5892760393_1666c64567_zOne of the major factors contributing to different forms of stress, bodily afflictions, mental illnesses, high anxiety levels, and general dissatisfaction with modern life can be found in the lifestyles we have voluntarily chosen. For example, our inability (or unwillingness) to bring about an appropriate balance among the various components of what should be a “well balanced life” exacts a heavy toll on our body and psyche. For many people, undue, excessive emphasis on any one aspect of life—such as –office work, career, climbing the corporate ladder, pursuit of wealth, etc. leads inevitably to wanton neglect of other important ingredients of a well-balanced life. This type of personal choice leads to various ailments, imbalances and misalignments. In consequence, anxiety, worry, stress, and mental tension ensue.

Our sedentary lifestyles, with its emphasis on income producing activities, and neglect of other important aspects of living, (such as rest, recreation, exercise, relaxation, and adequate sleep), can and does result in irritability, fatigue and poor physical health. Some of us seem to have no time for anything other than the economic aspects of living. Consequently, we become victims of such an unbalanced life style. The neglected areas of life cry out for attention. They manifest themselves in many warning signs – many physical and mental ailments—and we tend to ignore them at our peril.

So the obvious question is: what should be done? What is the remedy? How do we correct this obvious imbalance? Fortunately, the answer is not far to seek!

thriveVarious aspects of daily life, such as: earning and spending; work and career aspirations; family responsibilities; social obligations; activities that promote physical and mental well being—these must be properly balanced—to produce good health and peace of mind. The resulting improvement in life satisfaction will be immeasurable. Whenever we lose sight of this balancing principle, and ignore the vital contribution that each of these components contribute to our sense of life fulfillment, the result is: physical and emotional distress. Happiness and contentment elude us. Life seems empty—filled with worry, anxiety, tension and stress.

The paradox of our unbalanced lifestyle is this: What we think of as enhancing the quality of life—money, power, position, prestige and recognition (all good things in themselves)- can be pursued to excess, to the detriment of our overall quality of life. This is a trap that should be avoided.

So, it is up to each one of us to recognize the importance of balance in life. Engage yourself in a variety of activities—physical, mental, spiritual, and whatever else you want—but do it NOW. Make it a habit. This would be a wise and welcome choice we can and should make; the benefits would be immeasurable.

Dr. Gopal C. Dorai is an author, economist, statistician, and Professor Emeritus at William Paterson University.

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pregnancy and exercises


You’re expecting a baby and you want to stay fit and healthy. But you probably have some questions about what kind of exercise and how much is safe for you and your baby. Lahaina Hall, M.D., an obstetrician on staff at Howard County General Hospital, has some answers for you.

Q: Can I exercise when pregnant?
You can exercise while pregnant, as long as you do not have any medical or obstetrical issues that put your health at risk. Some conditions that would limit exercise are vaginal bleeding, premature rupture of membranes, incompetent cervix, low placenta or risk factors of preterm labor. You should always speak with your doctor first before starting any exercise regimen.

Q: What is a healthy amount to exercise?
If you don’t already exercise regularly and you are beginning an exercise regimen during pregnancy, start slowly and work up to a goal of at least 30 minutes a day. This can have significant health benefits and help with the process of labor.

Q: Is there a time when I should stop exercising?
There is no set time to stop exercising if your pregnancy remains uncomplicated. Certain exercises may be more challenging as the pregnancy progresses, and those exercises will need some modification. Avoid excessive exercise in hot, humid weather. Stay hydrated. Stop exercising if you experience pain, vaginal bleeding, contractions, leakage of fluid, chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, decreased fetal movement, muscle weakness or are feeling faint or dizzy.

Q: Why should I exercise while pregnant?
Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits. It helps build muscle, bone and stamina; improves energy, mood, sleep and posture; promotes strength and endurance; relieves stress; and may possibly help to prevent and treat gestational diabetes.

Q: Which exercises are best for pregnant women?
The best exercises for pregnant women include swimming, walking (if you don’t exercise, walking is a good way to start and build endurance over time), cycling, low impact aerobics and running, especially if you were a runner before pregnancy.

Q: Are there any exercises I should avoid?
You should avoid exercises with an increased risk of falling and contact sports.  Skiing, horseback riding, gymnastics, hockey, soccer, football, basketball, volleyball and boxing are not recommended. After the first trimester, you should avoid exercises requiring you to lie on your back.

Q: How can I avoid injury?
Always warm up before exercising. Stretching is particularly important. This can help avoid stiffness and injury. Hormones during pregnancy cause ligaments to become more relaxed, enabling joints to be more mobile and at risk of injury. Always cool down after exercising by slowly reducing activity and then stretch.

As pregnancy progresses, be aware that your center of gravity will shift with your growing abdomen; this can make you less stable and more likely to lose balance and fall.

STAY HYDRATED!!!!! Make sure to drink water before, during and after exercise.

Lahaina Hall, M.D., is an OB/GYN with Signature OB/GYN in Columbia. For an appointment, call 410-884-8000.





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anti-aging, exercise

According to a Johns Hopkins study, “Most experts recommend exercise as the single most important anti-aging measure anyone can follow, regardless of age, disability or general level of fitness. A sedentary lifestyle accelerates nearly every unwanted aspect of aging.” [JackF]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

Exercise has long-term physical and mental benefits, even reducing arthritis symptoms in older adults

Physical Benefits of Exercise
A lack of physical activity can put you at higher risk for health problems such as diabetes and osteoporosis. In fact, according to Dianne Braun, P.T., a clinical program manager and physical therapist with Howard County General Hospital, “It is not only healthy for seniors to exercise, it can also be dangerous to not exercise. Not being physically active can be risky, as seniors can lose up to 75 percent of their strength from inactivity, making them prone to falls. Current statistics show that one in three people over the age of 65 fall every year and that number increases to one in two by age 80.”

Mental Benefits of Exercise
Not only does exercise help seniors physically, it can also have a positive effect mentally. Physical activity can help manage stress and reduce feelings of depression. “Depression is a big issue for seniors, and just five minutes of exercise a day has been shown to reduce the incidence of depression,” said Braun. Some studies also suggest that regular physical activity can increase various aspects of cognitive function.

How Much Exercise is Enough?
“General exercise recommendations for seniors include 30 minutes of exercise with strength training two times per week,” said Braun. “If you have a fear of increasing pain, or have a heart or medical condition, check with your physician for exercise guidelines. The important thing is to start exercising and make it a part of your daily routine.”

Studies show that exercising regularly and staying active have long-term benefits and improve the health of older adults. According to a Johns Hopkins study, “Most experts recommend exercise as the single most important anti-aging measure anyone can follow, regardless of age, disability or general level of fitness. A sedentary lifestyle accelerates nearly every unwanted aspect of aging.”

The Arthritis Antidote 
Though exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do when suffering from arthritis, exercise is very important to increase strength and flexibility, reduce joint pain and help with fatigue. Physical activity does not have to be at a high-intensity level, but studies indicate that a moderate level of exercise can help with the pain as well as help maintain a healthy weight.

“Strength training and aerobic activity (walking or other) are good for the joints. Many studies have shown a reduction in pain with regular strength training and aerobic conditioning,” said Braun.

Exercise Examples: 

  • Aerobic conditioning activities such as walking, biking, swimming, raking leaves
  • Strengthening activities for lower body: squats, single-leg stance, step-ups and sit to stand from a chair (try not to use your arms and upper body)
  • Strengthening for upper body that incorporates some weight lifting, such as arm raises, overhead raises and biceps curls.
Dianne Braun is a clinical program manager and physical therapist with Howard County General Hospital.

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growing up emptyI recently watched a great documentary film, Living on One Dollar, which featured four university students who decided to spend a summer in rural Guatemala, and attempt to survive on $1 a day. The young men planned to stay a total of 56 days, so each brought $56 US dollars for a grand total of $224 US Dollars. In order to simulate the inconsistent and unpredictable income of the local day laborers, the students broke down their sum total into increments of $0-$9, and would randomly draw a piece of paper each morning with their “income” for that particular day. There were days that the “family of four” would receive anywhere from $0 to a whopping $9. The young men learned a lot from their new neighbors regarding how to plant and maintain a plot of land, as well as how to seek out and obtain a loan to cover necessary expenses.

Prior to embarking on this excursion, the students did their research, especially the two who were the brains behind the project (international development majors’, Chris and Zach). The men set out in the summer of 2010, and gained invaluable knowledge about the struggle and hardships of the individuals and families living in the rural Guatemalan village that they would temporarily call home. During the course of their stay, they encountered struggles of their own, not only in their attempt to secure proper nutrition each day, but also in their attempt to overcome unforeseen financial expenses. The domino effect experienced by so many living in rural villages like the one the men visited looks something very similar to this: limited opportunities leads to limited education leads to limited income leads to limited resources, which leads to limited/insufficient food options, which then leads to poor health/energy. Without a stable income, individuals and their families are unable to purchase food or maintain the gardens that will provide them with their daily recommended caloric intake values. Lack of a proper caloric diet, replete of all necessary vitamins and minerals, results in increased susceptibility to illness, diminished weight, diminished height, and diminished energy levels. Each of the young men experienced significant weight loss, as well as diminished energy levels during their stay. They also witnessed first-hand how the link between limited income and poor nutrition affects the individuals of the village, especially the children.

a place at the tableThe importance of good nutrition and adequate caloric intake is particularly important for growing children, but essentially, it’s of great importance to people of all ages. In order for the body and mind to function at an optimal level, one must consume a nutritious diet that provides adequate calories. In addition to low energy levels and an inhibited immune system, persistent lack of necessary vitamins and minerals may result in various nutrient and vitamin deficiencies, which may put one at risk of developing more serious health problems. In the United States, good health and nutrition are pillars of education taught with much emphasis from an early age. However, we can’t ignore the fact that health and nutrition are strongly influenced by income and economic status.

Just as the poor rural families in Guatemala are limited to a few staple sources of nutrition, so are the poorest families in the United States, and the rest of the world. Food assistance programs available here in the US, include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Americans who are struggling simply to put food on the table, may benefit from such programs to enhance the quality of their diets. In Guatemala, a country with the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean-international organizations, rely on programs such as UNICEF and USAID.

I recommend that you check out the documentary, Living on One Dollar. It’s a great film!

When Jinelee De Souza isn’t channeling her inner super-heroine at Howard County Library System as an Instructor & Research Specialist, she’s doing so at the gym, during impromptu photoshoots with her bff, and everywhere in between.

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5149339976_9109e8fd23_bHerd immunity. In the abundant coverage of the measles outbreak, we read about herd immunity. What is it and why is it critical to understanding the public health requirements for vaccinations? When considering immunization recommendations of professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American College of Physicians (ACP), there are many factors taken into account. In deciding which immunizations are needed for ourselves and our family members, we weigh expert advice, personal health history, family medical history, regional infectious disease risk factors, age, immune status, and public health considerations.

Herd immunity, or community immunity, refers to outbreak containment despite lack of 100% immunization rates. Herd immunity exists when a sufficient percentage of the population is immune to an infectious disease to prevent spread of the illness. Why wouldn’t everyone be immunized if all the professional medical organizations recommend otherwise? How can the vaccinated person essentially protect the unvaccinated person?

Infants have passive immunity from antibodies in their system passed along from their mothers. For this reason, infants start their immunizations at the age of 2 months. Because all immunizations cannot be given at once, infants are not fully protected from dangerous infections such as mumps, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, chicken pox, and hepatitis. Infants rely on herd immunity to reduce their risk of contracting or dying from illnesses that can be prevented by modern vaccinations.

Immunocompromised patients rely on herd immunity as well. Vaccines prevent disease by activating the formation of antibodies in the vaccinated person’s body. If that individual comes into contact with the particular bacteria, the antibodies generated in the body by exposure to the vaccine fight off the infection. Immunocompromised patients cannot generate these antibodies and may become ill from certain vaccines. Patients with HIV and congenital immunodeficiencies, those who have received organ transplants, and patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment are often not medical candidates for vaccines. If the population as a whole has been immunized, then the infections are not active in the community and even those people who have not been vaccinated are protected.

The number of people who cannot be vaccinated due to age, health status, and medical condition is relatively small compared to the population at large. When otherwise healthy people with no contraindication to vaccination do not get the recommended vaccines, however, contagious diseases can spread, uncontrolled, causing illness and death that would have otherwise been prevented.

Additional reliable medical information about vaccines can be found on websites such as vaccines.gov and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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childhood diseases, measles, mumps

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How you can avoid the outbreak of childhood diseases, and what to do if you develop one

As if the flu and Ebola weren’t enough to worry about, now we’re hearing increasing stories of outbreaks of childhood diseases among adults. Angelina Jolie misses the premier of her new film due to a case of chickenpox. NHL hockey players sit out games because they’re coming down with the mumps, along with approximately 1,100 other Americans in 2014. In California, there’s an outbreak of whooping cough, among kids and adults. There’s also a multi-state outbreak of measles, 102 cases in January alone, most linked to Disneyland. Most of the measles cases were among people who were not vaccinated. (Measles cases in 2014 were triple the number from the previous year.)

Even adults who were vaccinated against these diseases as kids are contracting them at record rates. So, what’s happening and why are adults becoming victim to diseases we thought only children could catch?

Waning immunity
People old enough to remember the days before vaccines for mumps, measles and chickenpox probably contracted these diseases when they were young, so they have natural immunity and will be unlikely to succumb to the maladies. But adults who were vaccinated as young children, and therefore didn’t contract the diseases, may become vulnerable again because immunity can fade over time.

If you are concerned that your immunity may be wearing off, ask your doctor about a blood test that checks for antibodies to see if you are still immune. This is especially important for people with chronic medical conditions or who do a lot of foreign travel. And be sure you are up to date on vaccinations the CDC recommends for adults: a booster shot every 10 years for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, and an annual flu shot.

Lower vaccination rates for children
The best defense against childhood diseases is to have your children vaccinated. In some parts of the country, skepticism regarding the safety of vaccines has resulted in fewer children being vaccinated for chickenpox, measles, mumps and whooping cough. Among parents of kindergarten children in California, “personal belief exemptions” rose from 1.56 percent in 2007-08 up to 2.79 percent in 2012-13. With fewer children being vaccinated against these diseases, they are much more likely to spread from one person to another.

Childhood diseases that are affecting adults
Causes fatigue, irritability, itchy rash that progresses to raised red bumps and then blisters. Adults who get chicken pox are more likely to contract pneumonia, hepatitis or encephalitis. This virus can also resurface years later as shingles.

Treatment: Bed rest, lots of fluids, a fever-reducer and an antihistamine to relieve itching. Calamine lotion or an oatmeal bath may also relieve symptoms.

Whooping Cough
Causes violent coughing accompanied by a “whooping” sound, nasal discharge, fever, sore and watery eyes. Lips, tongue and nail beds may turn blue during coughing spells. It can last up to 10 weeks and can lead to pneumonia and other complications.

Treatment: Antibiotics, keeping warm, plenty of fluids and reducing stimuli that provoke coughing.

Causes a rash, fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis, cough, swollen lymph nodes and headache. It can have serious complications in adults and can be fatal for children and adults with compromised immune systems. Complications include ear infection, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea and encephalitis.

Treatment: Plenty of fluids, fever reducer and antibiotics if a secondary infection develops.

Causes discomfort and swelling of salivary glands in front of neck, difficulty chewing, fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. In males it can cause pain and tenderness of testicles, and, on rare occasions, sterility.

Treatment: Bed rest and analgesics (acetaminophen, ibuprofen) for fever and pain and applying cold packs to the swollen and inflamed salivary gland region may reduce symptoms and pain.

Fifth Disease
Causes cold-like symptoms and bright red rash that spreads from the cheeks to trunk, arms and legs. There may also be fever, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. It can be associated with persistent fevers and arthritis in adults.

Treatment: Plenty of fluids,­­­ fever reducer and antihistamine for itching.

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