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November is National Family Caregivers Month

It’s said that some jobs are less of a career than a calling.

If true, at the top of that list has to be the caregiver – a person whose wide-ranging responsibilities can be boiled down to dedicating oneself to meet the needs of another person. Being a caregiver means much more than meeting the physical, mental and sometimes medical needs of someone. There is also the incalculable emotional investment and support the caregiver provides.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a celebration and recognition that was deservingly expanded from National Family Caregivers Week by an annual presidential proclamation since at least 2000. According to a 2015 study compiled by the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, adults of all ages and ethnicities are among the ranks of family caregivers, with almost half of those being adult children caring for their parents and 1 in 5 being the caregiver of a spouse.

Although the mere act of caregiving can be a rewarding experience of selflessness and sacrifice, it can also be an extremely stressful and emotionally depleting experience. The challenges family caregivers face can often be accompanied by feelings of depression or isolation, being overwhelmed and helplessness and many family caregivers feel they have no one to turn to in order to express what they’re experiencing.

All of those issues can lead to more critical health concerns for an individual caring for another person, which begs the question: Who is caring for the caregiver? The Mayo Clinic has compiled the following strategies to help caregivers manage the stress of their service:

  • Accept help.Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do depending on that individual’s schedule.
  • Focus on what you can provide.Understand that no one is a perfect caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.
  • Set realistic goals. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. Begin to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
  • Get connected.Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery, or housekeeping may be available.
  • Join a support group. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
  • Seek social support.Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support.
  • Set personal health goals.Set goals to establish a good sleep routine, find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.

If stress continues, seek advice from a doctor and mention the concerns and symptoms you have. Great Lakes Bay Health Centers provides physician services and support across the Great Lakes Bay Region and can connect you with the medical care you need for any situation. Visit greatlakesbayhealthcenters.org for more information.

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Steps you can take to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes – about 1 in 10 – and 90% to 95% of them have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over the age of 45, but more and more children, teens and young adults are also developing it, according to the CDC.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about diabetes risk factors and encourage people to make healthy changes.

Type 2, or adult-onset diabetes, is a lifelong disease that prevents a person’s body from using insulin the right way. People with type 2 diabetes are said to have insulin resistance.

One of the points Diabetes Awareness Month emphasizes is how to avoid contracting type 2 diabetes in the first place. Certain factors make getting the disease more likely, such as:

  • Age: People 45 and older are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Family: If you have a parent or sibling with diabetes, you are more likely to get diabetes.
  • Ethnicity: The disease is more prevalent in African Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic or Latinos, and Pacific Islander Americans.

Some conditions that could lead to type 2 diabetes are related to your health and medical history. Your doctor may be able to help if you have:

  • Prediabetes (an elevated blood sugar not high enough to be diabetes)
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Low HDL cholesterol (known as “good” cholesterol)
  • High triglycerides
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a baby that weighed more than nine pounds
  • Having gestational diabetes while you were pregnant

Lifestyle habits also raise your risk of diabetes, and these are elements that you can do something about it. That includes getting little or no exercise, smoking, being under stress or sleeping too little or too much.

If you believe your lifestyle might be putting you on the track to develop type 2 diabetes, be proactive. Simple changes can make a big difference, according to WebMD.

  • Lose weight. Dropping just 7% to 10% of your weight can cut your risk of type 2 diabetes in half.
  • Get active. Moving muscles use insulin. Taking a brisk, 30-minute walk every day will cut your risk by a third.
  • Eat right. Avoid processed carbs, sugary soft drinks, and fats, and limit red and processed meats.
  • Quit smoking.

For more information on both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, visit the Michigan chapter of the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org/community/local-offices/michigan.

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Achy Muscles? Take Steps to Treat the Pain, Prevent Future Aches

Sore muscles are a given for anyone who gets involved in physical activity.

People who are just beginning a workout plan and those who have been exercising for years can feel the burn equally, due to delayed onset muscle soreness. It’s not a bad thing; it simply means your muscles are getting stronger.

After participating in some kind of strenuous physical activity, particularly something new to your body, it is common to experience muscle soreness, say experts.

“Muscles go through quite a bit of physical stress when we exercise,” said Rick Sharp, professor of exercise physiology at Iowa State University in Ames. “Mild soreness is just a natural outcome of any kind of physical activity. And they’re most prevalent in beginning stages of a program.”

Delayed onset muscle soreness is not the burn you might feel while exercising or running. That’s called acute muscle soreness. Delayed soreness can be felt the day after a workout, and stems from microscopic tears in muscle fibers and connective tissues. The ache usually happens when you are just beginning an exercise plan or if you step up the intensity of a workout.

You have options to help ease muscle pain. There are many good options out there to consider like stretching, upping your water intake and a warm Epsom salt bath. But, when these trusted methods just don’t do the trick, consider branched-chain amino acids.

According to Healthline, there are around 20 different amino acids that make up the different proteins in a human body and about nine of those are considered to be essential amino acids, meaning they cannot be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet. And only three of those nine essential amino acids are the BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine.

An all-natural way to obtain these BCAAs that aid in muscle recovery are protein-rich foods like eggs, dairy products and lean meats. BCAAs may lead to decrease muscle soreness by helping to reduce the damage caused by exercising muscles. Healthline noted a 2017 study that found that milk protein supplementation could help with muscle soreness and strength in exercise-induced muscle trauma.

Milk protein concentrate is a concentrated milk product that contains 40 – 90% milk protein. It’s used in protein-fortified foods and beverages, but can also be bought in powdered form at health food retailers.

Also consider applying heat immediately after exercising can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, according to Healthline. One 2013 study found that while both dry and moist heat helped with pain, moist heat was shown to offer even more pain reduction.

Excellent ways to enjoy moist heat therapy after exercise include:

  • Warm damp towels
  • Wet heating packs
  • A warm bath

After you heat things up, you should turn to cold muscle therapy, which is said to relieve pain in the muscles and joints by reducing swelling and nerve activity.

The best methods of cold therapy include applying an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables (frozen peas can adapt to curved body parts easily) but soaking in a cold bath could be more helpful. Just remember to never apply ice directly on the skin.

Another way to treat sore muscles is by massage. If you don’t want to pay for a massage, try foam rolling. Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release which is a technical term for releasing muscle tightness with self-massage. Research has found that foam rolling can relieve delayed onset muscle soreness, according to Healthline. It may also help with muscle fatigue and flexibility.

To foam roll, you place the roller (which can be purchased in sporting goods sections of stores) on the floor underneath the sore muscle and slowly roll your body over it. You can search online for videos on how to foam roll for different muscle groups.

Whatever you do, don’t stop exercising because you have muscle soreness. Muscle soreness is a natural process that helps your body get used to the exercise. Once you induce this soreness, it won’t happen again unless you increase the intensity. If the pain is severe, exercise at a lower intensity or switch to another muscle group for a day or two.

Prepare your body for exercise by getting in an adequate warm-up and cool down every time. Learn proper form and stick to a routine that gradually increases in intensity and duration to lessen soreness and reduce your risk of injury.

Moderate doses of caffeine may cut your post-workout pain down by almost 50%, so go ahead and have a cup of coffee before your workout. Just remember to hydrate with water afterward. Staying hydrated can also help reduce muscle soreness.

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Exercise Does Wonders for Your Body, Brain and Bedtime

It has become a mantra. Exercise is good for you. Exercise helps prevent … well, a lot of health issues. We should get 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Too often we put fitness at the very end of our to-do list. It’s not fun. It makes you sweat. It aches the next day. It doesn’t fit into your schedule.

“Typically, it’s lack of motivation, lack of enjoyment, negative associations, fear or maybe low self-esteem,” according to Lavinia Rodriguez, a clinical psychologist and author of Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management.

But what more motivation can you ask for when it is a proven fact that exercise will help you maintain good health, prevent chronic diseases, extend your time on this good earth and bolster your sex life?

Here are a few examples:

Healthier heart: Exercise does wonders for our tickers. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By fitting in physical activity, we can cut down on our LDL cholesterol, the kind that clogs arteries; lowers blood pressure; improves heart muscles function; boosts our blood flow to help prevent developing blood clots.

Weight control: Michiganders have been packing on pounds, and it is not at all healthy. The Great Lakes State has the 19th highest adult obesity rate in the nation and the 12th highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17, according to the State of Obesity. Michigan’s adult obesity rate is currently 33%, a significant jump from 1990’s rate of 13.2%. This is where the 30-minutes-a-day concept comes into play.

Chill out: Physical activity plays a huge role in reducing stress and depression. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being, according to the Mayo Clinic. It also reduces stress by taking your mind off worries and negative thoughts. There are even indications that exercise can prevent recurrence of depression.

Forever young: Exercise has benefits for all ages, but it has additional bennies for older folk. It lowers the chance of dementia, according to American Senior Communities, as well as preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart disease and osteoporosis. Regular physical activity also promotes faster healing, improves balance, stability, and regular, moderate exercise can help a senior maintain his or her independence if it is done on a long-term basis.

Better in bed: Getting fit and staying fit has a positive impact on one’s sex life. According to Health 24, you benefit psychologically because you feel better about yourself and are more inclined toward sex. Being fit improves libido, blood circulation and sexual functioning.

Sleep: Getting your physical workout in the morning gives you an improved chance of getting a quality night’s sleep. Those endorphins mentioned earlier give you a sense of well-being and contentment that can help you sleep better.

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Good Oral Health is Like a Smile for Your Body

Studies have demonstrated how a smile can have a positive outward psychological effect on those around you. However, maintaining good oral health is like an inward smile for your body that can have positive medical benefits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Oral health refers to the health of the teeth, gums and the entire oral-facial system that allows us to smile, speak and chew. Some of the most common diseases that impact our oral health include tooth decay (cavities), gum (periodontal) disease and oral cancer. Oral conditions are frequently considered separate from other chronic conditions, but these are actually interrelated.”

Issues that begin in the mouth can affect the rest of your body, and your overall oral health can provide clues to your overall general health. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, other diseases and conditions that could contribute to poor oral health include:

  • Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves, typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease has been suggested as being linked to oral health. Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

Conversely, the Mayo Clinic indicated that certain medical conditions might also affect your oral health, such as:

  • Diabetes: By reducing the body’s resistance to infection, diabetes puts your gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes.
  • Blood sugar: Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
  • HIV/AIDS: Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Osteoporosis: This bone-weakening disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
  • Others: Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers and an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth.

Protecting your oral health comes down to a matter of practicing good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush using fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, use mouthwash to remove any remaining food particles and eat a healthy diet. You may also want to limit foods with added sugars, avoid tobacco use and schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.

It’s important to contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. In addition, tell your dentist about the medications you take and about changes in your overall health, especially if you’ve recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

“Seeing a dentist regularly helps to keep your mouth in top shape and allows your dentist to watch for developments that may point to other health issues,” Delta Dental states on its website. “A dental exam can also detect poor nutrition and hygiene, growth and development problems and improper jaw alignment. Provide your dentist with a complete medical history and inform him or her of any recent health developments, even if they seem unrelated to your oral health.”

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