Photos from before and after Hilbert’s 57th Annual Commencement. Watch the replay of the Live Stream here>>>
It’s a Jungle Out There!
Some tips for a safe and healthful summer outdoors
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center
Summer break is almost here, and many will be spending more time in the sun and outside. It’s time to brush up on your summer weather etiquette. Here are a few items to remember before you head out the door.
Hydration. Remember to keep water available at all times. Without proper hydration, you will be more prone to heat exhaustion, or even heatstroke (a life-threatening condition). There is also a milder version called heat cramps. You want to avoid all of these by keeping hydrated so your body can sweat and cool itself. Also, avoid alcohol, wear lightweight clothing, and stay in the shade. People who are more at risk are the young and the old (younger than four and older than 65), people on certain medications (such as diuretics, beta blockers, antihistamines, and more), obese people (those whose BMI is greater than 30), and people who spend most of their time in the air conditioning.
A good rule of thumb for how much water to drink is always drink 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day. Another calculation is one based on your weight: Take your weight number in pounds and drink 50 to 100 percent of that number in ounces. For example, someone who weighs 160 lbs. should drink 80 to 160 ounces of water every day. However, if you are in the heat, you will need to drink more!
Some signs of dehydration you might notice right away are headaches, muscle cramps, dry mouth, bad breath, fever, drowsiness, low blood pressure, high pulse, listlessness, sore throat and dark urine. Remember, if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated!
Sunscreen. There has been some controversy regarding sunscreen lately. Does it cause cancer? Does it block vitamin D production? Is it better to go without? The current consensus among healthcare professionals and the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) is that using sunscreen is better than not using it. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Website, using sunscreen has more benefits than detriments, since vitamin D can be obtained from food, and using sunscreen lowers the risk of cancerous and precancerous lesions. The FDA states on its Website, “…the risk of not using sunscreen is much greater than any potential risk posed by sunscreen ingredients.”
What are some tips for using sunscreen, then? Some sunscreen blocks out only UVB rays (which cause cancer), but not UVA rays (which age your skin), so make certain you pick a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that is at least SPF 15. (SPF 30 or higher is better.) It is best to follow the instructions on the label, as far as application and amount. Some suggestions are to use at least a “shot glass” (1.5 fluid ounces) of lotion at a time, not rubbing it in completely, and applying it 15 minutes before sun time. Reapply it every two hours, or sooner if it has washed or rubbed off due to swimming or sweating. Other suggestions are to apply sunscreen after you have been in the sun for a few minutes, thereby allowing your body its daily vitamin D allotment.
Another kind of “sunscreen” is clothing. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, along with long sleeves, will help reduce your exposure.
Keep in mind this thought: Tanned skin = damaged skin. It’s that simple. UV damaged skin cannot be completely reversed, no matter what the beauty industry tells you.
Eye protection. As important as sunscreen and hydration, is protecting your eyes. Make certain you wear sunglasses, even if it is cloudy out. When shopping for sunglasses, look for 99 to 100 percent UVA/UVB protection, large lenses, and wraparound protection. A wide-brimmed hat is beneficial, also. Protecting your eyes from the sun will help you avoid macular degeneration, cataracts, eyelid cancer, and other eye problems, as you age.
Sun time. The best time to stay out of the sun is during its most intense time, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but you can be burned at other times, too, depending upon the length of time exposed and if there is something reflective nearby, like a large body of water.
Drug interactions. Some drugs can increase “photosensitivity,” otherwise known as sensitivity to the sun. Some common drugs that do this include benzoyl peroxide, Benadryl, birth control pills, diuretics, naproxen (Aleve), tricyclic antidepressants, many antibiotics, St. John’s wort, and more. Some other substances that increase photosensitivity can be found in perfumes, skin-care products, and even some foods (such as citrus and artificial sweeteners. Products that remove the top layer of dead skin cells, such as chemical peels and exfoliating scrubs are also a no-no for pre-sun exposure. A list of common culprits can be found at http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/beware-of-sunburn-boosters#1.
Insects. Ticks and mosquitoes are considered “vectors” for some diseases, because you can contract Lyme disease from blacklegged or deer ticks. The Zika virus, formerly reported in two states (Florida and Texas), might still be a threat if you travel internationally. Do your research to avoid exposure to Zika, or other vector-spread illnesses in the region to which you are traveling.
As far as avoiding tick bites, just remember to wear long pants when you are in the woods, and try to tuck your pant legs into your socks. Have someone check you for ticks at the end of the day, just to be safe. If you find a bull’s eye rash anywhere, go see your doctor to evaluate for Lyme disease.
Bee stings are also a threat, especially to someone who is allergic. It is a good idea not to go barefoot where clover or other flowers are growing. Make certain to check underneath picnic benches before you sit down. Any place you visit can be a potential place for a bee nest, so look before you leap. Don’t forget to take along allergy medication, if indicated. Concerning the declining population of honey bees, remember that most bees are beneficial. So, don’t get out that can of Raid unless the bees are a threat to human safety.
Lastly, it is a good idea to wear bug spray when in the woods, or wherever mosquitoes live. According to Consumer Reports’ Website, the most effective repellents were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, and Off! Deepwoods VIII. Make certain to read all labels before use, to verify you are applying the repellent properly. Always wash it off at the end of the day with soap and water.
Another option that many may want to try is a “bug jacket.” These are simply mesh jackets with veils, which keep the bugs away, but offer ventilation for the heat. Many such jackets can be ordered online from Amazon (see link below) or many other retailers.
Summer Sports. Various summer sports require special gear. If you are out on the water, remember to wear your life vest. Did you know a concussion is a brain injury? Bicycling, dirt biking, motorcycling, horseback riding, skateboarding, and many other sports require helmets. Do not take a chance with yours or someone else’s safety. Make certain you wear all the recommended protective gear for your sport. If you are heading out on a hike, do not go alone. Always have a first aid kit in your backpack, along with other supplies, should you somehow end up stranded. Also, be aware of the forecast, and do not plan to be outside during dangerous weather conditions, like lightning storms. Some days are just better for staying inside.
Be prepared for the worst, and you may end up with the best! With these reminders in hand, have a safe and enjoyable summer!
For further information on outdoor summer safety, try these Internet resources:
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Sun safety tips for men:
WebMD.com, Sun myths and facts quiz:
WebMD.com, How to protect your eyes from the sun, video (appears after advertisement):
Skin Cancer Foundation, Does sunscreen cause cancer?
WebMD.com, What’s the best sunscreen?:
EWG.org, Skin Cancer on the Rise:
FDA, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, OTC sunscreen requirements:
MayoClinic.org, Heat exhaustion
ConsumerReports.org, Zika mosquito repellent recommendations:
Mayo Clinic, First aid for tick bites:
A group in Dr. Mark Paoni’s Intro to Law and Justice class organized a service learning project through the Badge of Honor Association. The group, consisting of members – Baylee Brooks, Autumn Miller, Brittany Profetta, Lea Shanley, and Madison Szczesniak, raised awareness and money for the organization through selling their merchandise to local police agencies. The group had a goal of $500 and ended up raising more than $1,150. Way to go!
The Badge Of Honor Association is a Non-for-Profit Organization that exists to honor Men and Women in Law Enforcement who gave the ultimate sacrifice and those who go above and beyond the call of duty.
The Badge of Honor Association focuses on supporting the families of Police Officers in the event of a line of duty death, and those officers involved in critical or serious incidents while on duty. They cover all law enforcement across 25 counties of Western and Central New York.
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Healthy lifestyle advice bombards us daily. There is abundant information to weed through, and sometimes it can seem overwhelming. None of us wants to be unsuccessful. But success in life doesn’t just happen all at once or with only one step. It involves multiple baby steps that become habits. Wise choices in each moment lead to great habits. Good health is more than just physical; it is mental, emotional and spiritual, as well. As a nurse and mother, here are a few of my favorite habits.
Sleep. Nobody can function on too little sleep for very long. In fact, sleeping is one of the most important ways to take care of yourself. Everyone should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night (depending upon your individual needs). This is when your body repairs itself, when your immune system is strengthened, and your mind is restored. Here is a link to my article on sleep: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/01/understanding-the-importance-of-sleep/.
Exercise. Aerobic, strength and stretching are the three types. But aerobic is probably the most important for your cardiovascular health and circulation to all your bodily systems. Try and get at least 20 to 30 minutes of rigorous aerobic activity at least three times per week. Regular exercise can actually improve your immune system, lift your mood, keep all your systems in order, decrease the incidence of disease, and increase your life expectancy. People who are physically fit have the potential to do better in many areas, than their out-of-shape counterparts. They don’t need as many prescription or over the counter drugs, and they have far fewer doctor visits. Here is a link to my article on exercise: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/31/exercise-the-forgotten-pharmaceutical/
Nutrition. This includes eating the right things, and also controlling portion size. Good nutrition involves eating fruit and vegetables first, then meat, bread and cereal, dairy, and only a little fat. We all know what junk food is. Try and avoid it, and, while pizza and wings are convenient and popular, try not to eat them regularly. If you want to know more about nutrition, take a course, or read a nutrition textbook. The one I use is called Nutrition for Life, and can be ordered at this link: https://www.amazon.com/Nutrition-Life-2nd-Janice-Thompson/dp/0321570847/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1493227995&sr=8-3&keywords=nutrition+for+life
Hydration. Since water is responsible for so many functions in our body, and our bodies are at least 60 to 70 percent water, it is crucial to keep hydrated. Try to drink at least 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day or the equivalent of four to six 16-ounce bottles of water, or eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water. Another way to measure is to drink 50 to 100 percent of your weight number in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., drink 75 to 150 ounces of water every day. Keeping a bottle of water with you throughout the day is a great habit to adopt! Refill it, as needed. Here is the link for that article: https://community.hilbert.edu/2015/11/20/conquering-dehydrationbenefits-of-hydration/
Drugs, alcohol and smoking. Here is something simple to remember: Just don’t smoke. It’s that simple. And definitely don’t do illicit drugs. Alcohol is okay, in moderation (if you are 21 or older). One to two glasses of red wine daily has been shown to be healthful. But be aware of your family history of alcoholism. If there is any doubt, find alternatives to drinking. There is also more and more evidence that vaping is harmful. For more information, here is the link for that article: https://community.hilbert.edu/2016/10/06/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-vaping-is-risky-behavior/
Changing addictive behaviors. If you are already addicted to alcohol, smoking or drugs, get help. Now. You won’t ever regret it. Of less rank, but still important, is to cut down on the amount of caffeine you ingest. Caffeine is an addictive drug. For my article on “energy drinks,” click on this link: https://community.hilbert.edu/2018/04/19/energy-drinks-or-stimulant-drinks/. Workaholism is also running rampant in our society. Don’t use work as an escape, and don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.
Learning something new. A life spent learning something new on a regular basis is a life unwasted. Studies show that people live longer when they are constantly learning and trying new things. Step outside your comfort zone, and take a course on public speaking, self-defense, or even knitting! It might open up new doors and give you fresh insight.
Money management. Take a course on money management. Stay away from habitually relying on credit. Highly recommended is anything by Dave Ramsey. https://www.daveramsey.com/specials/welcome?ectid=30.31.9014
Hygiene. Take your shoes off, and wash your hands as soon as you arrive home. Floss your teeth every day, and brush your teeth and tongue after meals and before bed. Here is a link to my hygiene article: https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-winning-health-battles-with-proper-hygiene/
Sexual health. Let me put it this way. Sex, it has been said, is a great blessing in marriage, but a great curse outside of it. This is countercultural thinking, but it is good advice. Remember the question your mom asked you: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?” That is what many are doing when they choose to have sex too soon. Besides the all-too-real threat of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection), there is the spiritual aspect, as well. A broken heart affects every aspect of your health, not just mental and emotional.
Socialization, Family and Friends. It’s likely that busy college students have enough social interaction most of the time. But there are those times when some real connection with people is missing and important. Some things to try: church communities, small interest groups (such as can be found at https://www.meetup.com/), book clubs, study groups, a class not related to your major, a community education class, and more. If you have family nearby, it is important to keep in contact with them. If your family is far away, make sure you call home regularly, so you will still feel as if you are a member. If you live with your family, it is important to note that study after study confirms that eating regularly together is one of the best things you can do. Also, it is important to identify if somebody in your life is more toxic than healthful. If so, it might be a good time to look for better company.
Faith, prayer and meditation. Prayer is considered communication with God, and meditation is closely related. Your spiritual health is just as, or more important than, your physical health. Practicing faith and regular connection with your Maker will bring peace, focus and meaning to your life.
Time management. Newsflash! Your time is your life. Spend your time wisely. Make sure you make space on your calendar for the important items first. That way it is more likely to happen! Don’t overschedule your life; know your limits, and know when to say, “No.” Make certain you always show up for work, class and other obligations, and always on time. Finally, don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. You are important!
Moderation. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Purge perfectionism. If you make a mistake, admit it, and make a change for the better. Then move on.
Practicing morality. We wouldn’t get very far without morals. Basically, they are the Ten Commandments, which can be summed up by stating, “Love God and love people.” Also included in this category are integrity (doing the right thing when nobody is looking), sexual morality and the following:
- The “Golden Rule.” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This works. Even if you don’t think somebody deserves it, do it anyway. It’s the right thing to do.
- Refraining from gossip. You wouldn’t want someone to gossip about you (Golden Rule, see above), so don’t do it to somebody else. If there is any question what gossip is, ask yourself, “If the person I am talking about were standing right here, would I still be saying these things?” If you wouldn’t, then you are probably gossiping.
- When we are generous, we don’t put ourselves first. We are not the center of the universe. It is a credit to us when we are generous to somebody else.
- We don’t know what others’ lives are like. It is easy to criticize, give an opinion or offer unsolicited advice. But be kind. Listen, and don’t judge. You are not in that person’s shoes.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness is easier to do when you know that it is more for you than for the other person. When you forgive somebody, it is like a weight has been released from your own shoulders. Sometimes forgiveness is a long journey, but taking that first step is worthwhile. Remember, you are not perfect either, so why should you expect the other person to be? Conversely, it is important to forgive yourself. If you have trouble in this area, it is a good idea to enlist the help of a counselor.
Music, art and hobbies. Having an outlet for stress, like playing a musical instrument, following an artistic path, or diving into a hobby, has been shown to increase longevity and decrease depression.
Gratitude. Yes, there are many things about which to complain. But finding gratitude instead of complaining will make positive people want to be around you. Nobody likes a critic, but everyone is partial to being thanked and appreciated. In the morning, when your alarm goes off, choosing to be thankful you have another day, instead of grouchy because you couldn’t sleep in, will propel you to a better day. Make note of all the positive things in your life, and concentrate on them. Choose to see the glass as half full, and it may transform to overflowing.
Smiling and laughing. Laughter is said to be the best medicine, and it is also contagious. Smiling at someone when he or she enters the room improvesyour relationship with that person. Becoming less critical is a skill worthy of acquiring. If you are short on joyfulness these days, buy a joke book, go to a comedy show, or ask your friends to tell you something funny. Finding the humor in most situations can turn a gray day sunny again.
For more information on healthy life habits, check out these sources:
MSN.com, Ten habits you’ll pay for in ten years:
WebMD.com, Healthy Living: 8 steps to take today:
WebMD, How to keep healthy habits in mind:
Mayo Clinic, The 12 habits of highly healthy people:
Health.com, Healthy eating habits:
Feelhappiness.com, 107 healthy habits and behaviors for a healthier lifestyle:
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), List of unhealthy behaviors:
PsychologyToday.com, Toxic relationships:
by Kirsten Falcone, RN,
Hilbert College Wellness Center
It is that time of the year again. School projects are in full swing, and finals are on the horizon. Many students are stressed, and most are losing sleep. Some have caught a “bug” and are now feeling behind. Stress is, according to Dictionary.com, “a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.” But, according to WebMD.com, it is more simply “what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to [handling].” Does that sound familiar? If so, read on.
Certainly, some stress can be a good thing. Some studies show that a little stress may make you more resilient in the long run. The stress of a deadline approaching can also help you to hone all your attention onto that deadline. There is some evidence that short-term stress also provides the motivation to succeed. Once successful, one can reflect upon accomplishments, and this can actually be quite positive due to the reinforcement it provides! There is also some evidence that short-term stress can actually help ward off the common cold.
However, did you know stress also plays a role in most illness? That is because when we experience chronic stress, an overabundance of epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and cortisol (stress hormones) prevent many bodily systems, including the immune system, from functioning at full capacity. Even busy college students can take the time to benefit from some key lifestyle changes in order to stay healthy during a stressful time. Some of the ways you can lower the negative effects of stress are:
- Get enough sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, and sleep at least seven to nine hours. For example, if you do well on eight hours of sleep per night, stick with that. Do not assume that seven will be enough. (For more information on sleep, read a recent Wellness Center article here: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/01/understanding-the-importance-of-sleep/.)
- Make a list each day, and put the most important items at the top. Check them off as you go.
- Don’t procrastinate. Get your homework or important task done right away, so you won’t prolong the worrying and the nagging in the back of your mind. Even just getting started on a long project will lessen the impact of the work that lies ahead.
- Don’t skip meals, and keep healthy snacks, like fresh fruits and vegetables and low-sugar granola bars in your backpack. Conversely, avoid junk food, caffeine, and added sugar. Give your body the fuel it needs. (Here is the link to the Wellness Center article on what to eat at the campus cafeteria: https://community.hilbert.edu/2016/12/07/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-how-to-avoid-the-freshman-15/.)
- Drink enough water. This can range from eight 8-ounce glasses per day to an ounce for every two pounds you weigh. Drinking enough water will also help drive off the munchies, and it will increase your energy level almost immediately. (For my article on dehydration, visit this link: https://community.hilbert.edu/2014/10/31/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-dehydration/.)
- Stay away from alcohol and drugs, and stop smoking and/or vaping. These put even more stress on your body by lowering your immune response. (Follow this link for my article on vaping: https://community.hilbert.edu/2016/10/06/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-vaping-is-risky-behavior/.)
- Take a brisk walk around campus twice, or work out in the campus recreation center. Do this at least three times per week. Look for any special programs that may be open to all students. (For the Wellness Center article on exercise, visit this link: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/31/exercise-the-forgotten-pharmaceutical/.)
- Humor yourself. Find the humor in situations. Subscribe to a joke page on social media. Ask your friends if they know any jokes. There is scientific evidence that making yourself smile actually increases your happiness. It is true that laughter is often the best medicine.
- Talk to a good friend or counselor. Bottled-up emotions come out in other ways. Venting with a friend also helps your friend connect with you.
Some other ways to manage stress are, in no particular order:
Reading for leisure
Crafting, or following a hobby
Progressive muscle relaxation
Singing or playing uplifting music
Volunteering in the community
Caring for a pet
Taking a nap
Worship/Reading the Bible
Bathing or swimming
For more information on stress, check out these sources:
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
Mayo Clinic, Stress Management In-Depth:
Psychology Today, Why some stress is good:
Health.com, Ways stress can be good for you:
Does anybody “need” them?
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center
Energy! Think of that word and the concept of consuming extra energy. Energy is a good thing, right? Who doesn’t want to have more energy? This is the deceptive way the beverage industry frames their advertising for so-called “energy” drinks. “Energy” drinks can be found almost anywhere soda pop and bottled water are sold. Even with the increasing dire news events and warnings concerning their use, many statistics show that energy drinks are among the fastest-growing consumer crazes today.
Some best-selling drinks currently on the market are Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, NOS, Full Throttle and No Fear. Two locally popular brands are Mountain Dew Kickstart and Venom Black Mamba. Even if you have never tried these, their reputation precedes them.
Well, now, you might think having a little extra energy is a great idea! What could be so wrong with that? I wondered that, myself, so I went looking for more information. Even though I wanted to believe these drinks had some value, almost every respectable source I found stated that drinking “energy” drinks is not only not beneficial, but can be extremely harmful.
The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate “energy” drinks, and this is probably the main problem with these drinks. (More on this later.) Despite the lack of regulation, many companies have put labels on their products. If we trust that the labels are truthful, the basic ingredients are caffeine; another caffeine source called guarana; taurine, an amino acid that amplifies the strength of the caffeine; B vitamins; L-carnitine, an amino acid derivative; sugar; and sodium.
The main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine, and not just a little caffeine, but some sources state up to 500 milligrams in a 24-ounce can. Caffeine is unhealthy for people under 18, because people under 18 are still developing, and caffeine affects the absorption of calcium into bones and tissue. Caffeine has a proportionally larger effect on smaller bodies, and it causes even greater hyperactivity, mood swings and anxiety due to its effects on neurological and cardiovascular tissue. Caffeine also suppresses appetite, which would not be beneficial for growing bodies. It also constricts blood vessels, has diuretic properties (which is dehydrating), and makes any kind of cardiovascular exercise risky. Of great concern, also, is the fact that caffeine is an addictive drug.
For adults (or those who are done developing), caffeine should be limited to 200-300 milligrams or about two cups of coffee per day. According to the Mayo Clinic, most adults should consume no more than 400 milligrams per day.
Caffeine may be helpful for keeping alert. However, in mass quantities, and combined with the other ingredients in these drinks, there are some side effects worth mentioning. They include:
- Heart palpitations, and increased heart rate,
- High blood pressure,
- Increased stress,
- Upset stomach, and nausea,
- Leg weakness,
- Feeling jittery and nervous,
- Sleeplessness and sleep disruption, leading to fatigue and lower immunity against infection,
- Mental confusion and difficulty concentrating,
- Agitation, anxiety, and hyperactivity,
- Increased risk-taking behavior,
- Cardiovascular and nervous system damage in children,
- Habit-forming or addictive characteristics.
I decided to do a little personal research. At the local grocery store, I bought several cans of various “energy” drinks. They included Red Bull, Mountain Dew Kickstart, Monster Energy, Rockstar, Rockstar Pure Zero, and Venom Black Mamba. The added sugar in these drinks ranged from 20 grams in Mountain Dew Kickstart to 53 grams in Venom Black Mamba. To put this in perspective, this is as much as about 5 to 12 teaspoons of added sugar. Ingesting sugar is a problem for diabetic and prediabetic people. The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of added sugar is 36 grams or nine teaspoons for men, and 25 grams or six teaspoons for women. Keep in mind that this is not the only source of added sugar in most people’s diets!
This amount of sugar may sound like a lot, but, in contrast, a can of Coca Cola has 39 grams of added sugar, so one could easily downgrade this amount of sugar to nuisance status, compared to some of the other ingredients. Let’s keep going….
Of course, calorie content is sugar-related. The calorie content in the samples I bought (not including Rockstar Pure Zero, which has no calories) ranged from 80 calories for a 16-ounce can of Mountain Dew Kickstart to 240 calories for a 16-ounce can of Venom Black Mamba. The recommended daily number of calories for adults is between 2,000 and 2,500. If you are concerned about calories, you should be concerned about the empty calories in these drinks.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Sodium seems to be a greater concern than sugar, surprisingly. In my samples, the sodium content ranged from 35 milligrams in regular Rockstar to 310 milligrams in Venom Black Mamba. The others were in the 105 to 180 range. It pays to read the label, since there are two servings in some 16-ounce cans, and only one in others. In a 16-ounce can of Monster, there are 360 milligrams of sodium! In comparison, our can of Coke contains 45 milligrams of sodium. The RDA for sodium is not as stringent as for sugar, but a general recommendation is set at 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day. Cutting out sodium from the diet has been a cardiologist recommendation for decades. When contemplating this gargantuan amount of caffeine and sodium, one begins to understand the solemnity of the potential health threat in these drinks.
It is safe to say that B vitamins are definitely the only good thing about “energy” drinks. However, most nutritionists are skeptical about vitamin supplements, suggesting that most supplements are not absorbed into the body well, unless they are part of solid food. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins University, vitamin supplements are of no value. Therefore, the addition of B vitamins to “energy” drinks appears to be a gimmick to fool the consumer into equating these drinks with health, which has turned out to be the opposite of the truth!
No FDA Regulation
As mentioned, the FDA does not regulate “energy” drinks, so the companies who make them can put anything on the label that they want. All of the samples I bought had a label, but, according to some sources, the true amount of caffeine is rarely listed. Several of the ingredients in these drinks are known to enhance the effect of the caffeine, and some contain their own even stronger amount of caffeine. Bottom line: We don’t really know the exact amount of caffeine or other ingredients contained in them!
Flavor and Other Qualities of “Energy” Drinks
My personal research revealed a few things. I am a morning coffee drinker. I usually drink the recommended one to two cups brewed at home, and I add some cream or sweetened Coffee Mate (an indulgence I know I could edit due to the sugar in the Coffee Mate!). Though I was used to my caffeine drink tasting somewhat sweet, I didn’t care for the carbonated and syrupy, sickly sweet smell and taste of all of the drinks in my sample. In fact, I really felt they were true to their names—especially “Monster” and “Venom.” (At least that labeling is correct!) The flavor is definitely not why they are popular!
In lieu of coffee one day, I drank a Red Bull. In my opinion, there was nothing at all redeeming about Red Bull. On consecutive days, I drank Mountain Dew Kickstart, Monster Energy, and Venom Black Mamba. The best thing I can say about them is they are gone. The worst? They were revolting. I needed to brush my teeth thoroughly after what seemed like a sugar steep. I am happily a coffee drinker once again.
Marketing and Slogans
Marketing can be a good thing, but it can also be misleading. I worked in marketing before I was a nurse, so I believe that the marketing to the young generation is responsible for these ubiquitous drinks. The advertising and slogans printed on the cans might reveal a clue:
The Red Bull can states, “Vitalizes body and mind. Red Bull is appreciated worldwide by top athletes, busy professionals, college students and travelers on long journeys.” (Yes, it could definitely be a “long journey” to the Emergency Department! Mixing Red Bull and other “energy” drinks with an exercise routine is a bad idea.)
The Mountain Dew Kickstart label states, “New energizing original dew. Real fruit juice.” (In small writing, “Contains 5% juice.”)
The Venom Black Mamba label states, “When you want to stay razor sharp and are ready to take on the world, you need the venom of Black Mamba. Venom packs a powerful payload of strong fierce energy….Take on the world and OWN IT!”
The Monster Energy label states, “…athletes, musicians, anarchists, co-eds, road warriors, metal heads, geeks, hipsters, and bikers dig it—you will too. … Unleash the Beast!” (I daresay the “Beast” could represent the foolish choice of drinking Monster.)
As you can see, every can portrays language that praises the contents of the can, promising it will make you cool, energized, and ready to handle anything. The problem is, it couldn’t be further from the truth. “Energy” drinks are NOT health drinks. If they were health drinks, would almost ALL of them have warning labels? They do! All but Mountain Dew Kickstart had warning labels that stated, “Not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine.” In addition, their warnings should say, “Do not use while exercising.”
Alternatives to Caffeine
Instead of using caffeine, make these lifestyle choices/changes:
- WATER, because we need to replenish our bodies, of which 50 to 70 percent is water! Drinking water will immediately energize you if you are dehydrated.
- Proper nutrition, so your body has the correct fuel for all its processes,
- Sleep, so your body and brain can heal and recharge,
- Exercise, for your circulation, muscles, heart, brain, and more!
- Avoid extra sugar, because we get enough in food,
- Avoid or limit alcoholic beverages, and DO NOT mix them with energy drinks.
If you must imbibe caffeine, then regular coffee, one to two cups per day (allowing no other caffeine that day) is the safest caffeine you can consume. We know about the caffeine in coffee, but the lack of regulation on “energy” drinks should be a red flag.
In conclusion, does anybody “need” “energy” drinks? No. It is my opinion that these drinks should not be labeled “energy” drinks, but, rather, “stimulant” drinks. A stimulant is a drug, and that is what these drinks are. As with any addiction, it is best to break the habit.
For further reading, and more information on stimulant drinks, visit these Web sites:
National Institutes of Health:
U.S. News and World Report:
Energy Drinks Lawsuit:
American Heart Association, Sugar 101:
SFGate, FDA recommended sodium intake:
Caffeineinformer.com, 20 harmful effects of caffeine:
LiveScience.com, Is caffeine bad for kids?:
Johns Hopkins Medicine, Are vitamin supplements beneficial?:
Tips on losing weight for the warmer months
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center
If you are like most college students, you have put on a few pounds since you arrived last August. Now (believe it or not!) summer break is on the horizon, with all its skin-bearing attire. Suddenly, those pounds are a bit more noticeable. Before you goon a diet, be sure to check your body mass index (BMI). Anyone whose BMI (see below for BMI article link) is between 18.5 and 24.9 is a normal weight, so you may still be within that range, and you do not really need to lose weight. However, if your BMI is above 25, it is a good idea to instill some new habits.
Exercise. Before considering cutting calories, it is important to add exercise into your routine. A good start, and one that is easy to maintain, is simply to briskly walk at least three times per week, for 20 to 30 minutes or more. Walking and swimming are the least jarring of all the options available, and they are great for your cardiovascular system, as well as many other bodily systems. If you increase your physical activity, and your calorie intake remains the same, you may find that adding exercise is the only lifestyle change needed in order to accomplish your goal.
The time of day matters when it comes to exercise. Ideally, the morning is the best time, because it jump starts your metabolism for the day. (But don’t make the mistake of not exercising at all, because you aren’t a “morning person.” Some exercise is better than none.) Also, be aware that if you exercise too closely to bedtime, you will lose the benefit of an increased metabolism, as your body will slow down in preparation for sleep. You will also run the risk of experiencing sleeplessness, which leads us to the subject of…
Sleep. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep hinders metabolism. In addition, if you are sleep-deprived, you will be less motivated to spend energy on maintaining your exercise and nutrition habits. It is important to adhere to the same bedtime every night, and sleep at least seven to nine hours. For example, if you function best on eight hours of sleep, always try to get eight hours. Seven will not be enough for you. Some people do okay on seven, and some need nine. It varies by person.
Believe in your potential. If you can get enough sleep, you will have the foundation for the right mindset. If you want to get in shape, you have to believe that you can. Give yourself regular pep talks. Read stories of others who have lost weight and kept it off. You are young, and there are no excuses. You can do this!
Nutrition. Changing what you eat may be important, if you don’t eat a balanced diet. However, sometimes changing the way you eat is more important. For example, you should eat the vegetables and fruit on your plate first before you eat the main course. (No, potato chips and French fries are not considered vegetables!) This will help you acquire the vitamins and fiber you need and may keep you from overdoing it with the usually more fattening entrée.
Another strategy is to eat only half of what you would normally eat, such as half a sandwich, or use a smaller plate, which tricks you into thinking your portion is larger than it is. (And don’t go back for seconds!) If you are out at a restaurant, it is OK to eat only half. Also be aware that a large percentage of the meal’s calories can be hidden in the beverage, so always opt for healthful choices, such as skim milk, unsweetened tea, or just plain water. Try to skip the caffeine, if possible, or limit it to the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day. (Stay tuned for a future article on “energy” drinks. Here is a preview: they are not a healthful choice!) It is also important to take the proper amount of time to eat, since the stomach will not usually register it is full until 20 minutes afterward.
It is sensible to read labels for items such as sugar, salt, fat, and fiber. If you can substitute whole food for labeled food, it’s all the better. An apple a day really does keep the doctor away! Plus, make certain you drink enough water.
Stay hydrated. The current recommendation for how much water to drink involves doing a little math: Take your weight in pounds, and drink from half that amount to that whole amount in ounces every day. For example, someone who weighs 150 lbs. should drink 75 to 150 ounces per day. This seems like a lot, but all the liquid from your diet adds up. Sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are really just dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water before you eat will cut down on how much you will eat.
Don’t skip meals. You are less likely to get hungry and overeat at your next meal. Plus, skipping meals often leads to binge-eating, and that is not the goal you are seeking. The most common meal that dieters skip is breakfast. But breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. To avoid becoming hungry before lunchtime, many people swear by including protein at breakfast. A typical protein-rich and low-calorie breakfast, then, might include poached eggs, whole-wheat toast, fruit and a glass of skim milk. (The eggs and milk here are the items with the protein.)
Food Journaling. Keeping a food journal is a good option for those who are accustomed to snacking throughout the day. It is easy to forget about that cookie here or that small bag of chips there. Keep the journal with you at all times, so you won’t forget to write things down.
Charting. As long as you are already journaling, a great habit to begin is to keep track of your weight from week to week. If you graph out your weight and hang it on the wall by your scale, you will have a visual reminder of your success. You may also want to put reminders in places where temptation is great, like the refrigerator or pantry door.
Fad Diets. Skip them. They don’t work. In the long run, you will gain all your weight back, plus more. The best course of action for losing weight is exercise and portion control, period.
Electronic Help. Though the jury is still out on the effectiveness of electronic help, devices such as Fitbits, and smart phone apps, some people swear by them.
The takeaway for losing weight: Start now, believe you can do it, reduce your calories and increase your activity. Do these things, and you will be well on your way to a svelte self.
For more information on losing weight, visit these Web sites:
Hilbert College Wellness Center, BMI Article:
MedlinePlus, Exercise and activity for weight loss:
WebMD, Food and Fitness Planner:
Healthline.com, 10 best weight-loss apps:
Lose It!, Weight loss apps:
MyFitnessPal, Weight loss app:
Runtastic, Fitness tracking app:
How Stuff Works article: Can Technology Help Me Lose Weight?
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center
Protein has played a great part in our fast-paced culture lately. There is an increasing demand for convenient products that offer results quickly. An abundance of protein drinks, bars, and other products on the market promise consumers a stronger, more attractive physique if used regularly. Historically, protein has been understood to be part of a balanced diet. But, did you know that protein can be both good and bad for you? The following is an introduction to whet your appetite.
What is protein? Proteins are complex strings of amino acid molecules found in the cells of everything living. The varying shapes of proteins determine the purpose or function involved. Our bodies use 20 amino acids strung together like beads in different arrangements for nearly every function. Nine of these amino acids must be acquired from food or supplements, while the body is able to manufacture the rest. We think of protein as being essential for muscle tissue, but it is actually used in every bodily tissue, including blood and bones.
Who needs protein? Everyone. Every cell in your body has protein in it. In many poorer countries around the world, there is a shortage of protein in people’s diets. However, in the United States, it is rare for anyone to be protein-deficient. Most American diets comprise up to twice the amount of protein needed.
Why do I need protein? Every cell in your body is protein-based, so when a cell breaks down, it needs to be replaced with protein. Growth and repair of cells is part of the job of proteins. Proteins also act as hormones (chemical messengers in the body), and enzymes (substances that speed up cell processes). Other duties of proteins include the maintenance of fluid and electrolyte levels, the transportation of nutrients, the preservation of acid-base balance, the support of a strong immune system and production of antibodies, and as an energy source (usually after fats and carbohydrates have been depleted).
When should I eat protein? An adequate supply of protein should be eaten daily.
Where can I get protein? Most Americans acquire enough protein from diet alone. In fact, as already stated above, it is estimated that Americans consume up to twice the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) every day! Protein can be found in meats, dairy products, eggs, and some plant sources, such as beans, whole grains, nuts and soy products. Beans and rice have long been known as a poor man’s substitute for “complete protein,” since, when eaten together, they (like meat) provide all of the amino acids the body needs. Animal proteins have all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies need, but almost all plant food sources are deficient in one or more. You can eat the beans and the rice at different meals during the day (contrary to what nutritionists used to believe).
How much protein do I need? On average, the body needs 0.36 gram of protein per pound (or 0.8 gram per kilogram) per day. Therefore, a sedentary man weighing 190 pounds will need 68 grams of protein per day, and a sedentary woman weighing 150 pounds will need 54 grams per day. Active people, pregnant and nursing women, and children and adolescents need more, due to the requirement for more protein during growth and development.
To give you an idea of the amount of protein in food, a three-ounce serving of broiled chicken breast has 28 grams of protein, a cup of skim milk has 9 grams, two tablespoons of peanut butter have 8 grams, an egg has 6 grams, and (for you Buffalonians) according to Livestrong.com, chicken wings each have between five and nine grams of protein.
Some consumers are attracted to the idea of building their muscles by using protein products, and so they will drink a protein shake after a workout, for instance. Others appreciate the convenience and flexibility it gives them, and they believe they are improving their health by doing so. Therefore, protein shakes have become quite popular, and there is an expectation that these shakes will be a beneficial addition to a nutritious diet and exercise routine. However, there are pros and cons involved.
Pros of protein shakes:
- They could help vegans and seniors acquire enough protein.
- They may benefit athletes, after training (but only one drink to two per day could be considered beneficial).
- They may help reduce high blood pressure.
- Soy protein can reduce cholesterol levels and prostate cancer growth.
- Whey proteins help in weight maintenance, strengthening immunity, anti-oxidant action, cardiovascular health, and lowering blood glucose.
- They may help increase lean muscle bulk and strength.
Cons of protein shakes:
- They are expensive, costing around $45 or more for one container. Each container typically holds 50 or more servings.
- They add calories to your diet. One scoop of protein powder (mixed with milk) added to your post-exercise routine will set you back about 230 calories!
- They are unnecessary. Most athletes already consume more than twice the amount of protein in their diets than the RDA.
- You have to work out to build muscles. Building muscle happens from regular strength training, not just consuming protein.
Health-related cons of protein shakes, or too much protein:
- They may contribute to heart disease (if the protein comes from animal sources, because it is associated with higher cholesterol levels).
- They could cause bone loss and osteoporosis. Amino acids found in animal sources make the blood more acidic, causing calcium to be pulled out of the bones in order to buffer the acid.
- They exacerbate kidney disease by increasing the workload of the kidneys when filtering protein during digestion. (Diabetics who have kidney disease should be wary of consuming too much protein.)
- Diarrhea is a side effect of ingesting too much protein.
- Dehydration can be caused by not drinking enough water with protein powders.
- They are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so anything could be in them, including heavy metal toxins. (See below.)
According to “Consumer Reports,” in 2010 arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury were found in many samples. This is alarming because those metals can have toxic effects on several organs in the body! “Federal regulations do not generally require that protein drinks and other dietary supplements be tested before they are sold to ensure that they are safe, effective, and free of contaminants, as the rules require of prescription drugs,” states Consumer Reports’ Web site (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/protein-drinks/index.htm).
In conclusion, there is no quick fix to make you healthier. A healthy lifestyle consists of many things, including balanced nutrition from food, regular exercise, sleep, hydration, socialization, and more. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The takeaway: It’s probably okay to use protein powder or ingest a high-protein meal in moderation, but too much protein can be too much of a good thing.
For more information on protein, visit these Web sites:
MedlinePlus.gov, general protein information:
USDA.gov, general protein information:
WebMD.com, Choosing a protein shake:
WebMD.com, Do you need protein powders?:
MindBodyGreen.com, Why you really shouldn’t use protein powders:
LiveStrong.com, Does protein powder do anything bad to your body?:
ConsumerReports.org, Protein drink information:
Kaplan University, Protein supplements:
Benefits of Vitamin D
By Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center
As the medical world makes discoveries, often what we think we have learned flies out the window. An example that quickly comes to mind is the discussion regarding the amount of coffee to drink, or how much red wine is a good thing. Should you get a suntan or stay in the shade? Is avoiding fat in your diet always a good thing? What about sodium? It seems the experts are always changing their minds. But in the case of vitamin D, the optimistic discoveries keep adding up, and you may find them thought provoking.
What is vitamin D, and why do we need it? Your body needs vitamin D, a “fat-soluble” vitamin, to function properly. Fat-soluble vitamins need dietary fat in order to be absorbed into the body, and they are also stored in fatty tissues for future use. There are two kinds of vitamin D—vitamin D2 (found in food) and vitamin D3 (photosynthesized in the skin), but, for the sake of this article, we will refer to both simply as vitamin D. Vitamin D is most well-known for helping your body absorb calcium and thereby keeping bones strong and healthy, but vitamin D also:
- May lower the risk of respiratory infections.
- Increases muscle strength.
- Helps prevent certain types of cancer.
- Plays a role in type 1 and 2 diabetes prevention.
- May be helpful with some forms of arthritis.
- Defends against aggressive breast cancer.
- Lessens the symptoms of depression.
- Helps protect against multiple sclerosis and its symptoms.
- Protects against age-related bone loss.
- May protect against cardiovascular disease.
- Possibly contributes to successful weight loss in obese patients.
- Helps improve cognitive health.
- Helps relieve plaque-type psoriasis in some people, if used topically.
How can our bodies acquire vitamin D? Vitamin D can be acquired in three ways. One way is by exposing our skin to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This sets off a chain reaction involving skin cholesterol, the liver and the kidneys, until converting into a compound the body can use. This compound assists the electrolyte calcium in strengthening bones. The second way the body acquires vitamin D is in food. Supplements are the third way, and they should be used as a last resort (see below).
Here are some tips for acquiring vitamin D:
- When outdoors, apply sunscreen after about 20 minutes (longer for darker skin), so enough of the ultraviolet rays can be absorbed. (Vitamin D deficiency is higher in black Americans, according to a 2012 CDC report, estimated at 31 percent.)
- Expose yourself to the sun when it is highest in the sky, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (Be careful to avoid sunburn, by putting on sunscreen after 20 minutes or more, depending on your skin pigmentation.)
- Live closer to the equator. People in the northern half of the United States, and anywhere north of 40 degrees latitude are less likely to be exposed to enough ultraviolet light. (The 40 degree latitude line can be drawn horizontally across approximately the center of the United States.)
- Eat foods, such as salmon, swordfish, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolk, beef liver, mushrooms, and fortified foods, such as cereal, orange juice and milk.
- The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) for people up to 70 years of age, and 800 IU for those older than 71.
- Vitamin D is considered a fat-soluble vitamin, which simply means it can be stored in your body for when you need it. You cannot overdose on vitamin D synthesized from sunlight or from food, but it is possible to overdose on supplements. Symptoms of a vitamin D overdose are weakness, mental confusion, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and calcium deposit formations in tissues such as the liver, kidneys and heart.
- Be aware that tattoos that cover a large amount of skin are capable of blocking the production of vitamin D. Tattoos also make it uncomfortable to sit in the full sun because they heat up faster than the surrounding skin, causing itchiness. Therefore, having a tattoo is contraindicated for people who wish to sunbathe or acquire vitamin D in this manner.
- Blood tests for vitamin D are available through your doctor.
Widely known diseases caused by vitamin D deficiency are rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. Rickets can be found in children whose bones form improperly, due to lack of vitamin D. With osteomalacia, bones are weak, cause pain, and are more susceptible to fractures. In cases of osteoporosis, the bones become more porous and break easily.
We have been told that we should always wear sunscreen, and that fat in our diets is bad. But, there are times when using sunscreen is not to your advantage, and eating some fat is good for you!
For more information, visit these Web sites:
WebMD, slideshow on vitamin D:
WebMD, Breast cancer link:
CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) vitamin D nutrition report:
Mayo Clinic, vitamin D overview: