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Archive for the ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ Category

Self-care: What is it and how do you do it?

By American Heart Association News

Self-care is more important to your overall health than pretty much anything else, and the term is catching fire. But what does it really mean?

A new scientific statement issued Thursday by the American Heart Association outlines the importance of self-care in the prevention and management of heart disease and stroke. After all, self-care contributes 40 percent to a patient’s health, followed by social circumstances and environment accounting for 20 percent, and inadequate medical care accounting for only about 10 percent, according to the report published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

This reality highlights the critical need for healthcare providers to tell patients how to take care of themselves and for patients to follow through on tending to their own well-being.

What is self-care?

Self-care is the process heart disease and stroke patients adopt to maintain, monitor and manage their medical conditions. Self-care is also vital for preventing cardiovascular diseases.

It encompasses the basics of having a healthy lifestyle, but also includes more practical things such as adhering to a drug regimen and paying attention to new or worsening symptoms.

Where did the idea of self-care originate?

The concept is as old as time. Before the advent of modern medicine, people only had themselves and their communities to alleviate sickness.

However, during the 1960s and 1970s social changes spurred people to take a more active role in their health, said Barbara Riegel, Ph.D., R.N., a professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. Self-care has become a more integral treatment component as evidence of its effectiveness has mounted.

“There is really strong outcomes data on the effects of self-care, but I don’t think we put as much energy into it as we should,” said Riegel, lead author of the new statement.

Why is it especially important now?

The world’s population is getting older and heavier, and age and weight are major risks for chronic conditions, particularly heart disease and stroke.

By 2050, the global population of those 60 and older will more than double, from 841 million in 2013 to more than 2 billion in 2050, according to a United Nations report. Meanwhile, a recent New England Journal of Medicine study found that 17 percent of the world’s population — nearly 108 million children and 604 million adults — is obese.

The sicker population will further burden the health care system, increasing the need for cost-effective treatments. It’s much less expensive for patients to adopt an exercise program than to wind up in the hospital having a heart attack — and better for them too.

How do self-care and medical care intersect?

They are complementary.

Patients still need to visit their health care providers to ensure their conditions are properly diagnosed and monitored. Doctors or other medical professionals will develop a treatment plan that likely combines elements of traditional medicine such as prescription drugs with self-care measures.

What are the obstacles to self-care?

Not all doctors take time to discuss the importance of self-care and particular strategies with their patients, said Gina Lundberg, M.D., clinical director of the Emory Women’s Heart Center in Atlanta.

She said that sometimes patients won’t heed doctors’ advice even after being presented with the bleak scenarios that are likely to stem from the failure to take medication or follow recommendations to make lifestyle changes such as losing weight.

“Lifestyle is so important that noncompliance here may cause the greatest harm,” said Lundberg.

Another problem is that conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol don’t have physical manifestations, making it easier for patients to justify ignoring advice.

And adopting healthy changes like eating a more balanced diet doesn’t immediately show results. It’s easy to get frustrated and resort to old eating habits when the scale doesn’t budge after weeks of forgoing ice cream.

Modifying behavior can be a tougher road if patients lack family and community support. Riegel recalled an instance when a family’s primary cook balked at adapting recipes or preparing special meals to accommodate the patient.

“You want family participation and positive reinforcement,” said Riegel.

There are also environmental barriers to improving health that are beyond the control of patients, their families and doctors. Some neighborhoods lack safe places to exercise or stores that sell healthy, affordable food. Restaurant portions can be enormous.

“Health is a shared responsibility,” said Riegel. “Communities need to put in sidewalks. The media needs to get the word out about health. No one can do this alone.”

Ovarian Cancer: The Silent Killer

Ovarian cancer is often dubbed “The Silent Killer” because it typically goes undetected until it has progressed into later stages. Sadly, only 19% of ovarian cancers are detected in the early stages according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. The signs and symptoms of this silent killer are often described as being vague and therefore dismissed as a mild discomfort or an annoying illness. As a result, this cancer is typically detected by healthcare providers in the later stages when women are usually experiencing more severe symptoms and the condition is dire.

While the symptoms of ovarian cancer may be vague, it is important to know what they are. More importantly, it is important to note that the persistent occurrence of these symptoms is more of a key indicator of the condition. As a general rule, if a woman experiences some of the following symptoms for more than 2 weeks, she should contact her healthcare provider:

  • Bloating, upset stomach or heartburn
  • Pelvic/abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Menstrual changes, frequent urination or constipation
  • Pain during sex

While family genetics does play a role in ovarian cancer, only 5-10% of ovarian cancers have a genetic link. Therefore, all women should be aware of the symptoms and have an annual pelvic exam as part of their personal healthcare plan. Ovarian Cancer is detected after a woman experiences the above symptoms on a persistent basis and a healthcare provider begins to notice a change in the size of the ovary through a rectovaginal pelvic exam. If ovarian change is suspected, a transvaginal sonogram or a blood test called a CA-125 may be ordered. However, it is important to note that the “Pap Test” does not detect ovarian cancer. Pap tests detect the early stages of cervical cancer.

For over 40 years, Lebanon Family Health has been helping women to take control over their personal healthcare with affordable access to annual pelvic exams and pap test screenings.   We offer free and low cost services based on income and accept some insurance plans. Making an annual well-woman exam is something all women can do to take control of her personal health. Call 273-6741 to schedule an appointment or visit our web site at

Families who eat dinner together are doing more than feeding their bodies

By Youth Advocate Programs

Families who eat dinner together are doing more than feeding their bodies. Parents who take the time to plan and prepare family dinners regularly promote love and bonding and contribute to a lifetime of good emotional and physical health for their children. Children who eat dinner regularly with their families enjoy:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancyLower
  • Lower risk of depressionLower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity (

Family dinners naturally bring families together with an immediate reward for hungry children-dinner! With busy lives and hectic schedules, family dinners require planning, coordination, and commitment. Here are some steps to help you pull off routine family bonding around the table.

  1. Involve your Kids-Allow your kids to contribute to the planning of the menu to ensure meals they will eat. This provides a great opportunity to help your children learn to plan. Prepare a shopping list and take your kids to the grocery store. Allowing your kids to help prepare dinner is fun, provides time for bonding, teaches life skills, and give children something to be proud of.
  2. Be positive-If your family is not accustomed to family meals, they might resist at first. Be positive and resist nagging. Instead, tell your children you love them and you want to spend this time together. During dinner, tell your family about your day and ask about theirs. Offer praise and resist criticism.
  3. Plan-Schedule dinners for days and times that work. Get agreement from family members to attend dinner. Be realistic as well. Your family may not be able to share dinner 7 nights a week. Shoot for 3-5 nights per week. Make sure to let them know what’s on the menu.
  4. Unplug-Shut off the TV and don’t allow electronics at the table. Be sure to model the desired behavior through your own actions.

Making mealtime a priority, and keeping it positive will have a lifelong impact on your children and offer routine opportunities for your family to come together and enjoy each other.

Can Mindfulness and Gratitude Really Lower Stress?

By Nicole Maurer, MPH
Written for the Table Magazine in Lebanon – [Link]

The world of wellness is a trendy place. Ideas, and the products that come with them, come and go like the changing seasons. People are always looking for the next big thing. My guess is that you’ve noticed the latest trends in wellness – mindfulness and gratitude. Countless self-help books, television personalities, research scientists and even coloring books seem devoted to the practices of mindfulness and/or gratitude to improve personal health and wellbeing.

Does it work? Is it worth your time? Or is it just another trend, like the Thighmaster or aerial yoga?  Let’s start with the basics…

What the heck is mindfulness anyway?

If mindfulness seems a lot like meditation it’s because it is, except when it’s not. There are subtle differences. There are many different types of meditation and “mindful meditation” is one of them.  In laymen’s terms, meditation is being able to “quiet your mind” or learn to focus on a single object of attention, like your breath or a mantra.

On the other hand, mindfulness is not always meditation. One of the best ways I’ve heard mindfulness be explained is that it’s not a time to “zone out” but rather a time to purposefully pay attention to your surroundings. This might include your emotions, thoughts, and how your body feels. Practitioners often describe trying to focus only on things happening in the present moment, not to think or worry about the future or the past. Mindfulness often includes paying attention to your breathing, but also stresses single-tasking or giving something your full attention. In a world filled with distractions, stressors and schedules this is not something most of us do often.

What about gratitude why would we need to “practice” it?

You may ask yourself, “do I really need to practice being grateful”? I agree, it does sound ridiculous. We shouldn’t have to teach people to be more thankful or appreciative in their daily lives. Except we do. When was the last time you received a compliment, or told someone else how helpful they were? Studies show that people who express more gratitude are happier, have stronger feelings of social support, and feel less stressed and depressed. It’s pretty simple, and much easier than learning mindful meditation. Thank people more often. Don’t just think it, express it – in writing, in person, on social media, wherever. There’s even an app for that (or twelve).

Does it really work?

Despite mindfulness and gratitude feeling trendy right now, it was great Roman orator, Cicero, who that said “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” And research agrees with him. In the past thirty years, countless studies have been done on the effects of mindfulness and gratitude on physical well-being. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is being used to treat chronic pain, stress, irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety. Gratitude studies show positive results in many similar areas of study including depression and immunity.

How does it work?

In one study, MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” center, the amygdala, appears to shrink. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress (Taren et al, 2013).

We know that chronic stress, and more importantly the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline can wreak havoc on your body. Specifically, continued overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — will increase your risk of health problems, including anxiety, digestive disorders, heart disease, obesity, memory impairment and sleep issues. So therefore any therapy that lowers your stress has the ability to decrease stress related health problems.

I believe you, so what now?

The upcoming holiday season often has a dual purpose in our lives. It’s a time of reflection and giving but can also be a time of stress, crazy over scheduling, and multitasking. Perhaps we can devote a little more time to ourselves and test out some of these trendy stress busters. Like any good trend there are plenty of books, websites and apps available to help you get started.


Taren AA, Creswell JD, Gianaros PJ (2013) Dispositional Mindfulness Co-Varies with Smaller Amygdala and Caudate Volumes in Community Adults. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64574. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064574

Get Outside: Free Family Fun

By Nicole Maurer, MPH
Written for the Table Magazine in Lebanon – [Link]

Summer is here. The kids are out of school, and you’ve got the whole summer ahead of you! Now what? Did you know that June is Great Outdoors Month? Well, Lebanon County has a host of great outdoor destinations and we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites for every age group. All of these are free and local. Now, GET OUTSIDE!

If you have toddlers:

Dinosaur Rock

Many of our readers probably grew up going to dinosaur rock. But when was the last time you were there?  It’s still so cool! It still looks like a dinosaur, and kids are sure to get excited every time they go.  The best part? The hardest part of this hike is getting the whole family across the road from the parking lot, so it’s perfect for kids with a low tolerance for hiking and nature. In case you didn’t know, the rock itself is an erosional remnant of an igneous rock called diabase left over from the Jurassic period (199.6 to 145.5 million years ago!).

Side note: There is a LOT of graffiti. That’s why you should take your little kids – too young to read and too little to do any dangerous climbing!

How to get there: Dinosaur Rock is located in southern Lebanon County, along Mt Wilson Road, just north of where it crosses the Turnpike. Park at the State Gamelands 145 parking area, which is on the east side of Mt Wilson road and 0.7 miles south of Mt. Gretna Road in Colebrook. From the parking lot, cross Mt Wilson Road to the trail to Dinosaur Rock. Follow the trail about 500 feet to the rocks.

Cleona Community Park

Cleona Community Park may be the best kept secret in Lebanon County. It’s got everything… a place to picnic, ball fields, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts; a 9-hole miniature golf course, great access to the Quitty creek, and a variety of playground equipment for all ages. You may literally have to drag your kids out of there. Remember to take a sports ball, golf club and ball, snacks and a change of shoes (just in case they slip into the creek). You could easily spend the entire day there. The park sometimes shows movies, and they have a great Fall Festival.

How to get there: The park is right behind the Cleona Elementary School (at 50 East Walnut Street in Cleona).

If you have kids in Elementary School:

Governor Dick

Here is another example of a destination most of us have visited, but probably not for a long time. Climbing the tower never seems to lose its allure, and for school aged kids it provides just the right difficulty level and sense of adventure they need. The hike up to the tower is about 1.5 miles.  It’s mostly wide and relatively smooth but not very stroller friendly. All told, the park offers 14 miles of hiking trails, many of which also allow mountain biking. The tower is only 66 feet high but still provides an expansive view. On a clear day you can see five counties: Lebanon, Lancaster, Dauphin, Berks, and York.

How to get there: In the town of Mt Gretna turn South onto Pinch Rd. The Center is 1 mile up on the left. Park at the lovely Nature Center and follow the signs to the tower.

Memorial Lake

Memorial Lake is surrounded by Fort Indiantown Gap and like many of these spots, has a little something for everyone. It’s 230 acres of lake, jogging paths, playgrounds, picnic areas and a one-mile exercise course. Take your fishing gear, bikes and a packed lunch. You could also take your own paddle boat or rent canoes for a small fee.

How to get there: From I-81 take Exit 85. Turn north onto Fisher Avenue and follow signs to the park.

If you have teens:

Eagle Rock

The hike up to the Eagle Rock lookout utilizes the Horseshoe Trail (yellow blazes) and goes through the Camp Mack Scout Reservation. You can get to the Eagle Rock Lookout from 322 or from The Pretzel Hut on Route 501. It’s a moderate hike up to the lookout and quite rocky.  This is a great for hike for teens who like a challenge and a clear end point. The 1000+ acre Camp Mack is open to the public for mountain biking, hiking, trail running and other non-scouting activities provided the Camp closure dates/map restrictions are observed and respected. Trail maps and closure dates can be found at

How to get there:  From 322… Head East on 322 for 5.5 miles and park in the large parking lot on the left hand side at Pumping Station Road. You must follow 322 across the creek to access the trailhead. From The Pretzel Hut (at 2224 Furnace Hills Pike), located just north of the intersection of Routes 501 and 322… Park at the restaurant and locate the petting zoo just behind it. There you’ll find the yellow blazes that distinguish the Horseshoe trail and head up to the lookout.

Shower Steps

If you like to be “off the beaten path” you’ll love this hike. Lloyd C. Showers of Bethel led the project of building a side trail leading up to the Appalachian Trail from 501 in Bethel. Under his guidance, and with labor he recruited, huge boulders were moved to form steps up a steep slope to the summit and to an outstanding view.  This is an advanced hike, but not very long. It can be combined with some nice Appalachian Trail hiking at the top.

How to get there: Head North on Rt 501 from the Bethel exit on Rt 78.  Proceed North for 2.5 miles. The trail is on the right and it’s blue blazes can be seen from the road. Parking is not great on 501, so you may need to find a pull out farther to the North and backtrack to the trail.


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