Spring Health Tips 2014

by Charles Platkin, PhD

The is in the air, it’s getting warmer, and it’s beautiful. Here a few healthy living tips that will help you have a better spring.

1.         Avoid Stress and Reduce Allergies

According to a study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergy sufferers with persistent stress experience more allergy flare-ups. According to the researchers, “While alleviating stress won’t cure allergies, it may help decrease episodes of intense symptoms.”  You can reduce stress with meditation and/or deep breathing exercises. Go for a walk or a run; take a bike ride or a spin class. Eat right, get enough sleep, and take care of other conditions.


2.         Be Aware of the “Allergy Capitals”

The Allergy Capitals is a research project conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) to identify “the 100 most challenging places to live with allergies” during the spring and fall seasons. The data measured and compared each season include:

•           Pollen scores (airborne grass/tree/weed pollen and mold spores)

•           Number of allergy medications used per patient

•           Number of allergy specialists per patient


Here are the 20 worst pollen cities:


1.         Louisville, Ky.

2.         Memphis, Tenn.

3.         Baton Rouge, La.

4.         Oklahoma City, Okla

5.         Jackson, Miss.

6.         Chattanooga, Tenn.

7.         Dallas, Tx

8.         Richmond, Va.

9.         Birmingham, Ala.

10.       McAllen, Texas

11.       Dayton, Ohio

12.       Wichita, Kan.

13.       New York, NY

14.       Columbia, S.C.

15.       San Antonio, Tx

16.       Knoxville, Tenn.

17.       Providence, R.I.

18.       New Orleans

19.       Tulsa, Okla.

20.       St. Louis, Mo


3.         Watch the Easter Eating

Easter is coming, and you need to beware of the calorie costs of holiday eating. Traditional honey-glazed Easter ham can be about 150 to 200 calories per 3 ounces, and you will most likely have at least two portions. What about those hot cross buns? They are about 250 calories per bun. What about all that candy?

  • Cadbury Creme Egg, 150 calories
  • Cadbury Mini Eggs Candy, 12 pieces (40 grams), 190 calories
  • Snickers  Chocolate Egg (1.15 ounces),  160 calories
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, 1 piece, 170 calories
  • Pez Hippity Hoppities, one roll, 35 calories
  • Bunny Peeps, four bunnies, 110 calories
  • Jelly Beans, 4 calories per bean
  • Hershey’s Hollow Milk Chocolate Egg  (570 calories for the shell alone) with four candy-coated milk chocolate eggs inside (90 more calories)


4.         Walk More

One of the simplest and best exercises: Walk everywhere.  Use a smartphone app such as mapmywalk.com, moves (http://www.moves-app.com/), or runkeeper (http://runkeeper.com/) to keep track of the distance you’ve gone.  See http://www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/walk-your-health-great-tips-i-know-youve-heard-it-read


5.         Bicycling is Great

Biking is not only great fun and a fantastic means of transportation, it also builds muscle, particularly in your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. It’s a convenient, inexpensive way to get around town. Parking is always simple, and you can get some exercise while you’re running errands. There are some very cool smartphone applications, such as mapmyride (http://www.mapmyride.com/), that help to track how long you ride, and Google maps has a bike route option that helps you find the most efficient path and identifies bike lanes if they exist.  Also see:  http://goo.gl/Ifrtsj


6.         Strawberries

When you get a great-tasting strawberry, it’s hard to believe it’s really good for you. Strawberries are loaded with fiber, potassium, vitamin C and folate. And one large strawberry has only six calories (One cup of strawberries has 46 calories; 0.45 g fat; 11 g carbs; 3 g fiber; 1.5 g protein). Research conducted by the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition at the David Geffen School of Medicine and others has shown that strawberries have potent antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-atherosclerotic (prevents hardening of the arteries, which leads to heart disease and stroke) and anti-neurodegenerative (leads to Alzheimer’s) properties. Pick bright, firm strawberries with vivid red color. The tops should be fresh, green and intact. They will keep in the refrigerator for two to three days. Wash them only when ready to eat.


7.         Green Tea Offerings and Cold Coffee Deals

Dunkin’ Donuts (www.dunkindonuts.com) may not be the best place to hang out if you’re on a , but they do have some good drink choices. Their flavored coffees are very good: about 20 calories per 10 ounces (without sugar or milk), and they’ve just added an iced green tea. According to a Dunkin’ Donuts spokesperson, they use twice as much ground coffee in their iced coffee as they do in their hot coffee. “By using this double brewing technique, we’re able to ensure that our iced coffee has the same signature, smooth taste that our guests have come to know and love from our Dunkin’ Donuts hot coffee.” But don’t go there if you can’t resist the doughnuts.


8.         Traveling For Spring Break – Avoid Stress

According to Dr. Lisa Gordon, a psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, vacationing with children can be a challenge for many families. The stress of an unfamiliar place, the unpredictability of travel and the overall feelings of newness can affect both parents and their children. In fact, parents and children have very different notions of what makes a “good” or “fun” vacation. Gordon believes that while adults look at vacations as “breaks and revel in their relaxation and newness, children resist that newness and get anxious without activities. Sleeping in a different bed, seeing new television shows and/or schedules, and tasting unfamiliar food can cause stress and anxiety in children, causing them to act out. As a result, sometimes parents face disappointment, and may even think their kids are spoiled or ungrateful.”

To minimize problems, she suggests the following:

  • Bring a few “home” belongings. Your kids’ favorite snacks, their blanket or a pillow from their bed, which can ease anxiety.
  • Don’t expect perfection. Vacations should be about spending time together, not meeting impossible standards of perfection.
  • Do expect the unexpected. Planning and budgeting for the unexpected can alleviate stress for parents, and in turn, entire families. Be sure to plan for rainy days and budget for extra room service costs.
  • Structure your relaxation. Kids respond well to structure and predictability — two things often lacking in a vacation.


9.         Read This Before Gardening

It’s getting warmer; the birds are singing more; it’s also gardening time. And gardening does burn calories. Spring is often the time when we plant gardens that will reap a summer of lovely flowers and healthy vegetables. In fact, getting on your hands and knees and crawling around pulling weeds can burn about 316 calories per hour. But beware — gardening requires a lot of bending, stretching, lifting and moving in ways that we don’t typically do. It is important to think about good body mechanics and physical conditioning before you start getting that garden in shape. Paula Kramer, Ph.D., chair and professor of occupational therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, suggests the following:

  • Stretch, even for a few days prior, before you begin working in the garden.
  • Use a fat, rubberized or padded handled trowel made from one piece of metal from top to bottom. This allows for a tight grip under damp conditions, less possibility of breakage in the tool, and less strain on the arms and joints.
  • Tools, such as shears or clippers, with a spring-action, self-opening feature are helpful to prevent strain on the muscles and joints, but they should be well-oiled to open and close easily.
  • Sit while working, or take sitting breaks to conserve energy and decrease stress on your back, knees and hips.
  • When lifting potted plants or bags of mulch and dirt, bend your knees and lift straight up, keeping your back as straight as possible. Concentrate on using the leg muscles rather than the back muscles to lift, and avoid twisting and turning while lifting as this can strain your back.
  • Do not try to whip your entire garden into shape in one day. This mentality leads to “overdoing it” and sore Monday mornings.


10.       Nasty Tick Season Begins

The spring starts tick season in many communities. Unfortunately, according to experts, the only sure way to prevent tick-borne diseases like Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis is to not get bitten by a tick.

Christopher Ohl, M.D., professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, offers several key tips to avoid diseases related to ticks:


The longer a tick is embedded in you the greater the risk of infection, so check yourself, or have friend check you, for ticks as soon as you come in from being outdoors.

  • Shoes, boots and clothing can be treated with a permethrin-based repellant, widely available at sporting goods and outdoors stores, that can provide weeks of protection and last through several washings.
  • Tuck pants into socks to reduce exposed skin.
  • When hiking, stay on existing paths and avoid walking in brushy areas or tall grass – favorite haunts of ticks.
  • If you find a tick, use tweezers to remove it as close to the skin as possible. Don’t grab the tick with your fingers and squeeze to remove. Squeezing injects the tick fluids into you and increases the risk of infection.
  • If you’ve been bitten by a tick and then develop a fever one to two weeks later, see your doctor. The incubation period for tick-borne diseases is eight to 14 days.
  • Be sure to protect the family dog with a tick collar or monthly treatments to prevent ticks from being brought into the house on the dog’s coat.
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