SLCo Healthy Lifestyles Blog
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.
Walking and Brain Health
We know that walking is a great form of physical activity that can have positive effects on our heart and body, but it is the benefits for our brain that can increase our interest in walking.
The pathways of our brain are vital for memory and creative thinking. As we age, those pathways naturally disintegrate, which directly affects brain function. Degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s disease are common in older adults and cause series of nerve damage that eventually lead to cell death1. Millions are affected worldwide but there is steady progress in delaying the onset of these disorders.
Walking Protects Your Mental Wealth
Gabriel Axel, a Neuroscientist, provided insight that our brain has a default mode that relates to self-referencing and episodic memory2. By resting this default mode, we allow the mind to reframe itself. When the default mode is activated again, the reframed mind is now susceptible to increased creativity.
Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne echoed Axel’s findings by adding that these creative abilities can be accessed through walking2.
Walking has also been found to add years to our life. In a study primarily authored by Arthur Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, participants aged 55-80 were assigned to two different groups, a walking group and a stretching/yoga group. After a year the walking group showed brain growth that is the equivalent of preventing age-related loss by one to two years3. (full article:
Adolescences have also shown benefits from walking through increased comprehension, standardized test scores, and creative thinking2,4.
Step to a Brighter Future
Research has shown that as little as 20 minutes of walking helps to not only stimulate the brain, but also prevent the shrinking and disintegrating as we age4.
The physiological benefits of walking are the increased blood flow to brain cells and the release of chemicals that affect brain cells and vessels in growth and survival5. Cognitive benefits of the brain are related to various stimuli from the surrounding environment. Axel and Whitbourne agree that distractions such as music while walking will not allow the default mode of the brain to be at rest. They encourage connection to the environmental stimuli to regulate the reframing of our minds. Take advantage of opportunities to walk without distractions and allow your mind to reframe. The physical and cognitive benefits of increased walking can be available as the frequency and intensity of your walking increases.
Walking For Your Brain
Degenerative Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2015, from Brain Facts:
Kohli, S. (2014, September 08). How Walking Can Make Your Brain Healthier And More Creative. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from The Huffington Post:
Simon, N. (2011, February 15). Keep Your Memory Strong by Walking. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from AARP
Brodwin, E. (2014, August 11). The Scientific Reason You Should Take a Brief Walk Every Day. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from Mic
Godman, H. (2014, April 9). Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from Harvard Health Publications