radiation in casual, short-term exposure .
- SPF 30: This is the minimum threshold for prolonged UV ray exposure. With this you can block up to 97% of UV radiation in extended, intense exposure.
- SPF 50: Similar benefits of SPF 30, blocks up to 98% of UV radiation.
How the Sun Sees You
The UV rays of the sun are the strongest from the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can test the sun’s intensity by using the height of your shadow. If your shadow is shorter than your height, then you are out during the most intense exposure of UV rays. Appropriate clothing options can offer protection from UV rays as well. If you put your hand under an article of clothing and can see it through the fabric, then you know you would be getting very little protection from UV rays.
With the arrival of spring and anticipation of summer, now is the time to, not only enjoy the outdoors, but also ensure a safer future by protecting ourselves from harmful UV light rays. Although we have a higher risk of developing skin cancer because of our location, we can apply effective prevention practices that allow us to live a happy and healthy life.