Fast Food – Not As Bad As We Think??

October 24, 2014

ffasIt’s hard to beat fast food for speed and taste, but as far as nutrition goes…well, most of us try not to think about it when we’re feasting on french fries, shakes, and double cheeseburgers. But when eating in fast-food restaurants becomes more than a once-in-a-while treat, it’s time to rethink your fast-food choices.

Fast-Food Nutrition

Fast food are not bad. All food, including fast food, has nutrients your body needs. Nutritionally, however, fast-food meals generally come up short in the vitamin and minreal departments, while being high in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. When fast-food meals are consumed once or twice a month, these nutritional problems aren’t a big deal. But relying on your local buger joint for meals once or twice a week? Not a good idea.

Luckily, making nutritious choices at the fast-food counter isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be. In the last couple of years, many fast-food chains have developed new, more healthful products or reformulated existing products to please their health-minded customers. Salad bars and packaged salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, lower-fat hamburgers, and french fries fried in vegetable oils are good examples of the ways in which fast-food restaurants have marketed to nutrition-conscious patrons. Also, most fast-food restaurants can supply you with nutrient information.

Check near the counter area for nutrition cards or paphlets. Some chains even use their tray liners as vehicles for nutrition information, offering advice on putting together healthy fast-food meals. If you don’t see any information posted, you can ask your order taker where to call or send a written request for it.

Odering Tips

Although referring to a restaurant’s written nutrition information will help you make good choices, chances are you won’t have the pamphlet available when you need it. When that happens you can fall back on the following guidelines for making wise choices at the fast-food counter:

* Order sandwiches/burgers without mayo, special sauces; use only ketchup or mustard.

* Remove the skin from chicken before eating; choose grilled chicken over fried.

* For extra fiber and much less fat, order a side salad with diet dressing instead of fries once in a while.

* Regular burgers are a good choice, but skip the cheese, bacon, and other extras.

* Go for low-fat milk or juice (or diet soda) instead of regular soda.

* Use only half the dressing that accompanies a main-dish salad–unless it’s low-fat.

* Order baked potatoes plain; top with diet ranch dressing and salad fixings.

Remeber to think about what you’ve already eaten and what you’ll eat later on the day. Fit your fast-food meal into your food intake for the entire day. This might mean having low-fat foods at your other meals, or eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, or drinking at the remaining meals that day.

How Healthy Are Those “Healthy” Fast Foods?

Even choosing just the “healthy” menu items doesn’t automatically guarantee a nutritionally top-notch meal. You may remember that a few years ago many fast-food restaurants announced that they were switching from cooking their fries in beef fat, to cooking them in all-vegetable oil. But, what most people don’t know is that the oil is partially hydrogenated (a process that turns liquid oil into a solid, such as is used to make margarine and shortening) and is higher in saturated-fat content than regular vegetable oil. Another problem often encountered when choosing more healthful alternatives is that the portion size isn’t equal to a comparable “regular” product. Sure, a grilled chicken sandwich may contain less fat and fewer calories, but also it may weigh substantially less than the fried chicken sandwich.

Beyond Burgers

We all know that fast food doesn’t just mean burgers and fries. There are plenty of restaurants serving quick meals that don’t even have hamburgers on the menu. What types of food choices should you make at the pizza parlor, the Mexican restaurant, or the little vegetarian takeout place?

PIZZA: Pizza ia a healthy food–if you choose the right topings. At the pizza parlor, or by-the-slice pizza outlet, keep your selections on the lean side by ordering a veggie-topped pizza. A slice of pizza topped with crunchy green peppers and savory mushrooms is just as satifying, and a lot lower in fat, than a slice loaded with sausage and pepperoni. Most of us get plenty of meat protein in our diets already, and by sticking to vegetable toppings you’ll be helping to reach your “five a day” goal for vegetable/fruit consumption. Cheese, however, is not low in fat. Ask if the mozzarella is part -skim–it it’s not, ask them to go light on the cheese, and always avoid ordering extra cheese. All in all, pizza can provide foods from the grain group (the crust–choose whole wheat if you can), the fruit and vegetable group (tomato sauce and veggie toppings), and the milk group (the cheese).

VEGETARIAN: Surprise! Vegetarian food is not necessarily lower in fat or calories than meat-containing dishes. Ordering menu selections that are heavy on the cheese or eggs, such as quiche and casseroles, will not give you an advantage over a burger in terms of fat, cholesterol, or calories. Also note that, contrary to what most people think, tofu, is not low in fat. While tofu has no cholesterol (because it’s a vegetable-based product), about half its calories come from fat! So what should you order if you’re in a hurry and want to avoid meat? Pita pocket sandwiches filled with plenty of vegetables and a drizzle od low-calorie dressing is a good pick-up-and-go meal. Salads are a good choice. Just watch the dressing.

MEXICAN: The basics of Mexican cuisine–beans, corn tortillas, tomatoes, chillies–are healthful and very low in fat. But Americanized versions of Mexican foods–smothered in cheese and sour cream or deep-fried–often don’t resemble their south-of-the-border origins. So, stay away from deep-fried tortilla concoctions. And as for tortillas, the corn variety has less fat than the flour, but neither is really high-fat. Bean Burritos are a good choice, but we aware that refried beans are often made with some lard. Chicken tacos and burritos are becoming more popular and are a tasty alternative to beef. Chicken and beef enchiladas are fine. but stay away from cheese enchiladas. They are filled and topped with cheese.

As you can see, you don’t have have to give up meals on-the-go in order to eat right. It’s all a matter of making choices and balancing your enture day’s intake when you eat at fast-food restaurants.


Birth Control Options Are Always There

October 8, 2014

bcoatFor almost all teens, deciding whether or not to become sexually active is one of the first major decisions they control. Legally and morally, no one should be forced to have sex. Emotionally, it should be a shared decision between equals, mature enough to know and accept the consequences.

Making decisions about birth control is difficult. But asking the questions honestly about what you want and need, and what is best for you, can help you make the safest and healthiest decision.

Take your time and think about it. Do you feel ready to begin sexual activity? Is it what you–not your friends or your partner–think is best? is it what you want? Is the person you’re thinking about someone you’ll care about for a long time? Is he or she worthwhile enough to be your partner? Even with the latest advances in birth control, abstinence–not having sex–is still the only 100 percent-effective way of preventing pregnancy or infection.

Today, any couple–teenage or older–knows that sexual involvement must include some discussion about birth control and safe sex. These are hard things for anyone at any age to talk about, but unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are harder.

The right birth control will meet your needs plus prevent pregnancy and STDS. The wrong method does not provide the right protection at the right time.

To make the best choices about contraceptives (birth control methods), you should know what is available, including the new brands or types on the market. The newest methods available include a female condom and two other types of contraceptives–one given by injection, the other implanted under the skin–that stop fertility (the ability to become pregnant) for long periods of time.

Some of the Newest Methods

Norplant and Depo-Provera

These two new contraceptives both use hormones (chemicals found in the body) to prevent pregnancy. One method, known as Depo-Provera, is given by injection every three months and provides protection against pregnancy for 12 weeks.

Norplant, the other hormonal contraceptive, involves having a doctor implant six tiny rods just under the skin of the upper arm. Once in place, the rods slowly release their hormones, preventing pregnancy for five years. In general, the hormones in both methods prevent pregnancy by stopping the release of eggs (ovulation) and causing other changes in the reproductive system that make it difficult for sperm to travel to the egg.

A major advantage for users of either Norplant or Depo-Provera is that neither method requires taking something every day. At the same time, however, using these powerful hormones that last for a long time doesn’t make sense for someone who has sex infrequently. If a woman is unhappy with Norplant, she can have the rods removed; once Depo-Provera is injected, it takes 12 weeks for the hormone to leave the body.

Both contraceptives can cause changes in the menstrual cycle. These changes, such as very little or excess bleeding or occasional lack of menstruation, can be alarming. However, they usually do not indicate that there is a problem. There also is the risk that both contraceptives can cause side effects (such as nausea and slight weight gain), similar to those of the birth control pill.

Although Norplant is effective for five years, it can cost several hundred dollars. Depo-Provera may cost around $26 an injection. Both of these can be administered only in a clinic or a doctor’s office.

The chance of becoming pregnant while using either Norplant or Depo-Provera is extremely small–almost zero. But, neither protects against STDs.

The Female Condom

The female condom is a transparent, narrow plastic bag, about 7 inches long, with rings on both ends. The ring on the closed end fits up against the cervix (the opening to the uterus) and the other ring hangs outside the body. Although it may be slightly difficult to insert at first, the female condom is reported to be comfortable.

The main reason this contraceptive was invented was to give women a way to prevent pregnancy and protect against STDS, especially AIDS.

The benefits of the female condom are: * It is available at drugstores without a prescription. * It can be put in place several hours before intercourse and removed immediately afterward. * It offers protection against pregnancy and diseases.

The disadvantages are: * Because the device is new, it isn’t clear how much protection it gives against pregnancy or disease. * It may be awkward to use and doesn’t always stay in place. * It is more expensive than male condoms.

What About the Old Standbys?

Of course, choices of birth control still include those methods you may already. know. They include barrier methods–condoms, vaginal sponges, spermicides (foams, jellies, creams, and suppositories), diaphragms, and cervical caps. The accompanying chart offers a general idea of how they work and the risks and benefits of different methods. It would be helpful, however, to talk with a family health counselor at a local family planning clinic or with a doctor or nurse. They’re not there to judge but to inform and can explain in detail the differences among the various methods. They can help an individual choose and use the best and safest method.

What’s in the Future?

There are a few possibilities on the horizon for better contraceptives. One promising choice will be a once-a-month injectable hormone–similar to oral contraceptives (birth control pills). Another idea that is still being tested is a vaginal ring that is worn like a diaphragm but also releases hormones. And, there soon will be a new, improved intrauterine device (IUD) that releases hormones similar to those in the pill. While there is much interest in new types of male contraceptives, as of now there are no new alternatives available.

A World About Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Although it is 1993, most people still don’t talk about STDs such as gonorrhea, herpes, and AIDS. The fact is, the number of cases of AIDS and other STDs is increasing among teens, regardless of background, education, or race.

Even if both you and your partner are virgins or you have been in a long-term (many months or years), exclusive (not having intercourse with anyone else) relationship and both tested negative for HIV, you still should use a barrier contraceptive such as a condom and foam to prevent STDs. Most health counselors recommend that sexually active teens consider using a barrier method along with something like the pill or spermicide to prevent STDs and pregnancy.

Most STDs do not have obvious symptoms or symptoms that show up immediately. And, sad but true, your partner may not tell you, or may not know, that he or she has an STD or that a previous partner was infected. Most bacterial STDs can be treated with antibiotics; but any STD, if it is ignored or not diagnosed in time, can cause serious health problems. The number of heterosexual (not homosexual) teenagers with AIDS is on the rise, and it can be years before symptoms of this deadly disease show up.


Dealing With Schizophrenia Is Difficult At Best

September 29, 2014

szpnaI just can’t understand Dan. One day he’s nice, and the next he totally ignores me. It’s like he’s got a split personality, like he’s schizo or something.”

One person acting in totally opposite ways is what most of us imagine when we think of schizophrenia. But, in reality, schizophrenia is very different from these Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde conceptions. Here is what some persons with schizophrenia have reported about their experiences:

“I started to play checkers but could not go on. I was too much absorbed in my own thoughts, particularly those regarding the approaching of the end of the world.”

“I have never had a single moment in which I did not hear voices. They accompany me to every place…they continue even when I am in conversation with other people.”

These people are describing some of the symptoms of schizophrenia: trouble controlling their thoughts; difficulty concentrating; hallucinations–hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there. They also have delusions–believing something not based in reality, thinking, for example, that you can control the weather, that you are God, or that aliens from outer space are trying to put a drug into your food through a special machine. A person with schizophrenia may show no emotion or may react very inappropriately (for example, laughing when told that someone died). Patients with schizophrenia seem to lose their energy, their ambition, their will; nothing seems to be important. They often withdraw from people and stay fairly isolated.

You’ve probably had some experiences like these at one time or another–a hard time concentrating on a test; feeling lazy, empty, or low; mistakenly hearing someone calling your name. These are not signs of schizophrenia. it is the combination and severity of several symptoms at one time–the delusions and hallucinations, the way the disease can totally incapacitate emotions, desires, and ability to function on a day-to-day level for many months–that tells a doctor a person may have schizophrenia.

Devils, Witches,, Madmen

Like other forms of mental illness, schizophrenia has been around throughout history. As recently as 100 years ago, many who undoubtedly had schizophrenia were treated as simply odd or, if too disruptive, locked up. In other times and different cultures, many were persecuted as witches or madmen controlled by the devil or evil spirits.

Our knowledge of schizophrenia has grown with our understanding of the brain and personality. In 1896, Emil Kraepelin developed the term dementia praecox to describe several illnesses that had schizophrenic-like symptoms. He thought that dementia was caused by an irreversible deterioration of the brain. In 1911, Eugene Bleuler coined the term schizophrenia, which means splitting of the mind, to describe the way persons with schizophrenia seemed to separate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from each other. He believed it was a psychological rather than a physical problem and thought it could be treated by counseling.

This question of physical vs. psychological causes continues to this day. Most experts now feel, however, that it is both. New research suggests that those with schizophrenia have problems with the chemicals that affect the nerves in their brain and find that these problems may be genetically passed on in families. But like an unhealthy heart that is more likely to have an attack from too much cholesterol, it is theorized that the schizophrenia is triggered by a certain amount or type of psychological stress.

Schizophrenia is found all over the world. There are many different types of schizophrenia. In the United States schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the population, most commonly starting between the ages of 16 and 25. Of those who develop symptoms of schizophrenia, roughly one-third will recover completely. Another one-third will improve but not fully recover (they may continue to have symptoms like hearing voices or fears of people that interfere with their ability to function). The final one-third may stay the same or get worse.

Getting Help

There is no known cure for schizophrenia. In 1952, however, it was discovered that certain drugs used for physical ailments could control hallucinations and other symptoms of schizophrenia. Today medications are the primary means of helping the person with schizophrenia. Many patients need to take some medication all the time; others, only when the disease is most active.

Counseling with patients and their families helps to reduce stress, educate patients and family members about the disease, and help the patients keep up their social skills so that they are not so alone. There are self-help organizations in many communities that support family members.

Medications have allowed most persons with schizophrenia to remain in their own communities rather than in mental hospitals. How independently a schizophrenia patient can live depends upon the severity of his or her disease. Some patients can work and live on their own with minimal support. Others may work part time at supervised jobs and live at home with family. Others who cannot work may attend a social and recreational treatment program during the day and live in a supervised group home with other patients.

A Hopeful Future

There is still much to learn, but we have come a long way since the time of witches and devils. New forms of imaging (CT scans, MR scans) are helping us understand how the brain works. Studies in genetics may help us predict who may be vulnerable to the disease, and new forms of medication may help us treat schizophrenia more effectively. The future for those with schizophrenia and their families looks more hopeful than ever before.


Mollie Katzen: Vegetarianism’s First Major Icon

September 19, 2014

vhhWhat do cookbook authors like best about their jobs, next to cooking and eating, that is? The Frugal Gourmet (also known as Jeff Smith) might tell you it’s the stories from the countries where his recipes originate. For Julia Child, it’s probably a rich French sauce. But Mollie Katzen, author of the Moosewood Cookbook and one of the pioneers of the vegetarian cooking movement, without a doubt, never met a vegetable she didn’t like.

Katzen will never forget her first foray into fresh vegetables.

“I hadn’t tasted a fresh green vegetable until the age of 12,” she writes in the prologue of her newly revised Moosewood Cookbook, when I was invited to dinner at the home of a friend whose mother had a vegetable garden. She picked fresh green beans for dinner and served them lightly steamed in bowls, with a little warmed milk poured on top. I went wild! This was a radical new discovery for me.”

It was in college, when gravitating to freshly steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus, she noticed that she hadn’t eaten any meat for many months and was enjoying it. She writes, “I wondered if this made me a vegetarian, although at that time I didn’t know anyone who was. To be one was looked upon as a cross between an eccentricity and an affliction.”


Today, vegetarianism is no longer looked upon as eccentric. And Mollie Katzen had a great deal to do with this. When she was able to experiment in her own kitchen or during summer jobs in restaurants, Katzen, who is trained as an artist, began to prepare fresh vegetables and fruits in ways that were healthy as well as visually exciting. “Crepes! Curries! Pesto! Stir-fries! Fresh fruit salads!” she writes. “This stuff was incredible! And the range of colors and textures of all the fresh fruits and vegetables added a visual component, providing a delightful bridge to my artistic impulses!”

Vegetarianism helped everyone who cooks (and those who hope to cook) understand that there was more to a meal than just meat and potatoes. It helped to diversify cooking in general. And no one can argue about the nutritional benefits of vegetables and fruits. Just check out a few of these nutritious foods:

Potatoes: A five-ounce potato, baked, boiled, or steamed, has 100 calories, and eaten with the skin is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, and dietary fiber.

Beans: These have more protein for the dollar than any other food, without the fats and cholesterol of meat and poultry. They are a rich source of iron, thiamin, niacin, and folacin.

Corn: It’s a low-sodium starch. In the form of popcorn, it’s only 23 calories a cup (popped without oil).

Vegetables and fruits are vitamin C-rich: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, green peppers, asparagus, pineapple, melons, oranges, and grapefruit.

They are calcium-rich: beet greens, bok choy, lima beans, parsley, and leaf lettuce.

They are iron-rich: Jerusalem artichokes, peas, raisins, scallions, and spinach.

They are vitamin A-rich: carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes, papaya, sweet red peppers, winter squash.

They are potassium-rich: apricots, avocados, bananas, beets, broccoli, raw cabbage, celery, and pumpkin.

Recalling the early days of the vegetarian movement, Katzen says a typical meal at her Ithaca, New York, restaurant included simple soups, a raw salad, a fresh fruit salad cut by hand, and two daily entrees that were usually casseroles. The biggest difference between the early vegetable-based recipes of the ’70s and the newer, more elaborate and heart-healthy recipes of today was the use of high-fat dairy products, such as cheese, and eggs.

“As an insurance policy, we used to pile on the cheese,” says Katzen from her California home. She and her co-owners used to add loads of cheese to the vegetables and casseroles to ensure that eaters felt full. But today we know more about the harmful nutritional effects of high-fat foods such as cheese and have found an alternative.


In her newly revised Moosewood Cookbook, which was published in the fall of 1992, Katzen’s recipes have all undergone a face-lift to reflect the lower-in-fat movement of the ’90s. High-fat cheeses and other dairy foods are pushed aside in favor of lower-in-fat seasonings that can add unique flavorings to a dish.

Some examples of Katzen’s revisions: She recommends using oil sprays to reduce the fat content of food without sacrificing flavor or texture; substituting soy milk, rice milk, or low-fat milk for whole cow’s milk and low-sodium, low-fat cheese, in addition to whipped tofu; making eggs an optional part of a recipe or using only the whites.

Perhaps Katzen is today part of another food movement–this time it is a lower-in-fat, higher-in-herbs-and-spices vegetarian revolution for better health.

Why Only Veggies?

Though Americans eat more meat than most other people around the world, 6 million to 8 million Americans have chosen to become vegetarians. Why? Drew De Silver, associate editor of Vegetarian Times, claims that people today are more health-conscious. Others become vegetarians out of concern for the Earth. They feel a diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts, and dairy products spare valuable resources and feed greater numbers.

Critics have said that vegetarians don’t get enough protein. Today, most nutritionists agree that by eating a wide variety of beans and grains vegetarians should maintain proper nutrition. In addition to beans and grains, eggs, cheese, and milk are good sources of complete protein.

Vegans, who are the strictest vegetarians, don’t eat eggs and dairy products, however. They must find other sources of calcium. Because of their narrow food choices, the American Dietetic Association suggests that vegans include cereals, soy milk, and meat substitutes fortified with vitamins D and [B.sub.12], calcium, iron, and zinc for a more balanced diet.


Living The Green Life: Are You?

September 9, 2014

ltglConservation: It’s more than saving the Amazon rain forest. It’s more than preserving wetlands. Believe it or not, some of the most important acts of conservation can actually begin in your own home. When you get home, take a look around. Is the TV or stereo on, with no one paying attention? Are the lights on? Check out the wastebaskets. In your room, look at the dead batteries from your portable CD player lying next to a slice of stale pizza. How about soda cans or old school papers and magazines? And that’s just from the weekend! It’s all going to the dump, right? It doesn’t have to. Not if you’re conservation savvy.

Talkin’ Trash

Your wastebasket is one small tributary into your family’s waste stream–the flow of trash and garbage you put into the environment. In just the last 35 years, Americans have nearly doubled the size of their waste streams. By the year 2000, experts figure that Americans will produce more than 200 million ton of garbage each year.

Safely disposing of this garbage is a growing problem. Today, almost 67 percent of the waste stream ends up in the ground in landfills and dumps. Another 16 percent is burned in incinerators. The fact is that only 17 percent of our waste is recycled. Clearly, we need to change the way we handle our trash at home.

And the best way we have to do this is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Reducing the waste stream in your home means not automatically throwing everything away so that less garbage goes to the dump.

Reuse means getting more than one use out of a product to reduce the waste stream. Many so-called disposable items, such as plastic cups, knives, and forks, can actually be washed and used several times.

Recycling is a form of reuse. But when you recycle, you reuse the raw materials rather than the product. When you recycle a soda can, the aluminum, not the can itself, is reused. Buying goods made from recycled materials encourages manufacturers to use more recyclables in their products.

The Paper Chase

The biggest part of the home waste stream is not plastic or glass or even food. It’s paper. Nearly 40 percent of our trash is newspapers, magazines, old phone books, packaging material, and junk mail.

What’s more, we are finding out that paper in landfills does not decompose. In one landfill, scientists found 40- and 50-year-old newspapers in perfect condition. Another landfill contained a layer of old phone books several feet thick–all still readable.

Reducing the paper in our home waste stream can make a big difference. What would happen if we recycled half the newsprint we use each year? We’d keep nearly 6 million tons of paper out of our landfills. And landfills wouldn’t fill up as fast, so we’d need fewer of them.

Here are some easy ways to slash your wastepaper output:

* At school, be sure to use the recycled-paper bins. If your school doesn’t have a recycling program, start one.

* Buy recycled-paper products. This makes it more likely that manufacturers will use recycled materials.

* If you bring your lunch to school, carry it in a lunch box or reusable cloth or vinyl bag. The plastic bags and aluminum foil you wrap your food in can be taken home, washed, and used again and again.

What a Waste!

Another 25 percent of the home waste stream is made up of food and yard waste. All of these natural materials can be composted. The compost can then be used as mulch or fertilizer.

The other main parts of the waste stream include plastic, metal, glass, and other materials. Many of these can be recycled, but they must be cleaned first. Other materials such as motor oil, batteries, and solvents need extra care because they can be hazardous. Follow the rules in your community for recycling or disposing of these hazardous materials.

Home Improvement

You can conserve other home resources such as power and water, too. Here are some simple suggestions:

* Keep your shower time under five minutes. Consider installing a low-flow shower head to cut water use. You not only save water but the energy needed to heat it.

* Turn off lights and appliances! It sounds simple, but it can make dollars of difference.

* Talk with your family about buying new energy-efficient light bulbs and fixtures. They cost more than regular bulbs initially, but they use one-fifth less power and last 10 times as long.

* Wash dishes by hand, but don’t keep the water running. You use half the water and much less energy doing dishes by hand than with an automatic dishwasher.

Hey, nobody said saving the planet would be all fun! But the results will make a real difference in the environment today and tomorrow.

Bright Ideas: New Lighting Technology Gets the “Green Light”

Did a light bulb go off over your head the last time you had a great idea? Light bulbs have been going off over the heads of people who design . . . well, light bulbs! New lighting technology that promises to conserve energy and cut electric bills is coming soon to a socket near you.

Currently, 25 percent of all electricity generated in the United States is used for lighting. Two shining examples of the new lighting technology that could change that figure:

A new light bulb uses radio waves to make a gas glow inside the bulb. Standard incandescent light bulbs generate light by heating a wire until it glows. The advantage of the new bulb is that it uses only a quarter of the energy to generate the same amount of light as the old-style bulbs. What’s more, the bulbs will last 10 years or more, depending on how much they’re used.

The other new technology could be in action over your head as you read this. The long fluorescent tubes and their fixtures, so common in schools and offices, are being replaced by new bulbs and fixtures using one-third less power. Even without the new bulbs, a new electronic fixture will cut electrical usage by up to 24 percent.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging businesses and other organizations to upgrade their lighting through its Green Lights program. The EPA provides participants with products, information, and services to help them move to more energy-efficient lighting.

The Green Lights participant agrees to upgrade 90 percent of its facility’s lighting within the next five years. Is your school one of them?


Have You Protected Yourself From Fire Hazards?

August 30, 2014

fhsMore than 4,000 people died in fires last year, making fire the fourth leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Most of these fires were the result of human carelessness. Despite the fact that we all know that it takes three things to produce a fire–fuel, oxygen, and heat–we allow these ingredients for tragedy to combine in our homes. Most of us think we know all the fire prevention rules, but we seem to forget them all too easily.

Here’s an example of how innocently we can set the stage for a fire. Read the story and locate all the mistakes this teen made preparing for a party. The result was a fire that killed four of his friends and left him with burns over 40 percent of his body.

When Phil began setting up the basement for a party, his first concern was to be sure there was enough power for the amplifiers the band would be using. Knowing that amps draw a lot of power, he changed the fuses in the fuse box to a higher amperage so they would not “blow” during the party. Then he ran extension cords end-to-end to the corner where the band would be playing. Since he didn’t want people to trip on the cords, he tape the lightweight cords to the floor under the rug. He found a triple socket to plug into the single socket near the band so there would be room for all the plugs.

Since the screen in front of the fireplace would be in the way, he removed it. Phil reasoned that he only planned to have the fire burning when people arrived. He would put it out later, when the basement was filled with people.

When he saw his 8-year-old brother’s models, glue, and airplane parts on the table, he cleaned them up and put them in the back storage room where the water heater and furnace were located. He shut the door to keep the kids from wandering around the rest of the basement.

Phil though some partygoers might like to watch a video. He went upstairs, past the fire extinguisher at the top of the stairs, and got the TV from his bedroom and brought it down, along with the VCR. The TV and VCR fit snuggly into the space on the shelf, and he plugged both into an outlet.

Since the basement had no doors or windows to the outside, it smelled a little musty. Phil brought out an aerosol room deodorizer intending to spray it around before the guests arrived.

Convinced that smoking might set off the smoke detector outside the back room, he removed the battery just for the evening. Now he felt the basement was ready for the party.

Have you noticed that it was also ready for fire? How many mistakes did you find? Compare your list with this one.

1 Phil’s first mistake was changing the fuses in the fuse box. By increasing the amperage, he allowed more current to flow through the lines than they were equipped to handle. The byproduct is heat, one of the three ingredients for producing a fire.

2 When we plug extension cords together, we increase the danger of fire.

3 In addition, placing the cords under the rug meant that people would be stepping on them all evening without realizing it. This can break down the insulation on the cord, adding both heat and fuel.

4 To make matters worse, the cords were not suitable for a heavy-duty job.

5 Phil overloaded the sockets. This presents a danger similar to #1.

6 By removing the screen from the fireplace, Phil increased the chance for a spark to pop out onto the rug and start a fire. He did not check to see if the rug was fire-resistant.

7 Phil took a flammable substance–glue–and placed it in the same room with an open flame. Substances such as glue, gasoline, and paint give off vapors that can be ignited by an open flame, such as the one in the water heater or furnace.

8 When he brought his TV and VCR down to the basement, he placed them in a space that allowed no air circulation, the shelf. Electrical appliances need space around them to vent the heat produced when they are used.

9 He disconnected the smoke detector–the one device that could warn him of disaster.

10 To make matters worse, he left the fire extinguisher upstairs instead of bringing it down where it would be available in case of fire. Since fire seeks oxygen, it often vents up a stairway before people have a chance to escape. Phil created a real “death trap” for his party. This basement had no exit, except the stairs to the next floor. In case of a sudden fire, fire or smoke could block the only exit.

When we are in a hurry and preoccupied, our fire safety knowledge may go up in smoke instead of being used to make the home safe. Check your home tonight, and discuss with your family how you would get out of your house in case of fire. Include a place to meet once you get outside. By planning ahead and taking the necessary steps to avoid tragedy, you’ll be better safe than sorry.


Looking Inside Of Chemotherapy

August 20, 2014

iscCANCER–The word alone is enough to scare most people. It conjures up scary visions of suffering and mysterious treatments.

Dan was frightened. He wasn’t ready to admit it to anyone yet, but he was really scared. His doctors had told him that he had cancer. They wanted him to start chemotherapy in a few weeks. Today he felt pretty good–a little tired but well, in general. He looked around the waiting room at the doctors’ office. Some of the other patients looked a lot sicker than he did. He could tell that one person with a scarf on her head had lost all her hair. That kid in the corner had no hair, either. His dad gave him a reassuring little punch.

Dan kept overhearing things that sounded terrible. “I was so weak after that last chemo.” Why take medicine to make you feel worse?

And that older woman was wearing a surgical mask. Did she have some strange disease, or was that because of chemotherapy, too? Dan wasn’t too sure he wanted to find out more. But that was why he was here: so the doctors could explain what was happening.

What is Cancer?

Today, the outcome after a diagnosis of cancer is more positive than ever before. Many types of cancer are treatable and seem to be curable. One way to treat and often seemingly to cure cancer is through chemotherapy.

Before we talk about the treatment, let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing when we use the word cancer.

Most of the cells in your body grow, then divide, to create new cells. How fast this process happens depends on the type of cell you look at. Bone cells change fairly slowly after people have reached their final height. Cells divide to replace old cells or to repair damage. Blood cells have a different life story. Blood cells divide frequently.

Normally, red blood cells stay in the blood for about three or four months. Then they are replaced with new cells. There are also white cells in your blood. Among other things, these cells help your body fight off infections. Some white cells last only a week or two. Others don’t even survive for a full day. These cells also are replaced by cell division

There is a specific timetable for cell division, growth, and development of each type of cell in your body. But sometimes the control system for the division and development of cells doesn’t work as it should. That’s what we call cancer. The word cancer usually means that one cell or group of cells begins to divide uncontrollably. Usually, the cells that are produced do not develop into specialized cells. They stay immature and keep dividing.

If the cells that are out of control are one type of blood cell, then that part of the blood no longer does its job. Other blood cells may not be produced. If the cells that are out of control are part of another tissue–bone or liver, for instance–then they may interfere with that tissue’s function. In addition, a mass of cancer cells, or tumor, may form. This can put pressure on the rest of the organ or on other organs and interfere with normal functions.

Usually, the doctors have three choices for cancer treatment: surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Often, two or three of the choices are combined. What kind of cancer, where it is, and how far it has progressed all are part of the information doctors use in deciding on treatment.

Is the Treatment Worse Than the Disease?

Chemotherapy is literally treating cancer with chemicals: drugs. But this is different from most kinds of drug therapy. When you have an infection, for example, the doctor prescribes an antibiotic, a drug that will kill the bacteria causing the infection. Bacteria are different from body cells; drugs that kill them most often have no effect on your own cells.

Cancer, however, really is your own cells that have gone out of control. Drugs that will kill cancer cells also will have an effect on the rest of your cells. Doctors try to work with what makes cancer cells different, to find ways to kill the cancer cells with little harm to the rest of the body. They often are not completely successful. What you see or feel are side effects of the chemotherapy.

Cancer cells usually are very simple and divide continually. Many drugs used for chemo are drugs that interfere with cell division. But cancer cells aren’t the only cells in your body that are dividing.

Cells deep inside hair follicles divide rapidly, causing your hair to grow. Many drugs used for chemotherapy also damage the cells in hair follicles. When that happens, hair falls out. People on chemo can lose all their hair, sometimes including their eyebrows and eyelashes. But once the drug therapy stops, the cells continue to divide and new hair grows in.

Another group of cells that divide and may be damaged by chemotherapy are the cells that line the digestive tract–that is, the stomach and intestine. Those cells normally let the nutrients from the food you eat get into your blood. If the cells are damaged, a person may feel sick. Vomiting and diarrhea can occur after chemotherapy. The people getting treatment may not feel like eating; they may lose weight. But again, when the chemotherapy is over, these cells will be replaced. Appetite returns.

Other cells that can be affected by chemotherapy include blood cells. Your blood contains several different kinds of cells. Red cells are replaced every three to four months. If chemo slows down their production, old cells aren’t replaced fast enough. People getting treatment may become anemic; that is, they do not have enough red blood cells. These cells help carry oxygen to all your cells. If you don’t have enough, then your cells won’t get enough oxygen. You feel weak and tired. You may not be able to do normal things, like run for the bus or rush up the stairs, without getting breathless and tired.

Other cells in the blood, the white blood cells, help the body fight infection. Some of these cells are normally replaced every few days. If chemo interferes with replacing white cells, the result can be that the body is less able to fight off infection. People on chemo have to be very careful. They may be told to stay away from crowds or to wear a mask to reduce the number of bacteria they breathe in.

Controlling the Side Effects

These effects are reversible. As soon as chemo ends, the normal cells should replace themselves. Hair will grow back; normal immunity should return; energy levels should be close to what they were.

Doctors don’t want to scare away people like Dan. They really don’t want to make their patients sicker than they felt before. For some types of cancer, chemotherapy is very effective and can cause the cancer to disappear.

But the side effects have been hard to tolerate. New drugs have changed the picture a little. In some kinds of cancer, doctors can use two or three drugs in smaller doses. The combination has the same effect on the cancer as a higher dose of one drug, but the side effects may be significantly lessened.

Also, some of the side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, now can be controlled in some patients by giving other drugs with the chemotherapy. Some of the newer chemotherapy drugs have fewer, milder side effects.

Chemo and the Future

Cancer treatment continues to evolve. The patient’s overall health is also important as new treatments help control or cure the cancer with fewer or less-serious side effects.

Dan still has worries and fears. But knowing what to expect from his treatment and knowing that the newest, safest drugs are being used help reassure him. He may have problems with side effects, but those problems will end. He can put up with them to conquer this cancer, once and for all.


Acne Is A Part Of Life, But Can Be Beaten

July 24, 2014

anapolJust when a guy or girl is discovering the charms of the opposite sex, experiencing the urge to be independent, opening up to find a whole new social life–pop–he or she looks in the mirror and finds a face closely resembling a small pizza with extra pepperoni.

Almost every teenager gets a pimple now and then, but acne is more than just the occasional blemish. It’s physically uncomfortable, at times even painful, somewhat embarrassing–and it can turn the teen years into an era right up there with the Inquisition. Acne affects 80 percent of all teenagers. Knowing the facts can help you better understand your friends who suffer from acne or help you approach your own with a little more hope.

Beyond Blemishes

Acne isn’t the result of being dirty, eating junk food, or using too much makeup. And it isn’t just a “teen thing” that will always clear up by itself. Acne is a skin disease, but it’s not contagious. Although it usually begins in adolescence, it has both physical and psychological effects that can last a lifetime.

Where Does it Come From?

Acne is very obvious. It means blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples that can make adolescent skin look like raw hamburger. While the face–doesn’t it just figure?–is the most common site, acne can also spring up on the chest, neck, shoulders, back–any area where there are many oil glands. According to dermatologist Joseph Bark, here’s the series of events that makes the “zits” appear.

1. As you make your way into adolescence, hormonal changes are happening all over your body. One of them is increased amounts of the hormone androgen.

2. The androgen sends a message to your oil glands (technically known as sebaceous glands) to produce more of the fatty substance called sebum. This is normally discharged through your pores to lubricate the skin.

3. That causes oily skin, which in some teens isn’t a problem beyond a shiny nose. But in teens who have acne, the oil gland openings cause problems. Instead of flaking off and emptying out the oil gland openings as normal oil glands do, the epidermal cells of the glands stick together and form immovable clumps that plug them up.

4. The excess sebum being produced also backs up in the oil glands, along with skin pigments. The whole thing results in a mass of whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.

* A whitehead (the medical term is closed comedo) is a hard round cyst filled with dry sebum. It happens when the backup we talked about causes an eruption of the pore in the second layer of skin (the dermis).

* A blackhead (an open comedo) happens when the oil and dead cells accumulate within the skin follicle, creating upward pressure that causes a hole at the top of the follicle, in the outer skin layer (the epidermis). The dark, cheeselike substance inside becomes visible at the skin’s surface, hence the name “blackhead.” The dark color doesn’t come from dirt but from the skin pigment melanin.

* A pimple makes its appearance if substances in the blackhead buildup become infected. Pus forms, and the bump becomes inflamed and red.

Why acne occurs in some teens and not all may be a factor of heredity. We do know that it’s no more common in girls than in boys.

What Can You Do?

Keep in mind that although there is as yet no cure for acne, it can be controlled.

* Remember that mild cases usually clear up by themselves with time.

* Keep your skin clean and keep your hair clean and away from your face. Surface dirt doesn’t cause acne, but it can contribute to its spread.

* If you’re shaving, do so lightly so you don’t nick bumps. Soften your beard well before going after it with a sharp blade.

* If you use makeup, choose the nonoily variety and always remove it before you go to bed.

* Avoid picking at or squeezing blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples. The pressure can rupture the surrounding membrane and spread the infection further. Besides, squeezing won’t get rid of blackheads because, according to Dr. Bark, by the time you can see them, they’ve been present in the skin up to two months.

Teens who suffer from severe cases of acne that are interfering with their overall well-being should seek the care of a doctor. Again, acne can’t be cured yet, but there are treatments that can help clear up the symptoms and keep them under control.

Vitamin A acid cream (Retin-A, retinoic acid, and tretinoin). Available only by prescription. Retin-A loosens the attachments between the epidermal cells so that the “plugs” that cause pimples can’t form. Retin-A is not straight vitamin A but a modification of it with the addition of certain substances that change its chemical action. It’s a drug, not a vitamin; in fact, vitamin A taken orally is completely ineffective in treating acne, and an overdose can be toxic. Retin-A comes in various strengths, from the low-strength cream to the higher-strength gels and liquids, and is always applied in a thin layer. At first, the drug will bring pre-existing acne bumps to the surface of the skin-so the whole thing appears to get worse before it gets better. Because that process can take from two to 12 weeks, your physician may prescribe an antibiotic that will help prevent infection during that period.

A new advancement is in the works. It is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A that can be taken in pill form to reduce the amount of sebum produced in those with acne.

Severe acne can leave physical scars. Cosmetic surgery may help some of those persons.

Keep in mind that information about acne changes constantly and that treatment always depends on the individual.

Keep a Clear Head

If you have acne, here are some suggestions you might find helpful.

1. Get the best care you can. You have skin disease–see a doctor! You wouldn’t sit around and suffer with a broken arm or a case of pneumonia, would you?

2. Study yourself as objectively as you can in the mirror. What are your physical features that outshine your ravaged skin? Do you have great hair? Do everything you can to make it look its best. Got a pretty decent body? Tone it up and wear clothes that show it off. Whether it’s your dazzling blue eyes or those perfectly straight teeth, play up the physically positive.

3. Think of yourself as a person with great hair–or a great sense of humor or a compassionate nature. Other people focus on what you’re focusing on. If you’re obviously self-conscious about your complexion, they’ll zero in on it. If you’re too busy flashing your smile, they’ll forget your pimples, too.

4. Teens with acne don’t go from 13 to 19 without a social life. Plenty of kids with acne date, hold school offices, star in drama club productions. If you have a friend whose acne doesn’t cramp her style, ask her how she does it. She’ll probably tell you her skin condition isn’t who she is. Who she is, is outgoing, fun, smart–and she’s out there going for it.

5. If someone’s openly cruel to you about your skin, you have a right to feel hurt. You have a right to tell him you don’t appreciate his lack of sensitivity. You have a right to find other friends. You also have a right to hope he wakes up tomorrow morning with a huge pimple on the end of his nose, but don’t waste your time on that. You have better things to do!

6. This, too, shall pass. Whether with medication or time, your skin will clear up. That doesn’t make all things better right now, but cling to it in that moment when yet another pimple has popped to the surface.