How to Find Reliable Health Information Online

We’ve all done it, you have pain or a symptom that you’re concerned about and the easiest laptop-small-500x333resource to go to is at your fingertips- Dr. Google.  The internet has so much information it’s difficult to know what to trust.

What websites can you trust?

  1. Sites that end in .gov like cdc.gov or cancer.gov. These are linked to federal agencies that address research and training needs for health care topics.
  1. Non-profit sites that end in .org like familydoctor.org are often powered by a reputable organization, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, so you know your source is credible.
  1. Websites from trusted medical institutions, like Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, have detailed information about many health conditions, symptoms, treatment options and more.
  1. Look for the HON code symbol at the bottom of the website which means the website has been certified for its credibility by the Health On the Net Foundation, a non-governmental organization that certifies health and medical websites.

Red flags to look for:

  1. Websites that are not authoritative sources and don’t cite their facts
  1. One-sided, biased or outdated information
  1. Claims of a miracle or secret cure based on testimonials

If you have a medical concern, the internet can provide useful background information to help you make informed decisions, but always consult a physician to be diagnosed. Don’t base your medical decisions solely on what you find online or what friends tell you.

Talk to your physician before making any changes to your medications or treatment.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

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Three Myths About Sleep Aids

Sleep plays a vital role in your health and overall quality of life. The amount of sleep you get can impact your relationships, job performance and overall happiness. Insomnia is fairly common. Nearly 50 percent of Americans report occasional insomnia, and almost 20 percent struggle with it every night.sleeping-man

In our quest for some shut-eye, we sometimes sabotage our own sleep. If you are relying on any of the methods below, you could be inadvertently robbing yourself of sleep.

Having a “nightcap” before bed

It’s a long-standing misconception that alcohol helps you sleep. While a nightcap might help you feel sleepy, as the alcohol metabolizes in your system, it really messes with your ability to stay asleep. Alcohol before bedtime will cause recurrent awakenings and suppresses the rehabilitative stage of sleep, known as REM. Don’t cheat yourself; avoid alcohol before bed.

Watching TV to fall asleep

Watching TV or using your phone in bed is one of the worst things you can do when trying to fall asleep. It’s all tied to the blue light emitted by these screens. It prevents the release of melatonin from the pineal gland in your brain, which is what makes you feel sleepy. This is especially a problem for adolescents who take their phones to bed with them.

Using sleeping pills

Long-term reliance on sleeping pills is not the answer to your sleep problems. While it is OK to take an over-the-counter sleep aid if you’re having a few nights of bad sleep, you should not be relying on it nightly. If you are taking sleeping pills, try to wean yourself off of them slowly by lowering the dose and then start to reduce the number of days that you take it. If your sleep troubles persist after two to four weeks, talk to your doctor.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

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Why Your 2017 Goal Should Be Behavior Change, Not Losing

change-your-mind-to-lose-weight-500x334Instead of making lofty promises to lose weight this New Year, you can be much more successful if you focus on changing your behavior.  The reason most resolutions aren’t achieved, or are only short-lived, is because we don’t define how exactly our behavior will change.  Our goals are often vague, unstructured or don’t define actionable steps.

Set SMART Goals

The most effective goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. For example, if your primary desire is to lose weight, a SMART goal would be to keep a food journal and write down everything you eat, each day, for a week.

Once you have your SMART goal, take steps to monitor your behavior and adjust as necessary.

Plan For Slips

It would be unrealistic if we didn’t anticipate slips, or lapses, as we work on building new behavior. The most important thing is not to be hard on yourself when slips happen. Reflect on what contributed to the slip and find ways to navigate through the challenges.

Reward Yourself

Define what success looks like for you and reward yourself for the behaviors that support your goal. For example, at the end of the week if you met your goal six of the seven days, treat yourself to a movie, pedicure, shopping or whatever you like.

Seek Support

If you find yourself continually coming up short on weight loss goals, or if the idea of starting a weight-loss plan is too overwhelming, you may want to consider enlisting some support. Health care providers can advise you on diet, physical activity and medications that may help.

You may also want to consider a weight management support group. It’s empowering when you are successful and when other people recognize that success.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

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3 Easy Ways to Eat More Meals at Home

Most Americans today aren’t following the government’s recommended dietary guidelines. In fact, they’re not eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables, and they istock-460260009-500x333consume too much sodium, sugar and saturated fats. They also go out to eat more often than they should.

Although it is possible to eat healthy away from home, studies have shown that most people don’t, choosing foods with more calories, fat and saturated fat than what they’d get at home. The USDA Economic Research Service found that restaurant food has a significant impact on caloric intake and diet quality. Meals and snacks from restaurants contain, on average, 134 more calories than the same food prepared at home.

To eat healthier, cook more meals at home. Follow these tips to make food prep a breeze:

Meal Plan

It might take you 15 minutes or so to plan out all the meals you and your family will eat for the week, but at least you won’t be standing in front of the fridge at dinnertime wondering what to eat. By doing so, you’ll also avoid the temptation of going out to eat.  With your list in hand, you can do just one grocery trip for the week to get all you need. Another timesaver!

Sign Up For A Meal Planning Service

You can reduce time spent planning and shopping by paying a meal planning service to do it for you.  Most of these services incorporate well-rounded meals and deliver foods uncooked, with accompanying recipes. Many offer meals to fit special dietary needs as well.

Although some services deliver cooked meals, by seeing the raw ingredients you can be sure of exactly what you are eating. This is a fun way to try new foods and eat more veggies.

Pack Your Lunch

Brown bagging it is an easy way to ensure a healthy lunch and reduce your caloric intake. In fact, eating fewer lunches out will save you, on average, 158 calories per lunch. But don’t get in a turkey sandwich rut. Consider packing healthy leftovers, salads, bento box-style lunches and more to keep things fun! Just search online for “lunch box planning” and you will have no shortage of fresh ideas.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

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Home Remedies – Do They Work?

For centuries, people have turned to natural remedies to fight common ailments such as colds, stomach aches and skin conditions.  This home-remediestrend has continued to the present day. Nearly four out of 10 adults have used some form of alternative remedy, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

As appealing as the idea of natural remedies might sound, keep in mind that not all remedies are safe and effective. Let’s take a look at some remedies backed by research.

WHAT WORKS

  • Apple cider vinegar & honey (as a therapy for sore throats): Honey, a common sore-throat remedy, has antibacterial properties and also acts as a hypertonic osmotic, which means that it draws water out of inflamed tissue, reducing swelling and discomfort. There is not enough data on the effectiveness of vinegar, however.

 

  • Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (as a cure for diarrhea): The “BRAT diet” has been proven to help people recover from an upset stomach because these bland foods are easy to digest and have a small amount of fiber, which helps make your stool firmer.

 

  • Chicken soup (for colds and flu): Chicken soup has long been a go-to remedy and recent science is showing why. Chicken soup helps mitigate inflammation in the upper respiratory tract to help you breathe a little easier. It is also superior to other hot liquids in clearing mucus from nasal passages to ease congestion.

 

  • Cranberry juice (as a cure for urinary tract infections): An active ingredient in cranberries can prevent adherence of bacteria, particularly E.coli, to the bladder wall. However, most studies show that juice and supplements don’t have enough of this ingredient. The bottom line? Cranberry can’t hurt, and it may help.

 

  • Peppermint (as a remedy for nausea): Peppermint oil and peppermint tea both relax the stomach muscles and relieve nausea after surgery. They can also ease morning sickness and soothe menstrual cramps.

 

  • Turmeric (as a pain reliever for arthritis): Turmeric is a common spice in dishes like curry. It can help to reduce pain, inflammation and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

 

  • Prunes (as a remedy for constipation): Prunes are rich in insoluble fiber, as well as the natural laxative sorbitol, which is proven to help with constipation.

Just because a remedy is natural does not mean it can’t cause harm. Talk to your doctor about any supplements you are taking to ensure there is no interaction with medications or pre-existing conditions. When using home remedies, if symptoms persist or worsen, seek professional help from your doctor.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

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How to Deal with Feral Cats in Your Community

dustinMost neighborhoods in the United States encounter roaming outdoor cats. Some of these are indoor/outdoor cats that are pets, but many of them are feral cats.  Stray cats that were once pets are usually adoptable whereas feral cats are not.  While they are not typically dangerous to humans, they are too fearful of people to be adopted as a pet due to not being accustomed to human contact.

Outdoor feral cats can become a nuisance in some cases. They may use people’s backyards as a litter box, dig in gardens, jump on people’s cars and other items, and spook other household pets.  In addition to this, they can very easily become overpopulated.  Only about 2% of feral cats have been spayed or neutered so most are having kittens that grow and produce more kittens.  These issues can produce complaints in neighborhoods.

So what is the best solution to handling feral cats in your community? Shelters are not an ideal option as they are already overpopulated and are really best for housing animals that can later become pets.  One of the most successful ways to control the feral cat population is through a strategy known as trap-neuter-return (TNR).  This involves humanely trapping community cats, getting them spayed and neutered, vaccinating them against disease, surgically removing part of the cat’s ear to designate him or her as being spayed or neutered, and returning the cat to its home territory.  This can be very effective in keeping the cat population under control in your neighborhood.  An 11-year study at the University of Florida found that implementing TNR reduced the number of feral cats on the campus by 66%.  It is also much better for the cats as it reduces the stresses of frequent pregnancies, improves physical health, and helps reduce behaviors such as fighting, spraying, and roaming.

Implementing a TNR program in your neighborhood can be a good way to solve an issue as well as bring people together. Many animal lovers will happily volunteer to assist with this type of project.  Consider hosting a public forum on your community website to locate volunteers.  You can also organize a fundraiser such as a raffle or bake sale to raise funds.  Research local vets that offer low cost spaying/neutering for people participating in a trap-neuter-return program. pepper-r-i-p

Coexisting with other living creatures in your community can sometimes be difficult, but finding positive solutions can make life better for both the human and non-human members of your neighborhood.

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Don’t Fall Into the Pit

pitfalls-1Being on the board of a homeowners’ association or condo association can be a very fulfilling experience.  Many board members enjoy getting to know their neighbors better, offering guidance on association matters, and playing an active role in the operations and health of the community.  Most board members take their positions seriously and truly want to do an excellent job.  However, being a board member can be challenging at times and there are certain mistakes that are easy to make and can be detrimental to an association.  This is why it can be advantageous to work with a community association manager (CAM).  CAMs can help board members avoid common pitfalls to ensure the association runs smoothly and legally.  Here are some of the common mistakes boards can make:

  • Not following the governing documents: Sometimes boards do not carefully read their documents and then fail to abide by them. This can sometimes happen if a new board is elected and they try to follow a previous board’s example as opposed to reviewing the declaration and by-laws of the association. Typically, this is unintentional, but it can cause a lot of potential issues. It is extremely important to follow the documents as they are written both from a legal standpoint and to ensure fairness for all residents of the community. An association manager can assist with questions a board might have about documents. CAMs will also review the documents and help advise boards when a policy or procedure may not be in line with the by-laws.
  • Becoming overzealous: Board members are understandably excited about their position and sometimes in their ambition to make positive changes in their community, they can make large decisions too quickly. Smaller changes can lead to big changes. It is best to weigh any major policy changes very carefully. As mentioned before, documents need to be reviewed before procedures change. Also, there is a risk of alienating fellow residents if a major change is implemented too quickly. Sometimes hasty decisions can backfire. For example, sometimes a new board may decide to fire all current vendors believing it is in the best interest of the association. However, in doing this, all ongoing projects lose momentum and it becomes impossible to determine which vendors were actual problems and which were not. Take the time to speak to your association manager. In the case of vendors, if you are unhappy with someone your CAM can likely recommend alternate qualified vendors for your association. They can also give you advice about how to implement changes within the community.
  • Holding improper meetings: All board meetings must be documented and noticed. Anytime a quorum of board members gets together and speaks about association business, this is considered a board meeting. Boards often may do this at a casual lunch or other social gatherings not realizing this is a violation of association law. Conversations at social gatherings need to steer away from any type of discussion about the community. If you have questions, speak to your CAM to help clarify what is and is not okay to discuss amongst your fellow board members when there is not an official meeting taking place.
  • Mismanaging the association budget: Budgets can be a complicated issue for any community. Too often, boards make errors in judgment when it comes to association funds. Common mistakes are spending too much too quickly, not establishing funds for emergencies and other incidentals, and keeping costs artificially low in order to please homeowners. It is crucial to look at finances in the long-term. While a board may want to add an amenity, execute a requested repair, or fulfill other homeowner requests, it is important to think how the association might be impacted in five to ten years from a large financial decision today. Boards should review prior year budgets and learn from them. Also, as hard as it may be to consider raising assessments, sometimes it is necessary to continue to meet your fiduciary responsibilities. CAMs usually have a lot of experience assisting boards in different types of associations. They can likely provide guidance and advice throughout the budget process and also help make sure that any work that is completed is done so at a reasonable price.
  • Losing patience: Being a board member can be a very stressful position. As rewarding as it can be, there are times when it can feel thankless and frustrating. Sometimes board members may feel like they are hearing a broken record when they get similar complaints from multiple homeowners. It can be easy to lose patience and become aggravated with explaining a situation multiple times, but try to remember that to each member, this is a new conversation. Residents come to boards with their concerns because they are the trusted representatives of the association. As hard as it can be sometimes, it is vital to maintain a respectful rapport with the homeowners in your association. Having poor relationships can make things challenging during board meetings. Community association managers can assist with the stressful task of listening to owner concerns. They often act as the middleperson between the owner and the board and can typically field most questions and concerns before it ever needs to make it to a board member. Many boards find this to be one of the best parts of working with a community association manager. It is beneficial to residents as well since they can become familiar with one designated contact.
  • Not knowing when to seek legal advice: This can be a very tricky topic. Boards do not want to overuse their attorneys since this can become costly, but there are definitely times when legal advice should be utilized. If you are dealing with a challenging situation with a homeowner that could potentially turn into a lawsuit, this would be a time to seek legal counsel. Additionally, when statutes change, it might be a good idea to consult the association attorney to see if the board needs to do anything to be in compliance with the law. Talk to your association manager if you need help on finding the right balance for your community.

Volunteering for a board comes with a large amount of responsibilities and decisions that have to be made. It can be very easy to make common errors in judgment that can cause a lot of issues down the road. Reviewing these tips and keeping an open line of communication with your association manager are good ways to ensure you have checks and balances in place to make sure your association continues to thrive and operate successfully.

 

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