Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

How Clean Are Your Sheets?

Sleep is a big part of being healthy and your sheets can play a big part in how well you sleep! I asked a few people around the office how often they change the sheets and heard anything from every couple days to every couple months.  I did some research and learned all kinds of stuff and some of it is fairly disgusting!

>Normal average adults should change their sheets every week.  We shed like snakes, particularly when sleeping.  The combination of sweat and skin builds up and needs to be washed away on a regular basis.  
>Making the bed immediately after you get up traps heat and moisture which is a great environment for germs and crawlies. Wait at least ½ hour to let it dry out.  Or…just don’t make the bed, it’s actually healthierJ
>Blankets and mattress protectors should be washed every two weeks.
>If you have allergies, you will probably want to change your sheets every few days to help keep the bed mite population down. No matter how clean you keep your house, you still have dust mites sharing your bed and furniture with you.
>If eating and/or sex are regular occurrences in your bed (good for you!) it is best to wash bedding after each such activity, since food and bodily fluids attract outside germs and also create their own.  
>If you sleep nude, you should change your sheets twice a week.
>What about pillows? Ideally, you should change your pillow case every couple of days.  Hair, sweat, flaking skin, and drool can really mess with your face.  Pillows should be washed on a regular basis and replaced at least every 2 years.   
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How Long Will You Live?

A friend recently sent me an online calculator that figures out how long you will live.  This isn’t entriely accurate because accidents can’t be predicted, but if you look strictly at lifestyle, this might open your eyes a bit.

Click HERE to take the test. It will only take a few minutes and is intereseting to see how the choices you make can affect how long you live and most likely the quality of your life. 

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Are there Toxic Chemicals in Your Wallet?

Having been in the supermarket business for 20 years and handling what seems like millions of receipts, this new study has me concerned.  Did you know that receipts that you get at the ATM, gas station, supermarket, and other retail stores might contain BPA?

What is BPA and why should you be concerned?
Bisphenol A or BPA for short has been controversial for years.BPA is a substance that interferes with your hormonal system and has been linked to a variety of problems from heart disease to testicular damage.  This endocrine disruptor mimics estrogen and has been found in clear hard plastic like baby and water bottles as well as the lining of food and beverage cans. Now it appears that BPA is as close as your wallet in the form of receipts.

Studies have shown that 40 percent of receipts contain BPA, some up to 1,000 times higher than what is found in the lining of a can. 

Do we need to worry?  “For the general population, especially for infants and children, we still believe food containers [plastics containing BPA and canned food with BPA-containing liners] are the primary source of exposure,” says Anila Jacob, MD, MPH, senior scientist at EWG and one of the report’s authors. “But we do think receipts are a potentially significant source of exposure, especially for the millions of people in the retail industry.” Cashiers and salespeople sometimes handle hundreds of receipts a day, every day they work, she adds, so for them it poses a significant risk.”

What remains unknown, Dr. Jacob says, is how much BPA the average person absorbs after coming into contact with a receipt. It’s easy to assume that someone could ingest BPA after handling a receipt and then eating soon afterwards, or by placing a receipt in a grocery bag where the BPA can rub off onto unpackaged produce, she says, “but we just don’t know how much that contributes to our overall exposure.”

So- what can we do to reduce our exposure?
1- Just say “no”  Do you really need the receipt?  If not, turn it down
2-Don’t keep receipts in your purse or wallet.  Put them in an envelope or bag
3-Don’t put receipts in the recycle bin.  BPA can rub off on items that will be recycled into food containers
4-Wash your hands frequently but avoid hand sanitizers.  A recent study shows that the use of hand sanitizers actually helps increase absorption of BPA into the skin, which is a huge concern as cashiers use hand sanitizer constantly. 

Bottom line- is it time to freak out? No, but it is good to be aware until more studies are done.  If you want more information- click HERE for an excellent article on the dangers of BPA and how to avoid them.

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Sunday Morning Inspiration from Dr. Suess

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
~Dr. Seuss
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The Deadliest Animal on Earth

The list of the Top Ten deadliest animals contains a few that are obvious such as the polar bear, cobra, great white shark, and crocodile- but the number one spot is held by the tiny little mosquito. 

Due to malaria carrying parasites transferred by the mosquito, it is responsible for the deaths of more than two million people per year. In addition, mosquitoes are estimated to transfer diseases to more than 70 million people per year. Even in countries where the more temperate climate has reduced mosquito bites to mostly an annoyance, they still cause some deaths every year.

So how do we avoid being bitten?  You need to hide from the little bugger!  It’s not so much that we want to repel them, we don’t want them to find us in the first place.

One of the most effective ways to keep mosquitoes at bay is a spray that contains DEET. 

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers compared several types of mosquito repellents head-to-head in laboratory tests. 
“OFF! Deep Woods” repellent, a product containing about 24% DEET, fared the best. Its protection lasted an average of five hours. The least effective products were wristbands treated with DEET or citronella, which offered almost no protection. According to the researchers, this wasn’t a surprise. It’s known that mosquito repellent only works on the surface to which it’s applied directly. Mosquitoes are happy to bite skin only four centimeters away from the repellent slick.
I had always thought that DEET was unsafe, but it does have an excellent safety record.  N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide doesn’t sound like something you’d want to spray on your skin, and and maybe it reminds people of DDT, a very dangerouss and banned chemical, but they are nothing alike. 
The Environmental Protection Agency must approve all pesticides used in the U.S., and although DEET isn’t a pesticide by definition because it does not kill insects,  the EPA does test it. DEET is safe WHEN USED CORRECTLY- read the label and follow all directions. DEET is also safe for children 2 months and older but do not allow youngsters to apply it themselves.
If you are looking for a natural alternative, many people swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft.  However, studies show that it is effective for about 10 minutes.  Other natural products such as soybean oil sprays and lotions last about 90 minutes.
What about the gadgets?
Citronella candles have been used since 1882 as a means of drawing mosquitoes away from people, but one study shows that they’re not much more effective than plain candles, which also give off heat, carbon dioxide, and moisture.
And unplug the bug zapper- it doesn’t work on mosquitoes and will kill beneficial bugs in your yard.
The best way to keep swarms of mosquitoes from descending on your backyard barbecue is to get rid of standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs.
Some mosquito species lay eggs directly in stagnant water. Others lay eggs in containers — a tree hollow, a birdbath, a kiddie pool, etc. — above the water line. Then, when it rains, the eggs are submerged and they hatch. In order to get rid of the eggs, you need to scrub the container, whether it is a bird bath or kiddie pool- just dumping the water does not dislodge the eggs. 
So- how do you relieve the itch if that mosquito feasts on you?  Here are a few  unusual tips to try!
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Are You a Mosquito Magnet?

My husband is a mosquito magnet, so is my daughter.  I do have a few bites now and then but not really that bad. Why do some people seem to attract mosquitoes and some rarely get bitten? 
The two most important reasons a mosquito is attracted to you have to do with sight and smell. About 20 percent of people are high attractor types.
Mosquitoes are highly visual, especially later in the afternoon, and their first mode of search for humans is through vision. People dressed in dark colors — black, navy blue, red — stand out to mosquitoes and movement also attracts them.
Once the mosquito spots you,  she (and it’s always “she” — only the ladies bite) then picks up on your smell. The main attractor is your rate of carbon dioxide production with every exhale you take. The heavier you breathe, the better the chance that she will find you.
Those with higher metabolic rates produce more carbon dioxide, as do larger people and pregnant women. Although carbon dioxide is the primary attractant, other secondary smells coming from your skin or breath mark you as a good landing spot.
Lactic acid (given off while exercising), acetone (a chemical released in your breath), and estradiol (a breakdown product of estrogen) can all be released at varying concentrations and lure in mosquitoes. Your body temperature, or warmth, can also make a difference. Mosquitoes may flock to pregnant women because of their extra body heat.
 Studies show that it could be that individuals who get less bites produce chemicals on their skin that make them more repellent and cover up smells that mosquitoes find attractive. So, if you are a magnet, it might not be that you are  more attractive, you are just less repellent than the others around  you!
Mosquitoes don’t bite you for food, since they feed off plant nectar.  Females suck your blood to get a protein needed to develop their eggs, which can then send more pesky insects into the world to annoy you.
 Keep this in mind when you’re outdoors this summer: Mosquitoes are more attracted to people after they drink a 12-ounce beer. It could be that people breathe a little harder after a brew or their skin is a little warmer. 
Here are more fun facts about mosquitoes and bites provided by the experts:
  • Eating bananas will not attract mosquitoes and taking vitamin B-12 will not repel them; these are old wives’ tales.
  • Some mosquito species are leg and ankle biters; they cue into the stinky smell of bacteria on your feet.
  • Other species prefer the head, neck and arms perhaps because of the warmth, smells emitted by your skin, and closeness to carbon dioxide released by your mouth. 
  • The size of a mosquito bite welt has nothing to do with the amount of blood taken and everything to do with how your immune system responds to the saliva introduced by the mosquito into your skin.
  • The more times you get bitten by a particular species of mosquito, the less most people react to that species over time. The bad news? There’s more than 3.000 species worldwide.

Stay tuned…tomorrow I will compare repellents and other gadgets to help keep you itch free!

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Some New Moves!

I teach Strength and Resistance classes twice a week at the Y as well as doing my own strength workouts so I am always looking for new moves to keep it interesting.  I found a couple of great ones that seem easy, but everyone in my class (including me) found some new muscles the next day!  Some of us really like sore muscles-it reminds us that no matter how good you think you are, there is room for improvement.

Try these great no-equipment exercises:

Spider Man Press Up:This will work your chest, triceps (back of arms), abs, obliques, butt, and hips.

Start in a full push up position.  (make it easier by doing a modified version on your knees)
Bring your right knee out to hip level and toward your right elbow
Bend your elbows to 90 degrees until your knees and elbows touch (or close for beginners!)
Press up and return to start. 
Do 8 reps, switch sides and repeat.  If you can’t do 8, do your best and forget the rest! (borrowed from P90X)
Click HERE for a video demonstration.  He is going faster than I do and I don’t alternate, but you’ll get the idea. Another version of this exercise can be found on the link below from Fitness Magazine.

I love the Livestrong website, while you’re there, check out Daily Plate to start tracking your calories.  It helped me lose 10 pounds buy having to account for every bite I ate!

Sunburst Slimmer:
Start on the ground on all fours then extend your right leg behind you, toes pointed
Bending elbows and keeping them close to the body, glide torso down and forward while lifting your right leg behind you. Return to start
Do 5 reps and switch legs.

Click HERE for a video demonstration.  Every every exercise in the “Target Practice” routine on this link is great-try them all.

You will have sore shoulders and triceps after this but you will also look great in a tank top!

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Can’t Go Naked? Some Advice to Stay Cool and Comfortable

Yep- it is still hot and humid.  You might want to curb an intense outdoor workout a bit for the next few days, but even a light stroll after dinner can make you awfully uncomfortable if you aren’t prepared.  Here are a few tips to help keep you comfortable if you are biking, mowing, or just moving around!

Rule #1: NO COTTON!! It soaks up moisture and sits on your skin like a wet rag, not allowing sweat to evaporate and cool you off. Wear high-tech (synthetic) fabrics that wick away sweat. There are dozens of name brands including CoolMax, PowerDry, DryCore and Dri-Fit.  They are well worth the investment.  Get rid of those cotton t-shirts and join this century!
One warning: Synthetics can get a bit smelly so rinse them right away and hang to dry instead of throwing them into the hamper wet with sweat. Launder in warm water with detergent and 1/4 cup of Borax.  There are also detergents made specifically to clean and de-stink synthetic sports gear but I find Borax works just as well and is quite a bit cheaper.

Rule #2: Wear light-colored clothes
Lighter clothes reflect rather than absorb the sun’s rays.

Rule #3: Avoid the chafe
Test your clothing on a short walk/run/hike before going long. If the seams chafe or ride up, you’re going to be awfully uncomfortable. Look for flat-constructed seams or fewer seams to avoid the issue. 

Rule #4: Keep your Feet Cool!
Do not wear all-cotton socks. Sweat-wicking blends will keep your feet cooler and prevent blisters.

Rule #5: Sunglasses are not created equal.
 Invest in a good pair of sunglasses, not the $2 pair at the gas station. Better glasses protect against serious, long-term eye damage due to exposure to UVA and UVB rays. Cheap glasses tend to fog up; polarized glasses offer much better contrast. Get glasses labeled as 100 percent UVA/UVB protective.

Rule #6: Don’t forget the Sun Block! Sunscreen protects your skin from painful burns, premature aging, and the risk of skin cancer. Avoid oil-based sunscreens because they impede sweating, and sweat evaporates and keeps you cool. An SPF of 45 is sufficient and reapply every few hours. 

In addition:

Shower right after your workout and put on a clean, dry shirt.  Don’t let sweat dry on your skin as it is a breeding ground for bacteria which can clog pores and cause all sorts of skin issues so wash it off as soon as  you can. If you have cats, they love the salt and will lick you clean if you don’t shower!  ( they like to do this at about 3am, cat owners know what I mean)

 Sweating can also dry out your skin so apply a moisturizer after showering. 

Hot weather is not an excuse to lay around and eat chips, you just need a bit of preparation.  Enjoy it now- in a few months I will  probably be writing about shoveling. 

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Everything You Want to Know About Sweat…and some things you don’t!

It is HOT and HUMID in Northeast Wisconsin and I love it!  The only downside is the parade of sweaty bodies in questionable clothes (or lack of) wandering through the store where I work.  Have you ever had someone hand you damp money?  There’s something really icky about that feeling!  So, is sweat bad?  I went looking for sweat info and here’s what I found:

Sweat is good for you- it helps your body regulate its temperature. 

The average person has 2.6 million sweat glands in their skin. The glands are distributed over the entire body-except for the lips, nipples and external genital organs.

We have two types of sweat glands: eccrine, which produce volumes of the watery stuff, and apocrine, which produce tiny amounts of thick odorless fluid.

-We have eccrine glands all over our bodies, including the palms of our hands, the soles of our feet and our foreheads.

-We have apocrine glands under our arms and in the genital area. When the thick odorless fluid from our apocrine glands sits on our skin, bacteria act upon it, which is what causes body odor. This means the stinky sweat is in your pits and crotch so take special care in those areas.

-Apocrine glands contain proteins and fatty acids, making their secretions thicker and giving them a milky or yellowish color. That’s why underarm stains in clothing appear yellowish.

– Add 1/4 cup of Borax with your laundry detergent to get the body odor stink out of your workout clothes, especially if you wear cotton. (more on that tomorrow)

-Apocrine glands develop during puberty, which is why children don’t need deodorant or antiperspirant.

-Men tend to produce more sweat than women. 

Now that we know about sweat- how do you deal with it when working out on a hot and humid day?

We are constantly sweating, even though we may not notice it because it usually evaporates quickly.  The humidity of the air around us affects the rate at which sweat evaporates. If humidity is high, the air cannot absorb any more moisture and our sweat won’t evaporate and cool our bodies as efficiently as when the air is dry.

-Losing excessive amounts of sweat can quickly dehydrate you, leading to circulatory problems, kidney failure and heat stroke so keep yourself sufficiently hydrated with water.  If you are working really hard, a sports drink with electrolytes will help but they can be loaded with calories.

-Sweat is made from fluid in your blood, which means the more you sweat, the thicker your blood becomes and the harder your heart has to work to pump that blood. Take it easy on hot days- even if you are in great shape, your heart can only handle so much.

-Drink at least 16 oz of water an hour or two before you go outside for a bike ride or run.  Take a bottle of water with you and drink 12 oz every 15 minutes while you are working out. This applies to lawn mowing, gardening, and other outdoor activities as well.

More on hot weather workouts tomorrow but I’ll finish with another fun fact.  Did you know that most Japanese  have little to no body odor?  Japanese men who had body odor were not allowed to serve during WW II because the were not considered pure. I don’t understand it, I’m just reporting it!

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Give Your Produce a Good Bath!

Blueberries were on sale last week so I bought buying 6 pints a day to stock up for winter!  They freeze well and are much cheaper than buying them out of season.  I used to just give them a quick rinse until I read that blueberries have the highest levels of organophosphates, followed by strawberries and celery.

What’s an organophosphate?   It is a man-made pesticide that is sprayed onto fruits and vegetables to keep insects away. While once thought harmless, some now argue children are sensitive to these pesticides.  At a young age, the brain is rapidly developing, and kids possibly consume more due to their smaller body weight and size. Experts believe that these chemicals have led to a variety of childhood issues including ADHD.

To minimize your exposure to chemicals, buy local and organic but you should still give everything a thorough washing.

There are commercial produce washes like “FIT” available in the supermarket but there is a less expensive alternative that you can make at home. Add one cup of vinegar to three cups of water in a spray bottle, shake well and spray your produce until it is completely covered.  Rinse with cold water to remove the vinegar taste and wash away any chemical residue.

Tests prove that the vinegar solution removes 98% of all bacteria or pesticides, compared to 80% when washing with a water and brush. Take a few minutes when you get home from the store or Farmers Market to wash all your fruits and veggies- your body and brain will appreciate it!

Oh- and freezing blueberries is easy.
Wash and rinse.  Put 1 layer on a cookie sheet and place in freezer for at least an hour.  Put frozen blueberries into freezer safe bag or container. Doing it this way keeps them from clumping together.

Enjoy this amazing super fruit all year long!
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