What the CDC Says About Zika

Zika virus disease (Zika) spreads to people mainly through the bite by two species of infected mosquitoes, one of which is more likely to transmit Zika. In past outbreaks, most people have not gotten sick, so people may not even know they are infected. Based on current knowledge, the greatest risk for complications from Zika is to a pregnant woman’s fetus. If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, she can pass the virus to her fetus. Zika has been linked to cases of microcephaly, a serious birth defect, and is a sign that the baby is born with a smaller brain, which can result in medical problems and impaired development. Researchers are working to understand more about how Zika affects pregnant women and fetuses.

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Why Positive Thinking Is Bad for You: Overcoming Optimism

Did you read The Secret? If you did you're not alone. This self-help phenomenon by Rhonda Byrne sold over 19 million copies since it's debut in 2006 and it's foundation rested upon the theory that if you want something you should project it into the universe and have a little mini celebration as if you've already achieved it; in essence prepping yourself for the success you're bound to have. The secret you may not know about The Secret? It doesn't work - in fact, positive fantasies about achieving something you want are linked to decreased odds that you will in fact achieve your goal. 

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The Search For Stong

Somewhere towards the tail end of 2014 I found myself reflecting on how far I had come academically and professionally, I had my first "real" job with benefits, I'd completed a master's degree, and was living in San Francisco with a group of good friends, but in spite of all of that, I felt like crap.... both mentally and physically. I had put in a tremendous amount of work while in grad school, and despite studying public health I really didn't take care of my own health. I rarely got to the gym , I ate sporadically and not very well (think wine and popcorn for dinner), and I didn't take care of my mental health. I was working in homicide and violent crime research, and when I felt overwhelmed I opted to watch an episode of Big Bang Theory, rather than actually address the problem. After 2.5 years of this I was left with bad habits, and all of the knowledge I needed to overcome them.

 So I set to work. I was fortunate in that years of studying health had armed me with the information I needed to change my habits and make better decisions. I started with shifting to a new "diet" I gathered aspects of the Paleo Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, and the Plant Based Diet to put together a new way of eating that worked for me. (I'll write a new post about how to do this on your own, soon I promise!) I'm now lucky to have a partner who is supportive of me and enjoys eating well, which makes a huge difference in my ability to succeed.

Additionally I hired a personal trainer, and over the course of a year he kicked by booty into shape. I've since modified some of the exercises to add on fewer reps with heavier weights and I'm loving the progress I'm making now because I feel so strong. And that's what this blog is all about! I'm a daily work in progress, but every time I reflect back I see myself as stronger both mentally and physically than where I was before.  

Keep in mind, strength takes training, it's an action not a goal. Here are some tips to get you started on your path to being a strong woman in every aspect of the word. 

  1. Forgive yourself for slipping, but hold yourself accountable. It's ok to have an off day, but make an effort to do better. Treat yourself with the same respect and discipline you have for other people who you love, and keep on moving forward.
  2.  Practice using your body every day. Go for a run, lift some weights, prove to yourself how strong you really are!
  3. Treat your body like it's your only one. Our bodies are resilient, but not unbreakable, if you want to love your body treat it like you love it and give it what it needs! This means a healthy diet, lots of water, and stay away from processed "food."
  4. Practice mental health. This doesn't mean you have to be a Yogi, or go see your therapist, but feed your brain; read a book about something you enjoy, watch a documentary, or go to a museum. New ideas, meditation, and reflection are all healthy ways to keep yourself feeling inspired. 

If all else fails scour the internet for some good quotes. I love this one by Melissa Stockwell:

“Getting back into competitive shape after having my baby wasn’t easy, and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. My post-baby body makes me feel both beautiful and strong. Sometimes I’m out running with my dog and my son in the jogging stroller, and I get double and triple takes as I run by with my prosthetic leg. Once someone yelled out the window that I was a ‘badass mom,’ and it stuck with me. The biggest compliment is when someone says I look like an athlete and that I look strong. To me, strong is beautiful.”Shape, August 2016

What do you do to stay strong? Was there one thing that made it more doable for you? Share your feedback in the comments section below!

 

 

The Epidemic of Overdose

Since the year 2000, over 300,000 Americans have died as a result of a drug overdose. In 2015 alone, over 50,000 deaths were attributed to overdose, and nearly two thirds of those were the result of prescription or illicit opiates. The CDC’s latest national analyses indicate that the increase in opioid overdose death rates is driven in large part by illicit opioids, like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. While opium has been around for centuries, the problem we face today seems to stem from the aggressive marketing of opiates as safe pain-killers in the 1990’s. The pharmaceutical industry specifically targeted prescribers, noting that OxyContin was an ideal drug for pain management, as seen in this blatantly misinformed advertisement made by Purdue. According to a journal article from the American Journal of Public Health “From 1996 to 2001, Purdue conducted more than 40 national pain-management and speaker-training conferences at resorts in Florida, Arizona, and California. More than 5000 physicians, pharmacists, and nurses attended these all-expenses-paid symposia, where they were recruited and trained for Purdue's national speaker bureau. It is well documented that this type of pharmaceutical company symposium influences physicians’ prescribing, even though the physicians who attend such symposia believe that such enticements do not alter their prescribing patterns.”

What was once an isolated problem, in parts of New Mexico and the Appalachian region covering parts of Kentucky and West Virginia, is now reaching epidemic levels across the country. In an exposé by the Guardian, Nadja Popovich writes: “In central Appalachia, as in many parts of the country, the prescription painkiller epidemic also fuelled the influx of a cheap, alternative opioid: heroin. As painkiller-related deaths began to fall in the early 2010s following federal and state crackdowns on prescription opioids, heroin-related deaths began to rise. In all, West Virginia's overdose death rate rose nearly eightfold between 1999 and 2014, from four deaths per 100,000 residents to more than 35 – double the national average. During the same period, Kentucky experienced a fivefold increase in its own rate of overdose deaths.”

This map from the CDC shows the drastic change from 1999 to 2014. (SOURCE)

More recently, the drug Fentanyl, a synthetic that is 50 times as potent as Heroin, is causing devastation across the NorthEast. The drug, often prescribed to cancer patients can be abused by addicts who suck on patches that were intended to be worn on the dermis.

While this problem is arguably as devastating as any other drug crises in recent memory, it is being defined by society in an entirely different way, in large part due to the population affected.  As Katherine Seelye notes in an article in the New York Times: “When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.”  This data visualization tool from the CDC shows the ways in which different demographics have been impacted. Many of the families of young overdose victims are middle class and well connected, and they are using their influence to change the dialogue about drugs in America.

While politicians are often slow to adapt, a CDC press release notes that “the Obama Administration has undertaken a series of initiatives to address the opioid crisis. On December 13, 2016, the President signed the 21st Century Cures Act, which implements his Budget proposal to provide $1 billion in new funding to combat the opioid crisis. In addition, HHS has made addressing the opioid overdose epidemic a high priority, implementing an evidence-based initiative in 2015, focused on three priority areas: informing opioid prescribing practices, increasing the use of naloxone, and expanding Medication-Assisted Treatment.  HHS continues to coordinate with agencies across the Department to ensure effective implementation of the initiative’s programs and policies, improve prescribing practices, reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery.”

For more information about the opioid problem, see links below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pdPrQFjo2o

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNOHAJs9dBY

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2622774/

Sources for this post include:

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p1216-continuing-opioid-epidemic.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/ng-interactive/2016/may/25/opioid-epidemic-overdose-deaths-map

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/heroin-war-on-drugs-parents.html?_r=1

Turmeric: The Super Spice

In the health world, Turmeric has been a buzzword for a few years now, but this little plant (a cousin of ginger) has been lauded for it's healing properties for thousands of years. When it's plucked from the earth the root looks a bit like a carrot, a bit like a ginger, and has a bright golden yellow color. In addition to being a popular addition to many dishes and drinks, Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties due to it's high concentration of curcumin.

The Science

Turmeric has been studied extensively for it's anti-inflammatory properties, but studies have also looked into it's benefits for pain management, as an antioxidant, for it’s ability to reduce cancer risk, and for it’s management of cholesterol and triglycerides. 

While it serves a purpose in maintaining homeostasis, when it is not properly controlled the inflammation response is a precursor to many health issues, including acne, IBS, and cardiovascular disease. When our bodies incur an injury or irritation it triggers an inflammation response, which increases blood-flow, sending healing cells to the area of an acute problem. This is how we heal, and it’s an important part of how our bodies work. Unfortunately the world we live in and the diets we consume are so full of toxins that our bodies are constantly suffering from varying levels of inflammation, which can damage our tissues. 

Rather than introduce additional chemicals to our bodies, using turmeric can treat inflammation and its associated pain. The pharmacological agent in turmeric, called curcumin, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, and many sound scientific studies show that it is effective in reducing inflammation and pain, especially for osteoarthritis and chronic joint pain. 

Turmeric has also been found to reduce inflammation in the gut and reduce symptoms of IBS. 

When consuming Turmeric for its medicinal properties you’re in luck, this root is often used in cooking purely for its flavor so there are many recipes to choose from for your fix. If the spice doesn’t appeal to you or you would like to avoid the yellow fingers, you can also take turmeric in pill form, available at most health food stores. 

The Food

My favorite way to enjoy turmeric is in a latte, like this one from Pure Wow, if you’re feeling lazy you can also buy the turmeric tea bags and just brew up a cup with some honey. 

There are also lots of recipes for enjoying turmeric in your cooking, try some of these tasty ones! (Don’t be afraid to add more Turmeric!)

Honey Turmeric Chicken from Rasa Malaysia

Anti-Inflammatory Broccoli, Ginger and Turmeric Soup from Sweet Peas and Saffron

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower from Reluctant Entertainer
 
The Face

This facemask is going to rock your world. If you suffer from acne (like I do) or you just want to brighten up your complexion try mixing the following ingredients in a small cup:
○    1 tsp Turmeric Powder
○    1 tsp Honey
○    1 tsp Coconut Oil
○    1 Squeeze of Lemon
Warm in the microwave for 15 seconds and smooth on your face. Leave on for 15 minutes and then rinse with warm water. The mix of the anti-inflammation from the Turmeric, the anti-microbial from the coconut oil and honey, and the sebum reduction from the lemon will leave you feeling frsh and pretty. 

 If you try any of these recipes, or want to learn more about turmeric, leave me a note in comments below!