Some Tips for a Safe and Healthful Summer Outdoors

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Be Safe Out There!
Some Tips for a Safe and Healthful Summer Outdoors

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 4 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’s 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. The wide-brimmed hat is also recommended. 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 get 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

Insects. Ticks and mosquitoes are considered “vectors” for some diseases, because you can contract Lyme disease from blacklegged or deer ticks, and the Zika virus is now in at least two states, including Florida and Texas. If you are traveling this summer, do your research to avoid exposure to Zika.

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’s a good idea not to go barefoot where clover is 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 where mosquitoes can be found. 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. Many 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. Don’t 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, don’t 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 don’t plan to be outside during dangerous weather conditions, like lightning storms. Some days are just better for staying home.

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:, Sun myths and facts quiz:, How to protect your eyes from the sun, video:, Heat exhaustion

Skin Cancer Foundation, Does sunscreen cause cancer?, What’s the best sunscreen?:, Skin Cancer on the Rise:

FDA, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, OTC sunscreen requirements:, Zika mosquito repellent recommendations:, Bug Jacket:



Healthy Habits: Establish these habits for a successful life

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Healthy Habits:
Establish these habits for a successful life

Daily, we are bombarded with information regarding obtaining a healthy lifestyle: Eat “this” to lose weight, take “this” to feel better, visit “this” place to get away. 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 a lot of little steps that turn into 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. There are hundreds of tips available. (I have listed some good Website resources in this article.) But, as a nurse, mother and small group leader, here are a “few” of my favorite habits.

Sleep. Nobody can function on too little sleep for very long. Sleep 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:

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.

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:

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.

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.

Changing addictive behaviors. If you are already addicted to alcohol, smoking or drugs, get help. Now. You won’t ever regret it. Of less importance, maybe, but still important, is to cut down on the amount of caffeine you ingest.  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 not wasted. 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.

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:

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, 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.

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 improves your 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:, Ten habits you’ll pay for in ten years:, Healthy Living: 8 steps to take today:

WebMD, How to keep healthy habits in mind:

Mayo Clinic, The 12 habits of highly healthy people:, Healthy eating habits:,,20934662,00.html, 107 healthy habits and behaviors for a healthier lifestyle:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), List of unhealthy behaviors:, Toxic relationships:


Don’t Let Deadlines Make You Sick: How to Manage Stress

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Don’t Let Deadlines Make You Sick!:
How to Manage Stress

It’s 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, “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, 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.

While some stress can be a good thing, did you know stress also plays a role in most illness? That is because when we are constantly stressed, 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 ward off the effects of stress. Some of the ways you can lower stress are:

Get enough sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, and sleep at least seven to nine hours.
(For more information on sleep, read a recent Wellness Center article here:

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 don’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, don’t overeat or load up on junk food. Give your body the fuel it needs.

Drink enough water. This can range from eight 8-ounce glasses per day to an ounce for every pound you weigh. Drinking enough water will also help drive off the munchies, and it will increase your energy level almost immediately.

Stay away from alcohol and drugs, and stop smoking. These put even more stress on your body by lowering your immune response.

Exercise. 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.

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

Breathing exercises


Guided imagery

Progressive muscle relaxation

Positive thinking

Singing or playing uplifting music

Volunteering in the community

Caring for a pet

Relaxation time

Taking a nap

Worship/Reading the Bible


Bathing or swimming


For more information, check out these sources:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):


Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management:

Mayo Clinic, Stress Management In-Depth:


From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – Protein

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Too much of a good thing?

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, 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, typically 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 (

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:, general protein information:, general protein information:, Choosing a protein shake:, Do you need protein powders?:, Why you really shouldn’t use protein powders:, Does protein powder do anything bad to your body?:, Protein drink information:

Kaplan University, Protein supplements:

The Sunshine Vitamin – From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

The Sunshine Vitamin:
Benefits of Vitamin D

As the medical world makes discoveries, often what we think we’ve 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. However, some recent findings have added to the knowledge about vitamin D, 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:

  • Recently was shown to 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.

How is vitamin D acquired? 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:


MedlinePlus, Vitamin D lowers risk of respiratory infections:

CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 2012 Levels of nutrients in U.S. population:

CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) vitamin D nutrition report:

Mayo Clinic, vitamin D dosage information:


From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – The Importance of Sleep

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Getting Your Zzzs:
The Importance of Sleep

The impact of consistently obtaining a good night’s sleep can never be overemphasized, especially on a college campus. On the other hand, chronic sleep deprivation seems to be at an all-time high. The following is a review of the importance of sleep, and how to acquire it.

A recent statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that 1 in 3 adults doesn’t get enough sleep. According to the CDC, sleeping at least 7 hours each night is required “to promote optimal health and well-being.” Most health professionals recommend 7 to 9 hours.

Conversely, sleeping less than 7 hours per night puts you at risk of:

  • Developing a chronic condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and frequent mental difficulties,
  • Elevated stress hormones,
  • Mood swings,
  • Slower response time,
  • Confusion, and lack of focus,
  • Poor decision-making, and
  • Unnecessary risk-taking.

In our everyday lives, these could translate to poor job performance, grades, relationships, and also driving or operating machinery.

The number of sleep-deprived adults can be considerably higher in college communities. As the nurse in the Hilbert College Wellness Center, most of my sick patients are sleep-deprived, acquiring fewer than six hours per night. There are many excuses for this, such as living with a loud roommate, studying for a test, going out late at night, working at a night job, or just not being that motivated or self-controlled. Many students are unaware of how important sleep really is.

Sleep is probably THE most important health practice! Here are some reasons. While you sleep, your brain is forming pathways for learning and storing memories. Your body is building up its immune system and healing damage caused throughout the day. Hormones called cytokines, which are produced during the night, are crucial for your immune system to fight infection and inflammation. During the day, a compound called adenosine is built up, and it is only broken down again by getting enough sleep. If you miss a few nights of sound sleep, the adenosine will build up and cause sleepiness during the day. Another substance, a hormone called melatonin, makes you naturally feel sleepy at night, but that can be reversed to daytime sleepiness, if you don’t fulfill your nighttime sleep requirements.

Going to bed at the same time every night, say 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., allows your body to cycle through sleep stages, each with a specific purpose. The four stages must be experienced in chronological order for sleep to do its job. In addition, the beginning of the night presents longer stages than the end of the night. For example, non-REM deep sleep, considered the “restorative” stage of sleep occurs mostly in the first half of the night. Knowing this makes it clear that going to bed at the same time every night is crucial to maintaining good health.

If you know you have gotten off-track, here are some ways to improve your sleep habits:

  1. Get enough exercise and fresh air during the day, so you are sleepy at the right time. Make sure this is not within two hours of your newly established bedtime, though.
  2. Eat healthfully. When you fuel your body properly, it just runs better overall. Also, don’t eat any large meals just before bed. Indigestion may wake you up!
  3. Use caffeine only in the morning. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it will disrupt your sleep.
  4. Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol may help put you to “sleep” at the beginning of the night, but it has been shown to cause lighter, less fitful sleep, and it actually interrupts sleep halfway through the night, as well as causing dehydration. Nicotine (in cigarettes) is a stimulant that leads to lighter than normal sleep.
  5. Establish a “bedtime” again, and stick to it. Your parents were right to enforce this, and now you know why.
  6. Don’t take a nap longer than 20 minutes, or past 3:00 p.m. This may make it more difficult to wake up fully, and then to go to sleep at your predetermined time.
  7. Wind down at night by dimming lights, turning off the TV and electronics (including your cell phone!), and taking a hot shower or bath before bed. Have a comfortable bed and pillow, and keep the room temperature cool.
  8. Put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door, if you live in a community that stays up late.
  9. Wear ear plugs, if necessary.
  10. For chronic insomnia, see a doctor who can help you determine the cause of your sleeplessness.
  11. Avoid sleeping pills. These are habit-forming, and should be used only as a last resort and only occasionally.
  12. Don’t rely on sleeping in on the weekends. This may erase some of your sleep debt, but not all of it. It will also make it much more difficult to get to sleep at the proper time on Sunday night.
  13. Learn how to manage time. Ultimately, going to bed at the right time, rather than studying for that test until the wee hours, will help you do better on your test the next day. It would be even better to schedule study time during the daytime.

Remember the words of Ben Franklin, “Early to bed and early to rise make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Sweet dreams!

For more information, visit these Web sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Guide to Healthy Sleep:


From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – Winning Health Battles, with Proper Hygiene

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”:
Winning Health Battles, with Proper Hygiene

Every day, everywhere we go, we are surrounded by opportunistic germs and parasites. Some are “good,” some are “bad,” and some can even be “ugly.” They could be on your doorknobs, countertops, hand rails, toilet, in your food, clothing, sheets, the gym you frequent, or even in your own reusable water bottles. Some exposure to germs can be “good” for you and strengthen your immune system; they can be beneficial, and you shouldn’t “wipe” them out. In fact, even some “bad” germs can benefit you by strengthening your immunity to invaders. But, how you approach these “bad guys” can make a difference between being sick frequently, and rarely coming down with an illness at all.

It isn’t enjoyable to contemplate these bad guys, but, face it. This is reality. As the gunfighters in westerns prove, you can’t win a fight without bullets. There are consequences for practicing poor hygiene. Since information is power, you don’t want to be low on ammunition. You should stand ready and armed with knowledge! Here is a short list of the most common assailants for which to be vigilant.

Hygiene-related illnesses and diseases are caused by villains, such as fungi, viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Colds and the flu, as well as plantar warts, are caused by viruses. Bacterial illnesses include dental caries and swimmer’s ear. Athlete’s foot and ringworm are fungal. Lice (whether body, pubic or head), and pinworm are parasitical. And chronic diarrhea and recreational water illness have various causes.

The following are some general tips for everyday personal hygiene:

  • Wash your hands. It is the best way to avoid getting sick! (Wash Your Hands – Recent Article)
  • Don’t touch your face, nose, ears, eyes, or mouth, with soiled hands. Conversely, don’t touch your face with clean hands and forget to wash your hands afterward.
  • Brush your teeth and tongue two to three times per day. Floss once per day.
  • Bathe regularly, and keep your nails clean and short.
  • Foot hygiene: Athlete’s foot and plantar warts can be avoided by wearing sandals in public bathrooms or shower areas.
  • Clothing hygiene: Wear clean clothes, change underwear and socks daily, don’t wear someone else’s shoes or soiled clothing, and wear clothing that is appropriate for the season and the circumstances.
  • Sexual hygiene: Find one partner for life, preferably. (See below for link to article on STDs.)

The following are tips for keeping a clean environment:

  • Cleaning your home: First wash surfaces with an appropriate cleaner and warm water, to remove dirt and grime. Use paper towels or washable rags. Always disinfect rags or sponges before reusing them, or toss them out. Dust, open windows to ventilate, and open the curtains to let the sunshine in.
  • Disinfecting your home: After cleaning, use a germ-killing solution, such as a bleach or vinegar solution, to sanitize surfaces, such as door knobs and handles, countertops where food is prepared, faucets, and anything that gets handled frequently.
  • Wash out your reusable water bottles every day, and let them air dry. (See the link below for water bottle hygiene.) Bacteria thrive around the caps of water bottles, especially those that still have a moist environment inside.
  • Don’t share personal care tools (e.g. toothbrush, nail clipper, comb, towels, glasses, cups, utensils).
  • Keep your refrigerator clean, to kill mold and mildew (fungi).
  • Food: Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, checking expiration dates on canned and bagged items. Don’t eat cooked food, such as a casserole, that has been sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours. Even reheating won’t kill the germs that will make you sick. Just toss it out. (“Waste it!”)
  • Wash sheets, towels, workout clothes and underwear in hot water and use a hot clothes dryer.

If you follow these guidelines, you will most likely be healthier, feel ill infrequently, and appear a great deal healthier, too. In other words, you will prosper in disarming the “good,” killing the “bad,” and dodging the “ugly.”

For more information on everyday hygiene, visit these Web sites:

Personal hygiene
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

Personal hygiene checklist

Household cleaning tips
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

Water bottle hygiene

Article “How Clean Should We Be?”

Protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – Alcohol Alternatives for St. Paddy’s Day

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Stay Lucky!
Alcohol Alternatives for St. Paddy’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is on a Friday this year, and that means many college students will find opportunities to enjoy the festivities. But, since 21 is the legal drinking age, it’s worthwhile to look at some alternatives to drinking alcohol that could be equally as enjoyable or more so.

First, let’s review a little about drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful or smart. In fact, the only alcohol recognized as beneficial is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women (two for men). If you do happen to drink beyond what is considered healthful, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • One (serving-sized) drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. If you damage your liver, contrary to hearsay, it does not always grow back to normal. (Think fatty liver and cirrhosis.)
  • Serving sizes: If you choose to drink alcohol, be aware of these serving sizes:
    • Beer—12 ounces
    • Liquor—one ounce
    • Wine—five ounces.
  • Stay hydrated. In order to prevent dehydration, drink eight ounces of water per hour. (This will also help ward off a hangover the next day.)
  • Don’t binge drink, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as imbibing five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in a two-hour period.
  • Designate a driver. Make sure one person is a designated driver, or arrange another mode of transportation.

Some reasons to avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol damages liver tissue, sometimes permanently. Brain tissue is permanently damaged by drinking alcohol (something to “think” about, if you are a serious college student). It can also lower inhibitions and make you act in a way you would not normally act. Alcohol is a depressant, and so somebody who drinks alcohol regularly is more likely to develop mental health side effects, such as chronic depression. Alcoholic beverages are also highly caloric, with very little nutritional value. If you put junk into your body, you will get junk in return. It is not the best choice for an ambitious college student.

So, then, what are some alternatives to drinking that green beer? Many Web sites address ideas for alcohol-free celebrations. (See below for links.) Here are a few good ideas:

  • Attend a mass or church service. Patrick is considered a saint, so this would be appropriate! Learn more about St. Patrick at
  • Host an alcohol-free party in your residence hall, and substitute green beer with other beverages that are already green, or with green food coloring added.
  • Attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade. The parade in Buffalo this year is on Sunday, March 19 at 2:00 p.m. along Delaware Avenue.
  • Dress in green all day (or all weekend).
  • Buy an Irish beverage, such as a Shamrock shake or Irish coffee.
  • Sip a non-alcoholic beverage if attending a party where alcohol is served. Adding a bit of green food coloring will make it more festive.
  • Find a fish fry. Fish fry Friday is hard to miss during the Lenten season.
  • Learn how to Irish step dance. There are videos online. Here is one to try:
  • Host an Irish movie night. Suggestions from “Waking Ned Devine,” “The Snapper,” “Intermission,” “The Crying Game,” “My Left Foot,” or “The Commitments.”

Finally, you’ll be glad you resisted the temptation to drink because it’s much more fun to be in control, you won’t have a hangover when you need to study, you will not be suffering from the consequences of decisions made when under the influence, you will actually remember the fun you had and the memories you made, and your waistline, liver, brain, and overall health will thank you. Making the right choices will empower you and not depress you!

For more information on enjoying an alcohol-free holiday, visit these Web sites:

Alcohol facts and statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Non-alcoholic St. Patrick’s Day Drink Recipes

More Non-alcoholic St. Patrick’s Day Drinks Recipes

Fact sheet about alcohol and your health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Ideas for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day without alcohol

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From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – Stay Healthy on Spring Break

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Stay Healthy on Spring Break

springbreakSpring Break is quickly approaching, and some college students choose to travel south for much-needed warmer weather, sunshine, and relaxation. In order to benefit the most from spring break, there are some key health items to remember.

Protect yourself from the sun. The shortened daylight associated with the winter months has taken its toll on all of us by this time of year. But that is no reason to forget to protect yourself from sunburn. Use sunscreen of at least SPF 15 (preferably much higher) and reapply often, wear cover-ups and a hat, avoid the sun between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., and wear sunglasses. If (but preferably before) you notice a sunburn, get out of the sun, and keep hydrated. Mild sunburns can be soothed with over-the-counter pain medications and cool compresses. Avoid any more sun exposure until the current burn has resolved.

Be smart when drinking alcohol. The healthiest choice is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women and two glasses per day for men. The liver cannot process more than one ounce of hard liquor, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer per hour. In addition, drink one eight-ounce glass of water per alcoholic drink, if at all possible, to prevent the effects of dehydration. Make sure one person is a designated driver, or arrange another mode of transportation. Also be aware of people who might prey on unsuspecting tourists.

Be aware of diseases and health risks. This year the Zika virus is even more of a concern than last year. If you are traveling to anywhere on the globe that is on the CDC’s high-risk list (including parts of Florida and Texas), (, you will need to use mosquito repellent especially during the daylight hours in order to reduce the likelihood of Zika mosquitoes transmitting the virus to you.

Many travelers also come down with “Montezuma’s revenge” (food poisoning), but there are tips on avoiding that, too. The CDC has an app called “Can I Eat This?” For more information, go to this link: When you go to the link, you can also download other helpful travel apps.

Wherever you plan to go, near or far, have a safe, relaxing and healthful Spring Break!

For more comprehensive information on enjoying a healthful Spring Break, visit these Web sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):


Baylor University:

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center | Protect Your Hearing, While You Still Can

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Can you repeat that?
Protect Your Hearing, While You Still Can!

ear-budsHearing loss. You think it happens only to older people, right? Think again. Recent research reveals that more young people are developing permanent hearing loss, and they may not even realize it. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 20 percent of people aged 20-29 already have noise-induced hearing loss. In a recent study of about 3,500 people who reported their hearing as “excellent” or “good,” one in four people were found to have unsuspected hearing loss.

Why is this such a concern? It’s because, unlike many other ailments, hearing loss is permanent. Over time, a loss of hearing in someone young will accumulate and exacerbate that person’s eventual age-related hearing loss. Experts predict hearing-related issues will be even more pronounced for the current younger generation when it reaches retirement age.

What causes hearing loss? Anything over 85 decibels for an extended period of time, or much louder and shorter bursts of noise for a shorter period of time, are both damaging. Everyday noise from mowing the lawn, traffic, the food blender, leaf blowers and more, can all contribute to hearing loss.    Loud, sudden noises, like sirens, fireworks, and gunfire, are able to damage hearing immediately! Concerts and prolonged noise (two hours or more), as well as workplace-related clamor are also to blame.

What types of noises are higher than 85 decibels? According to a Purdue University Website, a garbage disposal, an average factory, a freight train 50 feet away, a diesel truck traveling at 40 mph at 50 feet away, and a food blender are all around 80 to 90 decibels. Exposing yourself to these for extended periods of time has been shown to cause hearing loss.

In the 90 to 110 decibel category are a jet plane taking off (at 1000 feet), a lawn mower, a motorcycle at 25 feet, an outboard motor, a car horn at three feet, a riveting machine, and live rock music. If you are “lucky” to be underneath a thunderclap, that will set you back 120 decibels! At 150 decibels, such as what occurs at 80 feet away from a jet taking off, your eardrums will rupture.

Wearing ear buds, as many people do with MP3 and blue-tooth devices, iPods, or video games, can intensify noise because they are put directly into the ear canal. This can raise noise levels by nine decibels. At maximum volume, ear buds can reach 105 decibels!

What can you do to prevent hearing loss?

  • When listening to electronic devices, wear “noise-cancelling” head phones that cover the whole ear. Ear buds (which sit in the ear canal) tend to let other sounds in, thus making it necessary to turn up the volume.
  • If you insist on wearing ear buds, invest in custom ear buds that fit your ears. They have a tighter fit, and you won’t have to turn up the volume to hear with them.
  • Limit your ear-bud/ear-phone listening to under 60 minutes per day, and keep the volume under 60 percent.
  • Wear ear plugs at concerts.
  • Plug your ears with your fingers when an ambulance passes, during traditional gun salutes, or when the fire trucks blast their sirens at parades.
  • Don’t sit right under the annual fireworks without ear protection.
  • Wear ear protection when you know you will be exposed to loud noises for long periods of time, such as mowing the lawn.
  • In traffic, keep the windows rolled up.
  • Get your ears tested to find your baseline. Start taking precautions from now on.

Here’s your takeaway: There are many areas of health that can be improved by changing your lifestyle or by taking medicine. But hearing isn’t one of them. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

For more information on premature hearing loss, visit these Web sites:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(February 7, 2017 Press Briefing): (Ear Bud Safety):

Purdue University (List of Decibel Levels):

Medline Plus (Medical Explanation of Hearing Loss):