September is Fruit & Veggies and Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is Fruit & Veggies Month

Eating fruits and vegetables has many health benefits. People who eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help lower their risk for:

  • Some types of cancer
  • Heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity

Fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat the recommended amount of fruits every day.
Fewer than 1 in 10 adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables every day.

The good news? Communities, health professionals, businesses, and families can work together to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Visit the Produce for Better Health Foundation for tips on quick recipes for healthier eating.


Ask the Nurse – Don't let your kids be blimps

Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

Dear Chris: Help! I have to figure out meals for grandchildren when they visit. But my son has no good advice. When we're eating out, what should I buy them?

Chris: My seven grandchildren don't always appreciate that I am a nurse.

To begin with, I don't feed them from a commercial menu guaranteed to turn them into fat-as-a-redwood-log adult. I like my large unmovable redwoods in forests, not on my sofa. The entire world of advertising always paints the best-tasting pre-prepared food as the best for you, too. Which, of course, is a giant pre-prepared fib.

Some food tastes good because it's packed with fat and empty calories. On the other hand, eat enough of it and nothing else, and it will kill you stone cold dead.

In my experience, overweight kids often turn into overweight adults. The way I look at it, it's hear-me-now or see the cardiologist later. So what's the worst?

Here is my Fatal Foursome, the absolute worse for your kids.

SunnyD Smooth Style (16 ounces, 260 calories, 60 grams sugar): Don't mistake SunnyD for orange juice or anything else natural unless you think 5 percent real is “real.” It's just a lot of water with a lot of sugar dissolved in it. Buy your kids a package of Oreos. It has less sugar. Cap'n Crunch (1 cup 146 calories, 2 grams fat, 1 gram saturated, 16 gram sugars, and 1 gram fiber): As food, this is an empty suit. It's a waste of time. There are a few added vitamins that are required by the government but it's a totally unnatural collection of unrelated components, most of which is corn flour coated by food colorings yellow 6 and 5. If your children have attention issues, this will make them jump off the ceiling like cats on speed.

Oscar Mayer Maxed Out Turkey & Cheddar Cracker Combo Lunchables (680 calories, 22 grams fat, 9 grams saturated, 61 g sugars, 1,440 mg sodium): You'd think a company with an old-timey name like Oscar Mayer wouldn't do this to kids. It's gastronomic assault and battery. This junk has nearly half of a second graders' daily calorie allotment with more than twice the sugar and fat of a Snickers.

Burger King Kids' Double Cheeseburger with Small Fries and Coke (1,100 calories, 52 grams fat, 17.5 grams saturated, and 1.5 g trans, 1,870 mg sodium): Double your beef; double your kids' budding heart disease. If you feed your child this meal more than once a year, just paint the word “Goodyear” on his side and let him float over football stadiums. Your child would have to be a world class triathlete to burn that many calories.

 

Ask the Nurse | Caring for a Parent

When it's your Mom, everything changes

by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare and "Mother"

You can become accustomed to the professional detachment of nursing. I've spent most of my adult life in that role and finding just the right balance among intellect, knowledge and emotion is one of the toughest hidden “jobs” of health care.

Good people care. You cannot hide from being human. But nursing means being smart in choices. Being smart and attentive for your patient is a never- ceasing quest. Medicine might be a science, but healing is an art.  

Meet Virginia ,  one of our patients and mother of Assured Healthcare Staffing owner Chris Hammerlund.

Meet Virginia, one of our patients and mother of Assured Healthcare Staffing owner Chris Hammerlund.

A good nurse must listen to many voices inside her head, each asking for attention and validation. But I thought I had mastered the art of that heart/smart balance until I confronted the future for my Mom.

When it's Mom, everything changes, and even a nurse cannot shield herself from deep fears and concerns. Even a good nurse can be fooled by signs she does not see.

So, this is the first of four part series about me and my Mom. This will be a shared experience for us - you and I.  You see, the time had come to make some decisions about Mom's day-to-day health, and we all experience this, ready or not.

I can tell you right at the beginning that sharing the burdens of life can be a difficult task. But maybe you will see your life - your Mom or Dad - in this picture.  Maybe it will help to know you are not alone. It did for me.

First, Mom is a wonderful person. I won't tell you her age because it would be embarrassing to her, but let's just say she's old enough to remember runningboards on cars and phonographs that sped around the record turntable at 78 revolutions per minute. She is a proud person and independent. And smart.

But these are difficult times for her and for me.

I will have to care for her now. That much is certain. I don't know how much I had focused on that likelihood in other years, but when the time comes, there is no escape from that fact if you care.

My Mother has a few issues that make her care very challenging. She has macular degeneration (reduced eyesight), hearing loss, very unsteady gait and moderate dementia.

The changes that age can bring don't happen in one day. It's often a slow, steady progression. I did not see that slide at first.

When Mom was still at her home living alone, she was able to hold it together through a phone conversation, covering up her dementia and leading me to believe she was just forgetful.  

She then had a very serious fall, which landed her in the hospital for a week and drove my decision to have her move into my home. What I have found since she began living with me is how limited her ability is to function without help.  

I would suggest to others that have the responsibility of taking care of elderly and infirm parents or loved ones, first trust your gut.

And second, bring in a health care professional.  

By “trust your gut,” I mean that when you think something is wrong, it probably is worse than you think.  Second, either get in touch with the Doctor or have a nursing assessment done. Nothing is as useful as an independent evaluation of how well the senior performs activities of daily living and exercises their cognitive awareness. A doctor or independent nursecan see what you cannot.

The first job is to realistically determine whether it's safe for them to continue living alone. You have to become smarter about Mom. I did. It was the first lesson I had to learn.

As part of my business, I hire and manage home health care nurses all the time. I'm doing that now. If anything, the experiences with Mom have helped me see what those nurses need to know.

Next month, part 2 next: How did we wind up here?


Celebrate American Heart Month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.

The good news? Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions.

Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to create opportunities for people to make healthier choices.

Make a difference in your community: Spread the word about strategies for preventing heart disease and encourage people to live heart healthy lives.

How can American Heart Month make a difference?

We can use this month to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can prevent it — both at home and in the community.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Encourage families to make small changes, like using spices to season their food instead of salt.
  • Motivate teachers and administrators to make physical activity a part of the school day. This can help students start good habits early.
  •  Ask doctors and nurses to be leaders in their communities by speaking out about ways to prevent heart disease.

Ask The Nurse: Is the "5-Second-Rule" Really Safe?

dropped food bacteria

Dear Nurse Chris: My husband grew up in a family that allowed the “5-second rule.” If you dropped food on the floor, but picked it up in less than five seconds, it was OK to eat. I know it’s crazy, but can I give him – and our two sons – some evidence that the “5-second rule” is terrible?  Rosa in Mundelein

Dear Rosa: The 5-second rule was not used in our house; if it fell on the floor it was tossed out. Thank goodness our bodies are made the way they are, because the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs has saved us from many an illness.
There’s good science for this view. Tell your family to listen up:  it's probably not even safe to follow a 1-second rule. The transfer of bacteria from a contaminated surface to food is almost instantaneous - or, at the very least, quicker than human reflexes.

In a recent study, Clemson University food scientist Paul Dawson and students contaminated several surfaces (ceramic tile, wood flooring, and carpet) with Salmonella. They then dropped pieces of bologna and slices of bread on the surfaces for as little as 5 seconds and as long as 60 seconds. After just 5 seconds, both foods had already picked up as many as 1,800 bacteria (more bad bugs adhered to the bologna than the bread). After 60 seconds, it was up to 18,000 bacteria!

There are 76 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control - so unless you're the only family on the block that sterilizes your floors hourly, stop eating dropped food. "Let's not forget what comes into contact with floors--people bring animal feces on their shoes into their homes," Dawson said.

And don't assume that countertops are clean. Dawson's team also found that the Salmonella actually survived as long as four weeks on the test surfaces.

I am also a stickler about hand washing. Many potential illnesses can be avoided when washing hands with soap and water. Hand washing before meals, after using the restroom, after playing outside, after coughing and blowing your nose, before preparing food and after touching food (such as raw meat) are some of the ways to avoid getting sick.

A Great Interactive Nutrition Site for Kids

In researching helpful information sources for National Nutrition Month, I came across a great website dedicated to teaching children about healthy eating. Founded by a former ICU nurse who became concerned about the number of young teenagers she encountered professionally who were already suffering morbid obesity, the site displays this mission statement:

Nourish Interactive’s mission is to offer fun, innovative solutions that empower children to make healthy choices. We support parents and teachers with free interactive games and tools that promote a healthier lifestyle.

The teaching resources the site provides for parents and teachers are extensive and well organized, the children's games and activities both entertaining and informative.  The site mascot is the cute and engaging Chef Solus, who leads kids through a variety of games, food choice scenarios and recipes. 

The sheer volume of activities and learning exercises could keep adults and children occupied for hours -- but the site addresses that issue also, periodically reminding kids that they need to take a break from the computer after 20 minutes and participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

I have to say, this is one of the best designed educational sites I have found in many thousands of hours on the Internet, and its mission is an important one.  But don't take my word for it, visit http://www.nourishinteractive.com/ yourself.  If you agree, please pass the word by sharing it with other parents and educators.

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.