Best in Brain Health: Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Brain

Best in Brain Health Guide WilcoWellness

Best in Brain Health: Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Brain 

 

No matter your age or how sharp your memory is, it can’t hurt to incorporate more ways to keep your brain healthy into your daily life. You might just find that some brain health exercises are fun, while other foods that are healthy for your brain are also utterly delicious. It’s never too soon or too late to get started. You only have one brain, after all.

Unlike our fingers or our skin, we can’t detect when something is wrong with our brain by examining it in our hands. If your mind feels foggy, your memory loss is worsening, or you just feel something is off, don’t fret. There are many options out there to improve brain health, from Neurotherapy exercises to supplements. And for those of you who are wondering, how can I improve my brain health naturally? There are several options for you too.

 

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

When Amanda Kirton arrived at Georgetown Hospital in 2017, she was complaining about stomach pain. As it turns out, Kirton had had a massive stroke that would change her life forever. After spending six months in hospitals and surviving two cardiac arrests (among other things), she bravely details her frightening and yet inspiring journey on her blog

Certainly, Kirton could never have imagined that she would go through what she did. Her story is a reminder to us all about the importance of being proactive about our brain health, as events like these can be next to impossible to predict. That’s why we will be taking a close look at the 6 pillars of brain health in this article, which may help you prevent stroke, dementia, and other conditions that affect brain health.

 

The 6 Pillars of Brain Health

Remember how we were talking about being more proactive? If you don’t remember, you’re in the right place. Each pillar is something you can do every day (and night) to prevent memory loss and promote healthy brain function. The best part is, by following these six pillars you can actually bring improvements to many areas of your life. 

 

Pillar #1: Exercise Regularly

It should come as no surprise that exercising regularly is good for you. Something as simple as walking for 30 minutes each day can significantly boost heart health. As for your brain? Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress, boost your mood, improve your memory, and increase your energy. Add a few knee-ups or side steps while walking and your brain and sensory proprioception get a workout too. 

Experts recommend 30 minutes of walking, swimming, or another aerobic activity at least five days a week. You can also improve your balance to reduce your risk of falling and bonking your head, an incident that can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. There are some great places in Wilco to improve your balance and better your brain. Including:

 

 

Pillar #2: Eat Wisely

More specifically, eat foods that reduce inflammation in your whole body-brain included. Here’s what you can do:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet that includes fish, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, and lots of fresh produce from the local farmer’s market. Every now and then, a glass of red wine and a square of dark chocolate is A-OK as well.
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats like the plague. Seriously, these are no good; full-dairy products, red meat, fast food, fried food, packaged and processed food items have all got to go.
  • Stock up on omega-3 fatty acids in the form of supplements or foods, such as salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. If this is all sounding very heart-healthy to you, keep in mind that what’s good for your heart is great for your brain.
  • Eat 4-6 smaller meals each day rather than three big meals to keep your blood sugar consistent and minimize inflammation. 
  • The more colorful the merrier; different fruits and vegetables serve different health benefits. Eat across the rainbow with a variety of leafy greens and berries to benefit from a full spectrum of antioxidants and vitamins.

 

Pillar #3: Stimulate Your Mind Often

In the same way, we exercise our bodies to maintain our muscles, we have to regularly put in the effort to exercise our brains. When was the last time you memorized a set of digits that was longer than a telephone number? Can you name all fifty states? Have you ever tried Sudoku? Warning: it’s not easy, but that’s the point!

A good session of puzzles, riddles, strategy games, and memorization can make your mind feel overworked. Just remember, sore muscles are a sign the workout is working. A little training each day can keep you mentally sharp, and it can be a great way to socialize too. This leads us to our next point…

 

Pillar #4: Be Social

This one might come as a surprise, but as humans, we are wired to socialize and be part of a community. In fact, studies show that the more healthy connections people have, the better they perform on memory and cognition tests. And it makes sense, seeing as there’s no one to tell you that you’re talking in circles when your only friend is the wall.

For some of us, it’s easy to become completely isolated and not even realize it. Don’t let yourself be lonely; visit people you care about, make new friends, volunteer, take group classes, and get to know your neighbors. It takes a village to raise a healthy brain.

 

Pillar #5: Catch Lots of Quality Sleep

Adults need at least eight hours of sleep every night. It’s critical for memory formation, problem-solving, recalling information, thinking clearly, and a whole lot more. Sure, sleep deprivation makes you feel cranky, but a lack of sleep puts more than your mood at risk. If you regularly miss out on sleep, you may be increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. At the very least, sleep deprivation can make it harder for you to do…well, just about everything. You can improve the quality of your sleep by: 

  • Following a consistent sleep schedule 
  • Eliminating late afternoon naps
  • Cutting out caffeine past 3 PM (don’t forget that tea has caffeine too!)
  • Banning phones, computers, and other screens from your bed
  • Creating a bedtime ritual like reading or relaxing in a hot bath

 

Pillar #6: Be Stress-Free

Both acute and prolonged stress can be extremely detrimental to the brain and the body as a whole. When your body’s stress responseor, the “fight or flight response”is triggered, stress hormones like cortisol run amok through the body. If that stress continues over a long period of time, stress hormones can increase your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and even cancer. 

A bad day here and there won’t kill you (that’s our hope, anyway), but you shouldn’t let small stress or even large stress hamper your overall happiness. It’s not worth it! The next time you are feeling stressed and you’re not sure what to do about it:

  • Treat yourself to a massage. All Care Therapies in Georgetown offers massages as well as therapies for improving cognitive function. 
  • Laugh and party with friends from around the world, while watching a Comedy Special with friends on Netflix.  Your brain is going to love it!
  • Eat a piece of chocolate from Srsly Chocolate. Just one square, of course.

Looking for the Best in Brain Health?

Look to your plate, your pillow, and the people who make you smile. Our brains are inconceivably complex organs that even the most whip-smart of scientists can’t wrap their minds around. But despite everything the brain is capable of, it still can’t predict how the future will unfold. The best we can do to promote a healthy brain is to be proactive. So eat well, sleep plenty, walk more, and enjoy every step of the journey. And don’t forget to stop by our directory often for more health and wellness guides. 

Pollinators: How You Can Help Save The Birds and The Bees

April-Pollinators-2021 WilcoWellness

Pollinators, like bees and birds, help pollinate the very plants that feed our communities

According to National Geographic, “Pollination occurs when pollen is moved within flowers or carried from flower to flower by pollinating animals such as birds, bees, butterflies, moths, or other animals, or by the wind.” When pollen is carried between flowers of and in the same species, it leads to fertilization. In terms of plants, this means it’s possible for seed and fruit products to occur. The pollination process ensures that full-bodied fruit and a full set of viable seeds will happen.

 

Pollinators are in trouble

Scientist suggest evidence reveal there’s a world-wide disturbance amongst pollinators who have suffered from the following:

  • Loss of habitat
  • Chemical misuse
  • Introduced and invasive plant and animal species
  • Disease and parasites

Like bats and bees, many pollinators are now listed on the federally “listed species,” which shows a significant disappearance of that species in natural areas. In Fact, the US has lost well over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies over the past ten years. Unfortunately, due to a lack of research, we don’t know too much about our pollen-passing-friends. In contrast, European countries have set aside over $20 million investigating the status of pollinators in Europe.

It’s essential to do our research, understand, and share some of the key players in our neck of the woods. And fortunately for you, we’ve gathered up a few key-pollinator members to introduce to you:

 

Meet a few of them now and what puts them at risk:

Bees:

With more than 250 species, bumblebee bees like to fill the baskets on their legs with pollen and bring it back to their hives. Inadvertently, these busybodies carry pollen on their soft abdomens from one flower to another.

A sweet honey treat from the Farmer’s Market most likely began with the help of a honey bee. Did you know that commercial honey bees are transported thousands of miles to help create some of our favorite snacks? Some take the long journey to pollinate for Michigan’s cherry trees or California’s almond trees. Honey bees help grow kidney beans, coffee, strawberries, avocados, and walnuts.

In the past twenty years, managed-honey bee numbers have crashed, partly due to colony collapse disorder which occurs to the sudden loss of colony worker bees. These busybodies are necessary to keep the colony alive. Meanwhile, scientists claim bumble bees in Northern America and Europe are dwindling rapidly. While the reason for the loss of bees is complicated, climate change, insufficient nesting resources, food supply, pesticides, disease, and parasites are likely contributors.

Butterflies:

As ambassadors of nature, these fluttering favorites are tiny yet mighty! Making a significant migratory journey from Mexico to Candida, Monarchs are quite legendary, even here in Texas. Gulf fritillary butterflies use nectar from many native Texan flowers, such as the passionflower. This familiar flower is hung beautifully on display in Georgetown, TX. “Bee” sure to check it out while grabbing lunch at Monument Cafe.

Whether it’s promoting pollinators by taking Winged pictures in Leander or putting colorful plants in the backyard, these beauties need our help. Our butterfly’s pollinators’ survival stands threatened due to loss of habitat and plant diversity, climate change, agrochemical pollutants, and invasive species.

Birds:

From hummingbirds to honeycreepers, the United States relies on colorful crooners to help spread pollen in our wildflowers. Soaring from brightly colored flowers to the next, these “tweeters” help stabilize our ecosystem while enjoying red, yellow, and orange colors.

Climate change, pesticides, and glass window strikes from tall buildings are on the list because birds are not making it as they once would. Especially if outdoor house cats find entertainment in our pollinator bird friends, they tend to raise their mortality rate by ruffling more than a few feathers.

Bats:

Bats are often misunderstood and tend to get a bad rap for carrying disease, but they’re mostly harmless to humans. In fact, many people favor bat feces as fertilizer! They’re naturals at pest control, consuming large amounts of harmful agricultural insects and bugs each year. Not only do bats keep pests off plants, but they also help pollinate and spread seeds. Many Texan bats, like the Mexican Free-tail bat, love bright white or light-colored flowers.

Recently, millions of bats have died due to a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome in bats who live in caves during winter.

 

What can you do today to protect and promote pollinators?

Go native!

 

Pollinators are more attracted to and can “best” adapt to local, native plants, which often need less water anyways. When planting at home or in the community garden, look for Texas native plants that help produce nectar and larval food for pollinators. Not sure what to plant in Central Texas? Check here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Make a day of it and stroll through the beautiful gardens and discover which plants would best be suited for your little garden slice of pollinator heaven.

Here are a few other suggestions on where to buy flowering plants in Williamson County:

To “buzz” up a conversation, tell them about the article you’re reading and help spread the word!

 

Welcome bees home by making Bee Hotels: Bees don’t know where to live, can you help? Most of them are spending their time trying to make a home in ground nests, while others live in grass or tree limbs.

 

Here are some fun DIY videos to get you started:

 

If you want to start small and easy, include the kiddos on a weekend build for the bees, check out the video link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0re9o1ZqX8

 

Reduce your impact!

Purchase local, organic food and reduce your consumption by reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Supply mineral licks for butterflies

Attract magic to the garden by providing a salt lick for butterflies and bees. You’ll want to mix a small amount of sea salt or wood ashes and place them in a shallow puddle in the garden (or sheltered area). This provides valuable minerals to our free-flying friends!

Splish, splash! Let’s make a bath

No matter what Pinterest says, don’t use glass in the garden to make a birdbath. We’ve all seen this, right? Place sea-salted sponges in birdbaths to provide additional food sources and freshwater to our pollinators—Brownie points for keeping the water clean by changing the water often.

Ditch the lawn, plant flowers

Make the most of the lawn by planting more flower beds and veggie gardens. If you want to keep it cool, maybe try it mullet style. Business in the front, party in the back if you don’t want the neighbors to see your wild side!

Whatever you do, do something!

Bees and other pollinators help define our entire ecosystem. Without them, the ecosystem would be substantially different or cease to exist altogether. Pollinators are vital to global economies and food supply.

Get to know people within our community who care

 

 It might be through local conservation groups, community gardens, or volunteering at the Farmer’s market. With the dramatic decline in insects and other pollinators, it’s essential we do our part as a community. Be sure to spread the word about pollinators and why they matter.

 

 

 

Organ Donation in Texas Saves Lives

Organ Donors in Texas Save Lives WilcoWellness

It’s overwhelming to think there are 100,000 people waiting on the transplant list in the United States

There are 107,938 people on the transplant waiting list in Texas and, thankfully, 12,960,232 registered donors.

Unfortunately, most of those waiting patients will never get a call saying that a suitable donor can help save their lives.

Nearly 20 people die each day without hearing that call. It might be challenging to think about what will happen to your body after you pass, but tissue and organ donation are generous and worthwhile! Your gift is life-saving.

If you’ve never considered or delayed becoming a donor, possibly because of inaccurate information, read on! This article will discuss the basics of organ donation and bust urban legends that might be holding you back.

 

What is organ donation and transplantation?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Organ donation is the process of surgically removing an organ or tissue from one person (the organ donor) and placing it into another person (the recipient). Transplantation is necessary because the recipient’s organ has failed or has been damaged by disease or injury.” It’s common for organ donation to occur after the organ donor passes away.

 The organs and tissues that can be transplanted as the following:

  • Intestine
  • Lung
  • Heart
  • Pancreas
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Cornea
  • Middle ear
  • Skin
  • Bone
  • Bone marrow
  • Heart valve
  • Connective tissue
  • Vascularized composite allografts

 

Who can be a donor?

There’s no age limit to being a donor. When an individual dies, their age and medical information are evaluated for suitability. The Organ Procurement Organization (OPO), like Donate Life Texas, determines medical suitability for donation.

 

How can I become an organ donor in Texas?

If you’re a Texan who wishes to become an organ donor, consider jumping over to DonateLifeTexas.org to complete the registry form to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor.

 

Donate Life Texas registry does not cover the following:
  • Living organ donation
  • Living bone marrow,
  • Blood
  • Whole-body donation

 

They suggest checking resources Donate Texas.org for more information about living donations in Texas.

 

Consenting is COOL.

Consenting to a donation registry is more than an expression of interest. It’s a legal document. When you’re registered, you legally give your consent for organ, eye, and tissue donation after death. As Donate Life Texas suggests, we feel it’s a compassionate step that you can take as an individual to relieve some of the pressure from your loved ones, should you pass.

 

Get online to register!

When you visit this site to become registered, you will be asked to complete a few simple questions like name, phone, and address.

When you enter your email address, it allows you to receive a registration confirmation and lets you log on anytime you’d like to their site to see updates or change your record.

 

Head to the DMV:

Another option is to go to a local Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), where you can choose to give an anatomical gift. Once you’ve signed up, your driver’s license will have a little heart in the corner, which makes it easy for emergency medical services to identify your decision right away. Due to organs’ vitality, there’s a small window of time when donation can occur after passing. By carrying your decision with you at all times, you could potentially save a life.

Who should I tell about my decision to become an organ donor?

Your decision to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor is very personal. But it could potentially affect the lives of those you love. It’s essential to share with family members and loved ones that you desire to be a donor. It lets them know your wishes before your passing. Additionally, you might want to share with other key players in your life, like a lawyer, healthcare provider, or religious leader.

Avoid Potential Confusion:

Whether your death comes as a shock or not to your family and loved ones, it’s a good idea to keep confusion out of an emotionally sensitive time as they deal with your lossSpeaking with them about your desire or decision will simplify their responsibilities and provide a bit of comfort in your decisions. Not only do you get your wishes carried out, but a conversation with loved ones allows for an opportunity to answer potential questions. Death and dying are not an easy conversation, making for an uneasy talk. However, an open discussion about how it works can correct inaccurate information about donation and possibly relieve any tension about the subject.

 

Urban Myths & Stubbornly Persistent Myths:

There are several urban legends and stubbornly persistent myths about organ donation in circulation.  Sharissa Stewart, the former Organ Donation Procurement Coordinator, touches on a few of these myths :

 

Sharissa: Has there been a time when someone granted permission, but the family did not want to? Maybe you could comment here?

“I have been a part of many conversations when a potential donor is registered, but their family objects. This could be caused by grief, thinking they registered a long time ago and changed their mind, religious concerns, or other reasons. Usually, after lengthy discussions with family and the funeral home, everyone is able to come to an agreement and honor the deceased wishes to be a donor.”

 Myth: I will receive inadequate health care because I am an organ donor.

Doctors and emergency personnel will do everything possible to save a life regardless of registration status. Many times staff doesn’t even look at donation status until they pass away or have no chance of survival of injuries. Even if the donation is moving forward, you will still receive the best care to ensure the best chance of organ transplant success.

Myth: It’s expensive to become an organ donor. My family will be charged if I donate my organs, eye, or tissues.

“If you choose to save lives and donate, your OPO will work with the funeral home to keep costs from going to the family. Any additional time costs associated in the hospital, transportation, etc. will not go to the family”.

 Myth: Organ donation will disfigure my body.

“Many people are concerned about donation affecting their funeral plans. What people should know is that funeral home staff is phenomenal at reconstruction. I have seen patients pass from severe injuries be able to donate every possible tissue and still have an open-casket viewing funeral. Prior to donation occurring, the chosen funeral home is contacted to coordinate a plan”.

 Myth: If I donate my organs, I will not contribute my body to research.

“Every research opportunity is different, and many changes over time. I have seen organ and tissue donors still are able to participate in research. Anatomical whole body donation may not allow certain tissue donations, but that will be discussed with the family, and they will have the decision on which route to take. Donation staff wants to honor your and your family’s wishes first and foremost”.

 Myth: An open-casket funeral isn’t an option for people who have donated organs.

“Upon donation, the OPO will also provide funeral home staff with supplies to aid in their reconstruction process. If certain tissues could impact the viewing (ex: short sleeve shirt viewing), then upper extremity donation will be avoided to allow funeral plans to proceed”.

 Myth: If I’m in an accident and the health care professional knows I’m a donor, they won’t try to save my life.

“When you are in an accident, emergency personnel don’t worry about donation. They are working to save your life. Only once you pass or you won’t have a good survival would the doctors notify donation experts to evaluate. Think of it this way, if a doctor wanted to proceed with a donation, they would want the healthiest organ to be able to transplant. In order to do this, they would need your body to be working as best it is able. If they do everything medically to save you and your body won’t fully recover, only then will donation potentially occurs”.

 Myth: Mental Illness on my medical record will prevent me from becoming an organ donor.

“Almost everyone is troubled by illness and disease, mental or otherwise. In no way does this prevent all donations from occurring. If your wish is to be a donor, the donation staff will work with your physicians to do what they can to make it happen. I have seen patients with cancer or types of dementia still be able to donate certain tissues”.

 Myth: I am too old to donate my organs, eyes, or tissue.

“Advances in medicine are constantly happening and changing what we thought was possible. Each tissue may have requirements in age or health, but this evolves. The important thing is to register and then trained staff with evaluation to maximize your ability to save lives. I personally have seen donors over 100 years of age be able to give certain tissues and leave an impact”.

 

 

Be an inspiration!

Become an organ, eye, and tissue donor and show how your selfless decision might change another’s perspective. Even if your loved ones do not initially agree, it might inspire them to do more research about the subject. Perhaps, over time they might consider registering themselves. If you’re already registered, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It’s a very selfless act that could potentially save someone’s life.

 

Again, we want to thank Sharissa for her input into this article. It’s inspiring to have a friend like you. Thank you for all that you do to save lives in this field of work.

 

Resources:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11750-organ-donation-and-transplantation

Myth: Autism is a “boy” thing! Autism in girls happens

The Myth behind Girls and Autism WilcoWellness

What do you think of when you think about Autism?

Truth: Autism in girls and we want to talk about it.

I give you permission to be a bit stereotypical. In fact, I want you to be a bit, well, judgy for a moment. When I previously thought about Autism, I would picture the stereotypical white male child.

Studies suggest that at least three males will receive an autistic diagnosis for every one female. It seems as though there are more autistic boys than there are girls. Here are three reasons why Autism might be misrepresented:

Misrepresentation may have to do with how well Autism is portrayed in the media. There is not a whole lot of representation for girls, especially in persons of color. Look up “autistic characters on tv” in Google: Dr. Shaun Murphy, Max Braverman, Sheldon Cooper, Jerry Espenson, and Spencer Reid can be found. I’d like to assume women and persons of color as underrepresented as they have been for centuries.

It is possible girls go undiagnosed for ASD due to the fact that the current diagnostic criteria do not meet the expression of Autism (or traits) in girls. The diagnostic criteria for Autism are fundamentally based on research performed in boys with Autism rather than girls. The criteria for the diagnosis of Autism are based on pre-existing concepts of what Autism may “look like,” which poses a huge problem for behavioral maskers. As a result, many gals are not diagnosed until later in life, typically in their teen years.

It’s difficult to diagnose Autism in girls girls

Diagnostic criteria call for individuals who lack the capacity to communicate and interact socially. As a result, many girls are being left undiagnosed with Autism and are diagnosed with other mental health disorders, like manic bipolar disorder or depression.

According to Autism in Girls, “The main issue with the current diagnostic criteria is that behavioral maskers that are used as criteria for diagnosing autism are based on pre-existing conceptions of what autism “looks like.” As suggested, the research took samples for their research based on predominantly male populations to diagnose Autism-It’s common for girls to be able to “mask” their autistic traits, and the behavior maskers used as diagnosis criteria are therefore not so transparent, but what can this mean for girls?

Many women find themselves questioning if they are Autistic (or on the spectrum) later in life. This especially happens in teenagers and in their twenties when the need for complex social interaction capacity has heightened. Girls are not being diagnosed properly and miss out on early intervention up into age three. When these girls do receive early intervention, the results show better health outcomes. However, no matter what the reason for the underrepresentation of girls with Autism, the facts are girls are being misdiagnosed and not taken as seriously as males.

 

Challenges for Autistic Girls

Keep in mind that Autism is a spectrum and presents differently from person to person. The spectrum includes different types of Autism, from severe or low functioning to high functioning. It’s easier to diagnose low-functioning because the signs and symptoms are more prevalent. However, this list can help offer some insight into some common difficulties girls with autism deal with:

Communication and social skills

A classic symptom of Autism is difficulty involving social interactions. This is much easier to spot in males because females tend to adapt to social situations more naturally than males.

 

When socially interacting, girls with Autism may find it difficult to maintain eye contact (to a point where it’s been described as “hurting” to attempt to do so). Some girls find it hard to concentrate on the interaction at hand and will escape difficult situations through mental processing or daydreaming.

Other social and communicable examples:

  • Take things literally; struggle to understand sarcasm.
  • Find it challenging to form an intimate bond or interact intimately.
  • May have lower levels of verbal cognitive ability.
  • Language and communication issues
  • It needs more time to process to engage and interact.
  • Conversations seem “scripted.”

Sensory:

Girls with Autism tend to have sensory processing issues, which include struggling to process intense sound, lighting, or touch.

For someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are sensory inputs that increase the desire or need for self-regulation. Some ways include having meltdowns, stimming, or in more extreme situations, self-harming behaviors. Some examples of stimming may include biting nails, waving hands, or tapping.

Headbanging is a common example for children to self-soothe themselves and helps communicate their needs as a result of severe anxiety. The desire to self-soothe can come from an individual being in physical pain, seeking attention, sensory issues, or attempting to communicate.

Behavior:

Sometimes, we find it hard to communicate. Sometimes described as: “When we know what we WANT to say in our head, but it doesn’t come out of our mouths properly, it becomes frustrating.” And sometimes, it creates aggressive feelings.

Girls with Autism can sometimes become aggressive or act out due to these feelings of difficulty communicating. Additionally, sometimes the aggression is put on due to an issue with trying to regulate over-stimulation.  For example, if there is a constant tick-tock of a clock that is over-stimulating occurring at the same time an intense conversation is happening, aggression may occur.

Physiological or health relative problems may be related to these behavior issues. It’s essential to remember everyone is different.

Thinking Visually:

Instead of thinking in language, people with ASD tend to think more in pictures. To process information, they see things in their mind or need to see them physically to better understand.

For some, it means having the ability to solve complex problems or conceptualize patterns in their mind. According to The Place for Children with Autism, “Additionally, once the images are associated with a specific train of thought, the words and images become associated and banked as memory.” Visual thinkers might have photographic or near photographic memories. In addition, linear thought processes do not come hand-in-hand with visual thinking.

 

It’s interesting enough! Neurotypicals can become quickly confused by visual thinkers, like people with ADS, because they might recall an image that’s tied to memory and associate it with something completely off-topic and unrelated but can make perfect sense in their mind! Add another struggle to the “communication and social skill” box – why don’t you?

Obsessions and special interests: A Classic Stereotype

Boy, will you see the light in their eyes when speaking about their special interests or obsessions! Girls on the spectrum tend to limit interests and often narrow down what they enjoy.

One of the reasons girls are misdiagnosed may be that their special interests are more socially acceptable than boys with ASD. For example, a female teen may obsess over celebrities or boys. These girls may do so because they have a strong desire to “fit in” with their friends by “masking” their autistic traits.

How do girls on the spectrum mask?

Girls with autism spectrum disorder are rock-star ninjas, basically. They know how to blend in and hide, known as camouflaging or masking – a real diagnostic issue!

Masking happens due to cultural pressure to act normal. However, it comes naturally for girls to mimic the behavior of others. They spend a great deal of energy to hide their autistic “quirks,” almost as if they’re in a play.

Some examples of mimicking include forcing eye contact (regardless of the internal discomfort or anxiety may induce) and mimicking facial expressions. Based on current studies and clinical experiences, other signs of Masking might include suppressing “quirks” or stimming behaviors such as “Flappy Happy Hands” or giving scripted responses.

They learn to adapt to their environment by utilizing these strategies to avoid standing out or to “fit in” with their given situation. Masking is learned through observing or mimicking. Girls with Autism might learn this ability by watching television or movies, from neurotypical peers, or from day-to-day observation.

Why Masking has Consequences?

Masking might seem like a super-power, but it has its consequences. It’s exhausting! One study suggests Masking can cause detrimental effects such as an emotional, physical, and mental drain. This occurs because Masking means constantly monitoring what is or what is not deemed as socially acceptable. Additionally, Masking is related to feeling like an outcast and a higher rate of depression.

What are the psychological impacts of being diagnosed late in girls?

Autistic girls don’t often “get it,” so they strive to do what other people are doing, and it wears them out. Oftentimes, girls with Autism start wondering what is “wrong” with them. In some social situations, they’ll start to obsess over every little detail of the past conversation.

Examples of obsessive thoughts that may occur are:

  • Why did I say something so stupid?
  • Did they think I was funny or inappropriate?
  • What did I do wrong?
  • How can I make this better?
  • How can I be better next time?

 

Constantly questioning yourself and monitoring your behavior is exhausting and can take a toll on mental illness

In fact, girls with less severe cases of Autism will often first be flagged because of depression or social issues. Girls come into the doctor’s office for something like anxiety, depression, or school performance. It’s not until later that physicians may discover social communication issues and restricted interests.

As mentioned previously, another impact of a diagnosis going overlooked is missing out on early intervention and support for skill-building. For example, It’s hard to focus on subjects that do not spark interest for individuals with ADHD, but especially with Autism. Academically, this can be detrimental when proper support is not available—resulting in poor performance and frustration (for the whole family).

 

Earlier diagnosis means getting the proper resources and access to therapies earlier in life. It means a girl and her family have more time to learn how to manage the diagnosis properly. Early intervention is crucial to development, but a later in life diagnosis is better than none at all.

Playing catch-up on learning proper social skills and coping mechanisms often happens in those who become diagnosed later in life. However, after a proper adjustment period, most females find comfort in their diagnosis. In fact, Netflix Comedian Hannah Gadsby explains her diagnosis as being handed the “key to her own city,” as while growing up, she always felt different.

After diagnosis, an individual with Autism can start to meet with autism experts, psychiatrists, or occupational therapists, or other trained professionals. They can help with answering questions and help give guidance or support in ways to build a better quality of life.

 

Whether the reasoning is difficult during diagnosing or not, ask for a second opinion by a practitioner. We highly recommend connecting with someone reputable within Williamson County for more questions. It’s time to open up a conversation about Autism in girls and women as early as possible.

 

Find Support in Williamson County, TX:

 

Revolutionary Wellness, PLLC (Georgetown, TX)

High School Social Skills Group (Austin, TX)

ABA Connect: Wise Owls Social Group (South Austin, TX)

 

 

Autism Society: Improving the Lives of All Affected by Autism

https://archive.austinisd.org/academics/docs/ASGA_Resource_Guide_Jan_2012.pdf

 Texas Autism Research & Resource Center:

https://tarrc.org/servicesandresources/servicesandresources.html

 

Support Groups Near Williamson County, TX:

https://www.texasautismsociety.org/support/

 

Autism Support Groups near Round Rock, TX:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups/autism/tx/round-rock

 

 

Additional Resources:

Autism Parenting Magazine:

https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/signs-of-autism-in-girls/

 

Heart Health 101: Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Heart

Heart Health WilcoWellness

A Healthy Heart is a Healthy Life.

 

We often hear the expression, “listen to your heart,” and the sentiment is one that resonates across most domains of our lives- from difficult decisions we make at work to the people we choose to love. A healthy heart is a healthy life. The body has 78 organs, and while you would be hard-pressed to find someone who can point to them all, most everyone can point to their heart without thinking. Where would we be without our hearts? And what function does the heart serve, exactly?

What is the Heart?

Clench your fist, then hold it against your chest. Your fist is about the same size as your heart, and it is this mighty organ that pumps and circulates blood throughout our entire bodies. The heart is located at the circulatory center of the body and is closer to the brain as the two work closely together.

The heart is composed of four chambers– two upper chambers and two lower chambers. Its wall comprises three layers, with the middle layer being the Myocardium- a muscle layer that helps push blood from the heart’s four valves. Veins and arteries depart from the heart to transport blood to various parts of our bodies, while the heart’s ventricles relax and contract- playing an important role in causing the heart to beat.

The Function of the Heart

In most basic terms, the heart’s role is to pump blood and oxygen to the brain and throughout the body. You can only live for two minutes without a heartbeat, as the brain cannot function without oxygen any longer than this. Every day, the heart beats approximately 100,000 times and pumps about eight liters of blood throughout the body. In addition to circulating blood, the heart also filters the blood and helps remove waste from other organs, like the liver.

The Importance of Living a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

It’s never too late to start taking better care of your heart. The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system, which is responsible for transporting nutrients throughout the body and removing metabolic waste. The heart plays an integral part in maintaining a healthy immune system, protecting the body from infection, and keeping the body warm.

In the United States, heart disease causes more deaths than all other forms of cancer combined. Those are some staggering statistics, so you can never do too much to improve your heart health.

Types of Heart Disease and Heart-Related Illnesses

When you adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle, you help protect your heart from disease caused by damage to the heart as a whole and each of its components. Heart disease and illnesses that result from an unhealthy heart include:

  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack and heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Aortic Aneurysms
  • Heart infections
  • Valvular heart disease

How to Live a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Fortunately, many preventative measures are fairly simple and can be incorporated into everyday life. To keep your heart happy and healthy, consider the following:

Eat healthy fats rather than trans fats

Trans fat clogs the arteries and raises your bad cholesterol levels, thereby hampering blood flow throughout the body. Trans fats are plentiful in junk food and fast food. To avoid them, cut out packaged baked goods, margarine, and fried fast foods. Be sure to check the labels of everything you eat. Look for trans fats and hydrogenated oils and avoid them at all costs!

Practice good dental hygiene and floss…a lot!

Studies show that bacteria that cause gum disease can move into the bloodstream and create inflammation in the blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. In addition to brushing our teeth at least twice a day, we should also be flossing at least once a day, or even better, after each meal, especially if you’re dealing with gum disease or frequently have cavities.

Sleep more!

Your heart is the perfect excuse to go to bed early and sleep in late. A study of 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that adults who sleep less than 6 hours a night are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as adults who catch more shut-eye regularly. A theory for this is that sleep helps reduce inflammation throughout the body and improve circulation and that a lack of sleep disrupts the body’s natural biological processes for keeping blood pressure under control. The more sleep, the merrier!

Try not to sit so much

A lot of jobs are going remote nowadays, which means a whole lot more people have to sit in front of their computers for eight or more hours a day. A sedentary lifestyle is terrible for your health, and it’s estimated that people who spend most of their days sitting are at a 147% greater risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke. If you are working remotely or have a stationary desk job, do your best to get up and take a few shorter walks throughout the day. Even better, walk to work when possible, and do your best to exercise most days of the week.

Minimize stress wherever possible

High levels of stress lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, hypertension, arrhythmias, and artery damage. Furthermore, people who are under a lot of stress are more likely to binge eat or use substances like alcohol or cigarettes. Rather than turning to these devices, other ways to minimize stress include taking a walk or meditating for ten minutes a day. And if comfort foods are your go-to, don’t stress about that either. There are healthy alternatives to many common favorites that are every bit as tasty.

Wellness in Williamson County

Researchers at UCLA found that acupuncture significantly lowers stress and improves heart function in individuals suffering from heart disease. Several acupuncture specialists are available in Williamson County, most notably the professionals at Lakeline Wellness Center in Cedar Park. Of course, one can’t go wrong with a massage. We are fortunate to have some wonderful massage therapists as our neighbors here in Wilco as well.

What is Considered a Heart-Healthy Diet

Speaking of heart-healthy superfoods, what exactly does a heart-healthy diet include? Add a little Mediterranean flair to your meal or keep it simple by incorporating more of the following into your heart-healthy recipes:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish and fish oil
  • Walnuts
  • Beans
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Tomatoes
  • Almonds
  • Seeds
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Green tea

Locating Heart-Healthy Food in Williamson County

Wilco is a wellspring of healthy food, thanks to the many farmers, farmers markets, and even farm-to-table restaurants that call the area home. Farmer’s markets take place many days of the week, including the Savory Farmers Market at Travisso and the Taylor Heritage Square Farmers Market in Taylor. We’ve listed those farmer’s markets and more right here.

Protecting your Heart with Exercise

There are all kinds of different exercise classes and options available nowadays, from rowing to tennis and pilates. In strengthening your heart and preventing heart disease, there’s no need to get too crazy! Some of the most heart-healthy exercises are also some of the simplest. Here’s some you might enjoy:

Taking a walk:

Experts emphasize that walking for 30 minutes a day or striving to hit 10,000 steps daily is ideal in preventing heart disease. Wondering where to walk in Wilco? Luckily for us, walking paths are abundant in Williamson County.

Going for a bike ride:

For many people, walking or running is harsh on the knees or the lower back. If that’s you, there are some healthy alternatives, like biking! Whether pedaling through nature trails or on a stationary bike at home, biking provides excellent aerobic exercise. There are some stunning bike trails in Wilco. Find them here.

Swimming:

This total body exercise promotes a healthy heart and lungs, all the while putting less stress on the body’s bones and joints. Just 2.5 hours of swimming each week can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. We’ve got plenty of swimming pools in Wilco, and there are many opportunities to swim in nature as well.

Since heart disease is the number one threat we face,

practicing a heart-healthy lifestyle is arguably the most important thing we can do to live an overall healthy life.

We often refer to the heart when speaking about our emotions, and it’s certainly true that a heart-healthy lifestyle can bring us immense joy. Through walking or swimming in nature, enjoying massages, stressing less, and eating healthier foods, we do more than living healthily. We live happily! #healthyheart

Inspirational Links:

https://atriumhealth.org/medical-services/specialty-care/heart-care/heart-health-and-wellness

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations

https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/hw/medical-topics/american-heart-association-healthy-diet-guidelines-ue4637

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/7-heart-benefits-of-exercise

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health

Preparing Your Adolescents for the Dentist Visit: 5 Great Tips

dental-tips-for-kids WilcoWellness

 

Truth be told, some kids won’t crack a grin because they’re embarrassed about their teeth

Why? Many parents may not be able to afford to take their children to the Dentist, where they learn proper dental hygiene care.

Thankfully, it’s National Give Kids a Smile Month this February, and we’re ‘flossin’ about it with information on how to give kiddos a big smile (at an affordable rate). Read this blog for ADA’s history, what happens during the visit, and tips on getting anxious kiddo that bright smile.

Brush up on the American Dental Association (ADA), who started it all.

Thankfully, the American Dental Association (ADA) reminds us that February 7th is National Give Kids A Smile Day each year. Events are launched across the country to target children who cannot receive appropriate dental care, no matter what the reason.

These magnificent events have served more than 5.5 million underserved children who have received free oral health services from approximately 7,000 volunteer dentists and 30,000 dental team members. Learn more about the History of Giving Kids A Smile.

Why is it essential to go to the Dentist?

Regular dental appointments are essential to keep teeth and gums happy and healthy. Every six months, you should be visiting your Dentist to avoid mouth issues like gingivitis and cavities.

What happens during a dental visit?

Expect two parts to occur during your visit – the cleaning and examination. First, kiss plaque and tartar build-up good-bye as the teeth receive polish and shine. After the patient is clean, the Dentist proceeds to check all areas (including those in question) in the mouth. An x-ray may occur to get a closer look.

 A quick lesson on proper care of the mouth and gums and the patient is out the door! Easy-peasy! Also, did we mention the new toothbrush and paste? Honestly, my favorite part! So fresh, so clean.

Anxious kiddo? Here are a few tips to help!

Do you have a child that is kicking and screaming, hiding, and colliding their way out of visiting the Dentist’s chair today? Don’t fret! Here are 10 do’s and don’ts to help you out:

The Dos of Dentistry:

#1 Do Start them young. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggests taking your child to the Dentist as soon as their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. Taking them early will not only be good for their dental health, but it will familiarize them with the new atmosphere for many visits to come.

#2 Do read dental-themed storybooks. Check out these themed books to toss unnecessary fear out. Your child will be so excited to see the illustrations, hear (or read) the words to get a better idea of what Dr. Toothbrush is all about!

#3 Do communicate efficiently. Give your child some time before their dentist appointment to prepare mentally. Talk about the details of the meeting and answer any questions that they may have. Avoid any negative words like “hurt” or “shot.” The staff will know words to use to explain any upcoming dental procedures. It’s essential for parents to positively prepare their child before the Dentist for a smooth visit.

#4 Do dress-up time for active role-play. Use a kitchen chair to mock a dentists’ chair and a towel to cover the child like a hygienist’s drape. Perhaps tie some yarn to a plastic spoon to imitate the cleaning tools. Get a bowl for the ‘rinse and spit.’ Your child will feel confident after playing pretend Dentists. Let your imagination soar!

#5 Do make the Dentist proud. It’s essential to teach your child the importance of oral care — set expectations for what healthy and happy teeth look like. You may even consider having your child practice brushing their teeth to make the Dentist proud. A beautiful smile will be rewarded with praise and maybe even a sticker!

Top 5 Dental Don’ts:

# 1 Don’t fast before the appointment. Food immediately before visiting the Dentist can be chewy, sticky, and intense. However, you do not want your child to be scared, anxious, and hungry at their appointment. Consider eating a protein-filled meal about or at least an hour before hitting the road for their meeting.

#2 Don’t go if your child is sick. Whether it’s a simple cold or you have a clue about Covid-19, you should cancel your appointment. Not only will the dental appointment be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but spreading sickness (especially in pandemic times) is not cool and puts the Dentist and staff at risk. Reschedule your appointment if your immune system is running low.

#3: Don’t whiten your child’s teeth. You haven’t “seen it all” until you’ve “seen it all.” It might sound silly to make such a recommendation, but do not whiten your child’s teeth before their appointment. Not only do at-home whitening process kits fail to work as intended, but they make your teeth more sensitive – which means you might be very uncomfortable during the meeting. If you would like to brighten your child’s smile, ask your Dentist about the treatments they might recommend during their appointment.

#4: Don’t lie about your child’s oral hygiene. It can be embarrassing to admit to slacking on the upkeep of your child’s oral hygiene, but a big white lie will not help anyone – especially the child. It would help if you did not let that get in the way of being honest with your Dentist. They need to know that critical information to perform the best cleaning possible and make additional recommendations. Be honest about what actions you are (and are not) taking, issues you’re facing, or any pain.

#5 Don’t panic! Remember, the Dentist is there to help you, not judge you (or hurt you). If anything makes you feel uncomfortable, you can let them know and try their best to understand and advise. No one is perfect! So do not feel ashamed about issues you might be facing. Your Dentist is there to listen and help guide you in the best direction for your overall dental health. If you do have a negative experience with a dentist, you can always try another facility.

 

Helpful links to prepare you for your visit:

If your child still is not reacting to the tips above, you may want to consider alternatives like sedation or therapy. Each party will need to prepare for the appointment, inform the Dentist about the specific concerns for smooth sailing.

No one likes to go to the Dentist, but everyone loves a beautiful, healthy smile.

7 Successful Intermittent Fasting Benefits Everyone Should Know

Intermittent Fasting WilcoWellness

 

Happy February! It’s National Fasting February Month!

which is an entire month dedicated to goals associated with transforming health resolutions into healthy habits and lifestyles. In this month, we’re celebrating the benefits of intermittent fasting and its effects on metabolic and overall health. Let’s get started!

Fitness gurus always seem to always be raving about intermittent fasting as one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends, and with good reason. People who fast this way use it for weight loss, improve overall health, and simplify their lifestyle. Studies Reports by Science Direct, suggest that intermittent fasting has powerful effects on the brain and body, including living a longer life.

Please continue to read to learn more about intermittent fasting and its benefits.

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

When a person eats in cycles between patterns of eating and fasting, known as Intermittent fasting (IF). It’s not what foods you eat; it’s when you eat them. In this respect, IF is not a diet in the conventional sense but more of an eating pattern. Some of the most common IF cycles are 16-hour and 24-hour fasts, two times a week. Fasting is becoming a popular practice due to its overall health benefits.

Fasting is not a new trend or a fad diet. It’s been around throughout human evolution. In fact, ancient human gathers couldn’t go to the local Piggly Wiggly and stock their fridges. Food wasn’t available year-round, meaning sometimes they couldn’t find something to eat.

Due to evolution, humans are able to function without food for longer periods of time. In fact, eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day is more unnatural than fasting.

What are some Intermittent Fasting Methods?

If you search the internet, you will find several different ways of doing intermittent fasting – all of which involve splitting up your day into eating and fasting periods. During the fasting time zones, you eat nothing at all or very little. Some of the most popular methods are:

  • The 5:2 diet: Consumer 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but normally eat the other five days.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: Once or twice a week, fast for 24 hours. For example, don’t eat breakfast one day until breakfast the next day.
  • The 16/8 method: Also known as the Leangains protocol, this method involves skipping breakfast and restricting meals to an 8-hour window, such as 12-8 pm. Then you proceed to fast for 16 hours in between.

What is the most popular intermittent fasting method?

People tend to find the 16/8 the easiest and most functional intermittent fasting method. This method is sustainable and doesn’t disrupt everyday life (too much).

Pro-tip: Don’t eat more during your ‘eating” periods. All of these methods should result in weight loss should there be a reduction in daily caloric intake.

How does IF affect cells and hormones?

There are several things that happen to your body, on a cellular and molecular level, when you fast—for example, adjustments to hormone levels. The body will adjust hormones to make it easier to use stored body fat for burning calories.

An essential cellular repair process is initiated by the cells and will change the expression of your genes.

Some changes within your body:

  • Gene expression: Gene functions change in relation to longevity and protection against particular diseases.
  • Cellular repair: When you’re fasting, the cells in the body initiate a cellular repair process. Including autophagy, where cells will digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells. (Source)
  • Insulin: Fast improves insulin sensitivity, and insulin levels tend to drop dramatically. Lower levels of stored insulin help make body fat more accessible.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Levels of HGH will soar, increasing nearly as much as 5-fold. This benefits the person looking to gain muscle and lose fat. (Source)

The health benefits of intermittent fasting lie within these changes in hormone levels, gene expression, and cell function.

What are the health benefits of intermittent fasting?

It’s crystal clear that intermittent fasting in humans and animals has its benefits. Several studies show it can have powerful benefits like weight loss and better the health of the brain and body. It quite possibly can help you live longer.

Some of the main benefits of intermittent fasting include:

#1 Brain Boost: Due to IF, the brain hormone BDNF will increase and help with the growth of new nerve cells. It may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. (Additional sources, sources)

#2 Here’s to Heart Health: Intermittent fasting may help reduce heart-related health issues like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. (Source)

A few other risks to consider are:

  • Bad LDL cholesterol
  • Blood triglycerides
  • Inflammatory markers
  • Blood sugar
  • Insulin resistance 

#3 Inflammation: Inflammation is a key driver in many chronic diseases. Some studies suggest that IF will lower the markers of inflammation.

#4 Insulin resistance: Reduce insulin resistance, lower blood sugar, and protect against type 2 diabetes.

#5 Weight loss: As stated above, Intermittent Fasting can help reduce belly fat and lose weight without the need to reduce calories.

Note that intermittent fasting is not always meant for everyone. If you have a history of eating disorders or are underweight, you should not start IF without consulting a doctor first. In these cases, intermittent fasting can be harmful.

What are the side effects of intermittent fasting?

The main side effect of intermittent fasting is the feeling of being hungry. Also, you may feel weak, and your brain might not perform as you’d prefer. This may all be temporary, as it takes your body a bit of time to adapt to the new eating schedule.

If you have a medical condition, we highly recommend consulting with a doctor before starting this fasting methodology. More in particular if you:

  • Are underweight
  • Have low blood pressure
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • History of amenorrhea
  • Attempting to conceive
  • History of eating disorders
  • Take medications
  • Have issues with the regulation of blood sugar

With that being said, intermittent fasting can be safe. If you are overall healthy and well-nourished, intermittent fasting should not be dangerous for you to choose.

Live a Healthy, yet Simple Lifestyle

We understand that eating healthy can be simple but yet a challenge. A majority of people may start a diet as quickly as they end it. This may happen because of all the work that goes into preparing, cooking, and cleaning up. And of course, nobody likes doing dishes!

With intermittent fasting, you don’t need to prepare meals, spend hours cooking, or clean up afterward. For this reason, intermittent fasting is well-known as a life-hack and quite popular. People love the health benefits such as weight loss and a boost in brain function. All in all, it’s helps keep things simple while amping up your overall health and well-being.

Planning Ahead And Living Healthy To Help Prevent Birth Defects

Health Tips to Prevent Birth Defects Wilcowellness

Approximately 1 in 33 babies in the United States are born with a birth defect, ranging from minor to severe. Some birth defects affect organ function and mental development, while others affect a baby’s appearance. Though not all birth defects can be prevented, there are steps that mothers and their partners can take before and throughout pregnancy to lower the risk.

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, so we thought we would share a compilation of ways that mothers can help prevent birth defects before becoming pregnant and throughout pregnancy.

Dietary Changes Mothers Can Make Before Becoming Pregnant

Understandably, not every mother can plan for pregnancy before they conceive, but healthy pregnancies are closely reliant on the mother’s health before she becomes pregnant. Dietary preconception changes women should make include:

Healthy caloric intake

Women need a healthy and balanced diet of 2,000 kcal a day to maintain their weight. Obesity ups the risk of delivering a child with birth defects substantially. Being obese before pregnancy increases the risk of hypertension during pregnancy and gestational diabetes by 11 times.

Other complications such as miscarriage, shoulder dystocia, blood clots, and stillbirth increase in likelihood as well. Women who struggle with obesity should aim to lose 5-10% of their weight before becoming pregnant to significantly decrease the chances of birth defects.

Increased consumption of folic acid

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is a type of vitamin B-9. Folic acid is a dietary necessity for women planning on conceiving, and one of the primary reasons women are advised to take prenatal vitamins. Taking a prenatal vitamin before and during pregnancy helps prevent birth defects affecting the baby’s brain and spinal cord by 50%-70%. The Department of Health recommends that women take prenatal vitamins until at least the 12th week of pregnancy.

Other great sources of folic acid include:

  • Legumes
  • Asparagus
  • Eggs
  • Leafy greens
  • Beets
  • Citrus fruits
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Papaya
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Fortified grains

Increased consumption of vitamin D

Yet another reason for women struggling with obesity to focus on losing weight is that pre-pregnancy obesity is linked to vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy. Insufficient vitamin D levels during pregnancy result in calcium deficiency. For the mother, this results in heightened fatigue, muscular aches and cramps, and facial constriction. For her baby, calcium deficiencies lead to bone softening (maternal osteomalacia), pre-eclampsia, low birth weight, neonatal tetanic seizures, and childhood rickets.

Lifestyle Modifications Mothers Can Make before Becoming Pregnant

Smoking for both men or women

According to the American Pregnancy Association, some 12% to 20% of pregnant women smoke, and over 1,000 babies in the United States die each year because their mothers smoked while pregnant. If the baby does not die, the risk of birth defects dramatically increases, such as spontaneous miscarriage, placenta praevia, preterm premature rupture of membranes, and congenital malformation.

Experts recommend that women who smoke stop smoking no less than one month before conception and that there should be no nicotine in the mother’s system when she conceives. Women aren’t the only ones who must stop smoking. For men, smoking is responsible for a reduction in sperm concentration and motility up to 22%.

Alcohol use

Women who are planning on conception must cut out alcohol and illicit drugs at all costs. In western countries, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome affects approximately 1 in every 500 babies, with as many as half going undiagnosed. Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome have learning difficulties, physical disabilities, behavioral problems, and often severe emotional and psychiatric problems that will last throughout their lives.

There is no such thing as a minimal amount of alcohol that is safe for consumption during pregnancy, and it’s highly advised for women to cut alcohol out completely while trying to get pregnant.

Dietary and Lifestyle Modifications Women Should Take During Pregnancy

Take extra precautions to prevent infections

Many infections that women can contract during pregnancy can have a devastating effect on fetal development. Mothers should routinely wash their hands, especially after touching raw meat, gardening or touching soil and/or fertilizers, handling pets, playing with children, and using the restroom.

Mothers should also avoid unpasteurized milk and foods made from it, which can contain harmful bacteria, like Listeria. Mothers with cats must also avoid changing litter, which can contain a harmful parasite that leads to toxoplasmosis.

Keep out of hot tubs and treat fever promptly to Prevent Birth Defects

It’s very important that mothers maintain a consistent body temperature, and avoid anything that will cause their core body temperature to rise. Overheating in any way can increase a woman’s chance of having a baby with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Mothers who come down with a fever during pregnancy should make an appointment to speak with their doctor as soon as possible to rule out causes, and avoid aspirin or ibuprofen unless specifically recommended by their doctor. Identify your immunity ID to further prevent sickness.

Avoid these raw and unpasteurized foods:

  • Cold cuts and deli meats, pre-stuffed fresh turkey or chicken, steak tartare, undercooked meats, or refrigerated meat spreads.
  • Locally caught bluefish, pike, salmon, striped bass, trout, walleye, lox, sushi, or raw shellfish.
  • Raw eggs, raw cookie dough with eggs in it, caesar salad dressing, and other sauces with raw eggs like bearnaise sauce, hollandaise sauce, and mayonnaise.
  • Homemade desserts with raw eggs, including mousse and tiramisu.
  • Unpasteurized milk and cheese.
  • Unwashed fruits and veggies, raw sprouts, unripe papaya, and fresh-squeezed juice.

Prevent Birth Defects, finally, by keeping in close contact with your doctor and visit them regularly.

If you’re not sure where to find an obstetrician, your first resource should be your insurance provider. Mothers also commonly find great obstetrician recommendations at childbirth classes or from childbirth educators. Finally, mothers can find a list of obstetricians online at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

No matter how big the dietary or lifestyle change is, there’s nothing more important than the mother’s and baby’s health. A mother’s nutritional needs continue to be important after she has given birth and is breastfeeding.

Always remember that what you eat, your baby eats too. Every healthy choice a mother makes is a healthy choice for their baby as well.

Thyroid Health: Take Control of Your Health

Learn More About A Healthy Thyroid

Learn a little about Managing Your Thyroid Disorder

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to the body. The more we learn about the body, the better we can take control of the challenges it may present. For instance, the thyroid plays a significant role in the body by regulating metabolism, core temperature, and more. However, sometimes it can cause illnesses that are confusing and frightening, like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Hypothyroidism. In this article, we’ll discuss the significant role of the thyroid in our body’s overall health.

What is the thyroid?

This butterfly-shaped gland is located in the front of our neck below the adam’s apple and is responsible for motivating metabolism, growth, and the development of human organs.

The thyroid is a critical conductor of hormones, particularly, thyroxine (T4), Triiodothyronine (T3), and Calcitonin, and works closely with the brain to produce and regulate them.

How does thyroid dysfunction affect the body?


Let’s start with an example. It’s a beautiful spring day, so you throw on a windbreaker to take a walk. When you open the door and step outside, you find that the temperature feels bone-chilling cold. You check the thermometer and find that it’s sixty degrees, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

For a person with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, or other autoimmune thyroid disorders, cold intolerance is a result of a thyroid that is under-stimulated by the pituitary gland. Persons with thyroid disorders may wake up with tight muscles, feel fatigued throughout the day, and suddenly develop new allergies due to inflammation.

How else does Thyroid Dysfunction affect our health?

For one, the thyroid gland is responsible for producing and releasing the T3 hormone. This hormone plays an essential role in metabolism- the process in which food is converted into energy. A well-functioning metabolism doesn’t just help us keep weight off, it also helps prevent us from feeling one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders: fatigue.

In addition to its role in regulating metabolism, the thyroid gland is responsible for stimulating the growth of bones and other organs. For women, thyroid dysfunction leads to irregular menstrual cycles or even the complete disappearance of them. Furthermore, the thyroid helps regulate our heartbeats and works in tandem with the central and peripheral nervous systems to regulate cholesterol levels. As you can see, the thyroid plays quite a big role in the health of our entire bodies.

When should you see your doctor?

You may consider seeing your doctor to have thyroid tests completed if you are experiencing any number of these symptoms to an abnormal degree:

  • You are experiencing depression, memory issues, nervousness, or irritability, and you’re not sure why.
  • Your cholesterol levels test higher than usual.
  • You suddenly lose or gain a lot of weight or experience uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues.
  • You are almost always fatigued, or, you cannot seem to catch any sleep.
  • Your muscles and joints seem persistently weak, tender, stiff, or sore.
  • You are exceedingly sensitive to cold or heat and sweat a lot.
  • Your menstrual cycles are abnormal.
  • Your hair is thinning, brittle, or dry and your skin seems puffy or thin.
  • You notice changes in your voice. Your voice feels hoarse, or like there’s a lump stuck inside of it.

What to expect when having thyroid tests done:

Two common thyroid tests that your doctor may order are the T4 and T3 tests. Both tests will require your blood to be drawn, although no special preparations on your behalf are needed.

T4 Tests:

The T4 hormone is the primary hormone produced by the thyroid gland, and responsible for metabolism, mood, body temperature, and much more. T4 carries an additional Iodine atom that is removed by the liver and is then converted into T3 to be used by the pituitary gland. A T4 test will therefore detect any issues with the thyroid gland or the pituitary gland.

T3 Tests:

T3 tests are taken to detect hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism as a result of heightened or lowered levels of T3. A patient with thyroid disorders may not notice any symptoms of thyroid dysfunction until much later, so the T3 test will determine early on if hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism is present.

The incredible effect healthy eating has on thyroid health:

According to Ashita Gupta, MD, an integrative endocrinologist at Mount Sinai West in New York City, “Seventy percent of our autoimmune system is found in our intestines, known as GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue.”

Gupta continues, “When the intestinal lining becomes inflamed, it can trigger an immune response. Studies show that this plays a role in the development of thyroid disease.” In other words, keeping your gut happy and healthy is one of, if not the best way to protect your thyroid from developing a disease or disorder.

One should always seek medical guidance before taking supplements for thyroid health or making drastic changes to one diet. Regardless of whether one is experiencing thyroid dysfunction or not, including thyroid-healthy recipes into our diets, like this egg salad, is a simple yet delicious way to proactively protect the ever-important thyroid gland.

8 Helpful Hand Washing Habits for Busy Little Hands

Happy Germ Free Holiday

 

They’re cute, but they’re sticky. And busy little hands tend to be covered in germs.

As simple as it is, kids don’t always want to wash their hands, yet it’s the best way to prevent seasonal sickness like colds and the flu. If you’re a parent to younger children, you may relate to the uphill battle of routine hand washing. 

Observed the first week of December, Handwashing Awareness Week helps people remain healthy one hand wash at a time.

In this blog, we’re bubbling up some of the best ways to help the youngsters prevent the spread of germs and infection while building

healthy hygienic habits with handwashing. 

When Should Children Wash Their Hands? 

At first, children might need frequent reminders of how and when to wash their hands. Remind them it’s most important to lather up: 

  • After playing with a pet
  • After coughing, blowing the nose, or sneezing
  • Before touching food or eating
  • After using the restroom
  • After outdoor play

Germs may jump on foods and drinks before consuming them or be transferred to objects like toys and handrails. Without realizing it, children are more apt to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs can get into the body through these places and make them sick. 

Parent Pro-tip: Take the time to remind your kiddos to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, especially after washing up. If they are reminded enough to not touch, they’ll build a long-lasting healthy habit. 

 

When Should Kids Start Handwashing? 

No matter what age, handwashing is a must! Help your little ones build good handwashing habits at an early age. Even babies, who put their hands in their mouths, can use a good scrub to keep germs away. Obviously, helping happens for newborns with much assistance from care providers.

Hands-on handwashing help will allow kiddos to become independent hand washers. But “quality checks” will help kids continuously learn and grow. 

What are some fun ways to learn? 

Stick to the basics! Children learn best when kept simple. Practice these five easy steps to handwashing:

  1. Wet – Place hands under warm water to get them wet. 
  2. Lather – Create a nice foam with liquid soap.
  3. Scrub – Spend 20 seconds, scrubbing all sides of the hands. Don’t forget in between fingers, under the nails, and the back of hands. 
  4. Rinse – Make sure all soap heads down the drain. 
  5. Dry – Pat dry with a clean towel. 

It’s best to wash hands with soap and water, but sometimes those supplies aren’t always around. Grab a gel hand sanitizer (which works better than foam) and let it dry completely before touching anything to make sure it’ll work adequately against germs. 

What are Ways to Make Hand Washing Fun? 

Here are seven ways to make hand washing more fun (and less of a chore). 

  1. Sing a Song (for 20 seconds)! Whether it’s “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” or “Happy Birthday,” singing a song (twice) can make the recommendation of 20 seconds long pass quickly. This is the amount of time that it takes for germs to pack their bags and head down the drain! Need a little help, check out this video and sing along with the kiddo’s while washing everyone’s hands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl6r3ae0Xls
  1. Reward good habits with a sticker chart. Creating a plan for handwashing will help make a long-lasting, healthy habit. When they wash their hands, they get a sticker, and then they can collect a reward. Do this until the act becomes customary. 
  2. Put the “FUN” in “FUNCTIONAL” with Fun Soaps. Some soap bars make handwashing an enjoyable habit for kids. Surprise them with smell-good suds or bars with hidden toys inside. 
  3. Crackdown on germs with a quirky soap container. Grab an animal-themed dispenser and tell them to make the corresponding animal sound when they push down on the lever. Ribbit! Ribbit! Soap pump bottles are a stylish and practical way to gain children’s interest in healthy habits.
  4. Glowing gels, like Glow Germ, help teach kids how to wash their hands properly. Put the gel on their hands, rub them together, and let them touch things. The blacklight enables them to see how dirty things got without touching their hands. If you want, you can have kids lather up with the super glowing gel and then wash their hands the best they can. Afterward, use the blacklight on their hands to see where else is dirty (which helps identify areas of improvement). 
  5. Glitter! Glitter! Glitter! You don’t have to buy fancy kits to teach kids how to wash their hands. Grab some glitter from the craft cabinet (or from the dollar store) and place a little bit on their hands. Allow them to play, but check on them later to allow them to sleuth out where the glitter has gone! It’s most likely not on their hands anymore. An exercise like this will help kids understand where germs go if handwashing doesn’t happen.
  6. Washable Marker Trick! Draw a smiley face on the back of your child’s hand with a washable marker. Tell them they will need to wash their hands until he disappears.

Believe it or not, handwashing makes a big difference in improving your health and avoiding seasonal sickness. Make sure to set a good example by talking about proper practices and setting an example by washing your own hands frequently. It’s essential to hit the sink regularly, but it can be a tedious challenge for kids (and some adults). Making things fun makes things memorable. We hope these tips make handwashing a healthy (and fun) hygiene habit for years to come.