Category Archives: Parish Nurse

Aging Well

“Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”  (Isaiah 46:3-4)

Everyone knows that as we age, our minds and bodies decline, and life inevitably becomes less satisfying and enjoyable. Everyone knows that cognitive (mental ability) decline is inevitable. Everyone knows that as we get old, we become less productive … well, everyone, it seems is wrong! A growing body of scientific research shows that, in my ways, life gets better as we get older… <!–split–>

A Wall Street Journal report notes, “contrary to the stereotype of later life as a time of loneliness, depression, and decline, a growing body of evidence indicates that our moods and overall sense of well-being improve with age.”

Let’s debunk some of the common myths ….

MYTH # 1:  Depression is more prevalent.  Research indicates that emotional well-being improves until the 70’s when it levels off. Older adults tend to focus on positive rather than negative motions and memories, because they tend to prioritize emotional meaning and satisfaction: older adults tend to be happier, less anxious, less angry, and tend to adapt well to the circumstances.

MYTH # 2: Cognitive decline is inevitable.  As we age, our brains undergo structural changes, and neurons that carry messages becomes less efficient, causing concentration and memory slip (this begins around the age of 30!) But recent discoveries indicate that – barring dementia – older adults perform better in the real world. Cognitive tests often underestimate the true abilities of older adults; while in the real world, most of what we do is based on the knowledge we have acquired, and older adults who are tested in familiar situations show few of the deficits that crop up in laboratory tests!  (Learning new skills – learning to quilt, use an iPad, or take digital photos – help us to improve memory and processing speed.)

MYTH # 3: Older workers are less productive. Workers 55 and older make up 22% of the U.S. workforce, up from 12% in 1992. The majority of academic studies shows “virtually no relationship between age and job performance.” In fact, some studies show that older adults have a performance “edge” because they seem to know better how to avoid serious errors (experience, plus judgment).

MYTH # 4:  Loneliness is more likely. As people age, their social circles contract, but friendships tend to improve with age … we know who our real friends are! Older adults report better marriages, more supportive friendships, less conflict, and closer ties with members of this social networks than younger adults and fewer problematic relationships that case them distress. They have learned to eliminate those people from their social circle whom they feel less close to and maximize the time with close partners who are more emotionally satisfying.

MYTH # 5:  Creativity declines with age. Studies dating back as far as the 1800’s show midlife as the time when artists and scholars are most prolific. Historians and philosophers may reach their peak output when they’re in the 60’s, while conceptual artists tend to do their best work in their 20’s-30’s. Experimental artists requires a few more decades to reach full potential, improving with experience. Think Mark Twain, Paul Cezanne, Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Frost who all relied on wisdom, which increases with age.

MYTH # 6: More exercise is better!  When it comes to improving health and longevity, exercise is key, but a growing number of studies show that more is not always better. In research published in 2013 scientists at institutions including Iowa State University, found that long-term strenuous endurance exercise may cause “overuse injury” to the heart. Their recommendations: stick to a moderate workout of no more than 50-60 minutes of exercise daily, and take at least one day off each week. Current guidelines suggest 30 minutes of moderate exercise – walking at a good pace – 5-6 days a week still promotes health without the risks of injury that strenuous exercise may inflict. Doing it with a walking partner gets you out, gets you active, and affords you the social contact that it as important as loose limbs!

For more information, go to www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/secrets-of-aging-well by Marla Lichtsinn, RN, MPA, FCN, Parish Nurse    (permission granted to reprint)

Your Parish Nurse, Kara

11 Lessons for Graduates and You

Graduation is a time when many contemplate their future and purpose. It can be both a time of great excitement and worry. I certainly remember the anxiousness I felt after graduation. So whether you are graduating high school or college, know a graduate or perhaps you are graduating to the next level of your life and career, I wanted to share 11 lessons from The Seed that I hope will empower and inspire you on your journey. <!–split–>

  1. You are here for a reason and the most important thing you can do in life is to find, live and share your purpose. It’s the one thing in life that truly matters, and if you don’t pursue it, everything else is meaningless.
  2. Follow your passion. It so often leads you to your purpose. You may not know what your passion is right now. That’s ok. The important thing is to make it your life mission to find it, live it and share it. To help find your passion, seek out jobs and experiences that allow you to use your strengths and gifts. Do what energizes you.
  3. Beware of hobbies. Just because you love spending time on Facebook doesn’t mean you would enjoy working for the company. And just because you love to cook doesn’t mean you would enjoy owning a restaurant. For example, I owned restaurants but I realized I didn’t love the food business. I loved the service and marketing aspect of the business.
  4. Quit for the right reasons. Don’t quit because work is hard or you’re experiencing challenges. Quit because in your heart you know there is something else for you to do. Quit because you are not benefitting yourself or the organization you work for. Quit because you are absolutely certain you are no longer supposed to be there.
  5. Learn from every job and experience. Every job, good or bad, prepares you for the work you were ultimately born to do.
  6. Your current job may not be your ultimate purpose but it can serve as a vehicle to live and share your purpose.
  7. Whatever job(s) you take after graduation simply decide to serve. When you serve in small ways you’ll get more opportunities to serve in bigger ways.
  8. Your dream job is likely not the one you dreamed about. So often we end up in amazing careers that have nothing to do with our college degree or childhood dreams.
  9. The quest for your purpose is not a straight line. It is filled with mystery, signs, obstacles, victories, dead ends, delays and detours. Your job is to stay optimistic and faithful on your quest
  10. Don’t rush the future. There is a process that seeds must go through in order to become all they are destined to become, and you must go through this same process to become the person you are meant to be and do the work you are meant to do. You may want things to happen NOW but more than likely if you got what you wanted NOW you wouldn’t be ready for it. The purpose process prepares you, strengthens you, shapes you and grows you to be successful, not in your time, but in the right time.
  11. Be the Seed. Seeds surrender themselves to the ground so they can be used for a greater purpose. Wherever you work, decide to plant yourself where you are and allow yourself to be used for a greater purpose. When you plant yourself and make a difference you grow into the person you were born to be and produce a harvest that will benefit others and change the world.

Taken from http://www.jongordon.com/positive-tip-lessons-for-graduatAes.html

Your Parish Nurse, Kara

Finding Time To Exercise

Finding the time to exercise is often as much of a challenge as a new aerobic workout.  In fact, the number one reason given for not exercising is lack of time.  That’s why it is important to come up with a regular exercise schedule – one that lets you know where and when you’re planning to work out each week.   <!–split–>

Of course, plans can change but it’s better to skip a scheduled exercise session than to have no schedule at all.  If you save your workouts for whenever a spare moment “pops up,” you’ll end up exercising infrequently.  Your own schedule might involve a variety of workout times, morning workouts on some days, for example, and lunchtime or after work exercise sessions on other days.  The key is to find a blend that works for you and to stick with it.  You may find it helpful to mark your calendar and schedule your planned workouts in advance.  Keep track of how often you work out.  It is important to find an exercise schedule that fits your lifestyle and includes activities you enjoy.   There are many new pedometers and step counters available to help you keep track of your activity.  They can be fun to use and motivate you to increase your activities.  If you are not used to doing any type of exercise activity, start with walking.  You can start at just a few minutes a day and work up to the recommended 30 minutes per day.  Your stamina will improve as you continue any exercise program.  Warm weather is on the way!  Sunshine and flowers will be here.  What better way to brighten your day than to take a walk and enjoy the sun and flowers of spring!

Young Adult Depression:  Not Just Another Bad Mood

Depression is the most common emotional problem in adolescence and young adulthood, and yet it is difficult to diagnose because young people are notorious for their moodiness.  The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that up to 8% of American young adults suffer from major depression, but many parents don’t recognize the signs.  According to a 2009 survey, about 20% of high school students have considered suicide.  Each year, 8-11 in every 100,000 young adults do take their own lives, as many as those who die from all natural causes combined.  Depression can also result in intense family conflict, poor choice of peers, marginal or no personal achievements and poor coping ability, all of which can have a lasting effect on a teenager’s life.

Warning Signs

Mood Changes:  Irritability, angry outbursts, sad sullen or weepy periods, withdrawal.  Keep in mind that family conflict can cause young adult depression, but young adult depression can also cause family conflict.

Changes in Appetite:  Sudden over or under eating; significant gain or loss of weight.  Eating disorders are frequently  accompanied by depression.

Lack of Interest:  No longer enjoying social activities, hobbies or sports.

Bad Sleep Patterns:  Difficulties falling or staying asleep; excessive or diminished sleep.

Changes in Energy Level:  Frequent fatigue, agitation or restlessness.

School Problems:  Difficulty focusing or concentrating; feeling fuzzy; unable to sustain mental effort; decline in grades;  misbehaving; refusal to go or disinterest in school.

Self-Criticism:  Taking blame for things that are not their fault; intense dissatisfaction with their appearance or other attributes.

Rumination:  Worrying or obsessing about problems.

Inability to Cope:  Overwhelmed by everyday stresses; difficulty recovering from a significant event or problem; pessimism or negative thinking.

Recurrent Thoughts about Death or Suicide:  Morbid interests; self-injurious behavior.

Aches and Pains:  Physical discomfort without medical causes.

Successful treatment can be achieved by parents and physicians asking direct questions about the young adult’s general level of happiness, moods, activities, achievement and problems.  Offering to help will open the door for the young adult to contact you later should the young adult ever suspect that he/she might be depressed.  Keep in mind that a family history of depression is a risk factor.

Parents are advised to make efforts to talk to their young adults even if they are initially rebuffed.  Be careful not to minimize their young adult’s moods as “just a phase” or “hormonal fluctuations” and be alerted to the possible seriousness of their young adult’s difficulties.

If you have a young adult that is seriously depressed, it is a good precaution to lock up all medications, remove guns from the house and institute more careful supervision to prevent the young adult from engaging in reckless behavior.

The good news is that young adult depression is quite treatable with medication and individual and/or family therapy.

Your Parish Nurse, Kara

Valentine’s Day Tips

Whether you plan to celebrate on your own or with someone special, use these tips to give a gift of health to you or  someone you love on Valentine’s Day and all year long.  <!–split–>

 

BE HEART-HEALTHY

  • Make A Date With Your Heart! February is American Heart Month, and Valentine’s Day is a great time to start taking steps to be heart-healthy. Prevent and control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Limit alcohol use.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Be active.  Eat healthy.

 BE FOOD-CONSCIOUS

  • Consider making a healthy meal for Valentine’s Day. Serve food lower in salt and fat content, provide more fruits and vegetables, and make less sugary sweets for an overall healthy Valentine’s Day.

SPREAD LOVE, NOT GERMS

  • Protect yourself from the cold and flu.
  • Wash hands often.
  • Avoid close contact when you or someone you know is sick.
  • Get your flu vaccine.

BE PREPARED FOR TRAVEL

  • If you are going on a romantic getaway, be prepared.
  • Are vaccinations required?
  • Are there special items such as sunscreen or insect repellent that you will need?
  • If you take medications, do you have enough for the trip?
  • If you’re going on a cruise, learn the sanitation inspection scores for specific ships. Know what’s happening en route or at your travel destination.

 GO EASY ON THE BUBBLY

  • If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. It is also the third leading cause of preventable death. Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not drink

BE SAFE

  • Gear up.Are you considering a new, potentially risky, or unsafe activity? Be sure to use appropriate safety gear, including seat belts, life vests, and helmets to help prevent injury.
  • Watch the sparks.If you decide to cook a romantic dinner, light some candles, or have a cozy fire, don’t leave them unattended.
  • Be aware.Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence, including intimate partner violence, than men. Risk factors such as drinking alcohol and using drugs are associated with a greater likelihood of violence.

BE SENSITIVE

  • Consider that your valentine may have allergies, asthma, diabetes, or other health conditions. You can be sensitive to your valentine by finding out if certain foods, flowers, pets, stuffed animals, or anything else might affect his or her health.

For more information go to:  http://www.cdc.gov/family/valentine/

Your Parish Nurse, Kara

How Cold Weather Affects Your Health

As the cold weather begins to set in, our bodies must prepare themselves for the harsh winter ahead.  Here are a few of the reasons that we are more prone to illness during the colder months, and tips on how to protect our bodies in lieu of these changes.  Read on to find out how to keep your immune system strong against the winter chill. <!–split–>

Vitamin D Deficiency: The human body needs sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, but as the weather gets colder, there are fewer daylight hours, so people go outside less and are covered up more. Some studies suggest that low levels of vitamin D can lead to weight gain by reducing fat breakdown and causing the body to store more calories as fat cells, instead of using them for energy.

Neural Chemistry: Melatonin and serotonin are hormones that play a part in controlling mood, energy levels and the sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to sunlight causes levels of these hormones to fluctuate. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you sleep and serotonin is connected with happiness and wakefulness. In the colder months, the brain produces more melatonin and less serotonin.

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression with a seasonal pattern, occurring most often in the months when there is less daylight. It is most common between the ages of 18-30 and affects more women than men. People with SAD may have abnormally low levels of serotonin and high levels of melatonin, which affects sleep quality and happiness.

Viral Contagion: Most studies show the cold does not directly weaken the immune system; rather, the prevalence of people getting sick in colder months has more to do with how viruses are transmitted. It is not entirely clear whether this is an example of correlation or causation, but researchers have found the influenza virus (responsible for causing the flu) is transmitted more frequently in cold, dry environments than in warm, humid ones.

3 Possible Contributing Factors:

  • Mucus membranes in the nose get dried out in cold weather. When the membranes become dried out, their protective effects can be hindered and viruses responsible for the cold and flu can enter the body more easily.
  • The virus itself is more stable in cold, dry climates. In warmer months, the protective “shell” of the virus is weaker and less able to survive.
  • Aerosolized droplets of virus remain airborne for longer periods. Inhalation of virus containing airborne droplets (sneezes, coughs) is more likely to occur in regions of low humidity.

Muscle/Joins Stiffness:  Our bodies, which are about 70% water, can become more sensitive in colder weather. As temperatures drop, our bodies can lose elasticity, and it becomes harder to stretch (like when a rubber band is placed in a fridge). Colder temperatures can also cause painful changes in joint fluid thickness. Some studies have shown a strong relationship between cold, damp days and arthritic flare-ups. Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K and vitamin C have been shown to help with achy joints. (Be careful taking vitamin K if you take Warfarin medication. Check with your doctor first).

Exercise-Induced Asthma:  People with exercise-induced asthma have airways that are more sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. This condition usually occurs when there is increased ventilation of dry, cool air, which causes the lungs to lose heat and/or moisture and causes the airways to narrow during exercise. Symptoms include shortness breath, tightness in the chest, coughing or wheezing and decreased performance. Symptoms usually begin a few minutes into exercising and peak after about 10 minutes.

How to prevent exercise-induced asthma:  Warming up for 10 minutes can help prevent the onset of symptoms. If it’s cold, cover your mouth and nose to warm the air you breathe. Use an inhaler as preventive therapy 15 minutes before exercise.

Heart Complications: Some studies suggest that winter weather may increase a person’s risk of heart attack because cold temperatures cause arteries to tighten, which restricts blood flow and reduces the heart’s oxygen supply. This is why people with coronary heart disease often experience chest pain or discomfort during colder weather. Also, the change in amount of daylight hours can cause hormonal imbalance, which can lower the threshold for cardiovascular event.

High Blood Pressure and Cold Weather: Blood pressure is generally higher in the winter and lower in the summer because low temperatures cause blood vessels to narrow. In order for enough blood to be forced through the narrowed arteries and veins, higher blood pressure is needed.

Unique Injury Hazards: Cold weather creates unique injury hazards, including frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is when a portion of the skin or bodily tissue freezes from being exposed to the cold. Hypothermia can occur when the body temperature drops below 95oF. Under this condition, the body cannot generate enough heat to keep itself warm and the body becomes unable to regulate temperature. If hypothermia is not treated quickly, it can be fatal.

Weakened Hair, Nails, and Skin:

  • Split Ends: Cold temperatures can warp  hair cuticles and make hair scales weak. The point at which the scales shrink becomes a spot where split ends can form.
  • Weak Nails: Nails grow faster in warm weather than in cold weather because blood circulation slows down in cold weather. If nails are exposed to the cold for too long, the keratin used by your body to help nails grow is used instead to keep the rest of your body warm. The result is weak and brittle nails.
  • Red Skin: If temperatures fall below 10oC, blood vessels near the skin’s surface alternate between dilating and constricting. This happens because your body is trying to not lose too much heat, while simultaneously trying to supply the skin with enough blood for oxygen and nutrients. This phenomenon explains the red cheeks and nose that are characteristic of frosty weather.

For more information go to:  http://www.healthcentral.com/

Your Parish Nurse, Kara

Vacations and Health

Many people don’t take vacations often enough. In fact, according to recent poll, around half of readers don’t take annual vacations; in fact, many readers never take them! And now with increasing frequency, when we do take vacations, we often bring work along with us, keeping ourselves essentially still in the work mindset we’re trying to escape. <!–split–>This is unfortunate for several reasons:

  • Vacations Promote Creativity: A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves, operating as a vehicle for self-discovery and helping us get back to feeling our best.
    Vacations Stave Off Burnout: Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
  • Vacations Can Keep Us Healthy: Taking regular time off to ‘recharge your batteries’, thereby keeping stress levels lower, can keep you healthier.
  • Vacations Promote Overall Wellbeing: One study found that three days after vacation, subjects’ physical complaints, their quality of sleep and mood had improved as compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacations.
  • Vacations Can Strengthen Bonds: Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong, helping you enjoy the good times more and helping you through the stress of the hard times. In fact, a study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages
  • Vacations Can Help With Your Job Performance: As the authors of the above study suggest, the psychological benefits that come with more frequent vacations lead to increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.
  • Vacations Relieve Stress in Lasting Ways: It should come as no surprise that vacations that include plenty of free time bring stress relief, but research shows that a good vacation can lead to the experience of fewer stressful days at least five weeks later! That means that vacations are the gift to yourself that keep on giving.

The bottom line is that taking a good amount of time away from the stresses of daily life can give us the break we need so that we can return to our lives refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes.

— Your Parish Nurse, Kara

SOURCE: http://stress.about.com/od/workplacestress/a/vacations.htm, written by Elizabeth Scott, M.S.