10 Ways to Prevent Hearing Loss

Adapted from:
Hearing Loss:
A permanent condition in a “temporary” culture

by Kirsten Falcone, RN 
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Click here to download the full article


Hearing loss. You think it inflicts only elderly 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, 20% of people aged 20-29 already have noise-induced hearing loss.

Why is this such a concern? 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 they reach retirement age.

Which noises cause 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.

Which noises are higher than 85 decibels? According to a Purdue University Website:

  • Garbage disposals
  • Factories
  • Freight trains (50 feet away)
  • Diesel trucks traveling at 40mph (50 feet away)
  • Food blenders

In the 90 to 110 decibel category:

  • Jet planes taking off (at 1,000 feet)
  • Lawn mowers
  • Motorcycles (at 25 feet)
  • Outboard motors
  • Car horns (at 3 feet)
  • Live rock music
  • Public bathroom hand dryers
  • Thunderclaps

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, 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?

  1. When listening to electronic devices, wear “noise-canceling” headphones 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Follow the 60/60 Rule: Limit your ear-bud/ear-phone listening to under 60 minutes per day, and keep the volume under 60 percent.
  4. Wear ear plugs at concerts.
  5. Plug your ears with your fingers when an ambulance passes, during traditional gun salutes, or when the fire trucks blast their sirens at parades.
  6. Don’t sit right under the annual fireworks without ear protection.
  7. Wear ear protection when you know you will be exposed to loud noises for long periods of time, such as mowing the lawn.
  8. Use paper towels in public bathrooms instead of the hand dryers.
  9. In traffic, keep the windows rolled up.
  10. Get your ears tested to find your baseline. Start taking precautions from now on.

Here’s your takeaway: There are many health conditions that are temporary and improvable by changing your lifestyle or by taking medicine. But, hearing isn’t one of them. When it’s gone, it’s gone.


If you read this article to the end, and you would like to enter the Hilbert College Wellness Center monthly drawing, stop by the Wellness Center between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or send an email with a brief description of what you learned, to wellnesscenter@hilbert.edu.

9 Tips to Eat Healthy In The Winter

Adapted from:
Tips on Eating Healthfully in the Winter
by Kirsten Falcone, RN 
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Click here to download the full article


Have you found a little extra padding around your middle lately? You are not alone!

Many people find that wintertime eating is tricky when it comes to maintaining weight. The holidays and their fattening menus have passed, New Year’s resolutions are almost forgotten, and we are back to our old habits.

Here are 9 tips that can help you reach the warmer days with your waistline intact and a healthy spring in your step:

  1. Drink more water. The dry winter air tends to dehydrate us, and what we mistake for hunger is often just thirst. Drinking a glass of water before you eat will hydrate you, help curb your appetite, and aid digestion.
  2. Eat fruits and vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to make sure half your plate is fruits and vegetables. Try to pass up anything with fat or sugar added, such as fruit compote or au gratin potatoes. Eat your vegetables and fruit before you eat your main course, so that you acquire the nutrients you need and do not overdo it with the more high calorie entree. (No, French fries and potato chips do not count as vegetables!)
  3. Opt for lean meats. If given a choice between a hot dog, cheeseburger, or a chicken breast, choose the chicken breast more often.
  4. Focus on whole grains.  The fiber in a true whole grain product is better for your heart and digestion, and whole grain products contain more nutrients. Try to choose whole wheat or whole grain products instead of white bread.
  5. Avoid processed food. Try to avoid quick fix solutions, like cereal bars, protein bars, and other foods in prepackaged containers. Whole foods are better and have fewer additives.
  6. Eat just half. It’s okay to eat only half of the food on your plate, or simply use a smaller plate to control your portions. Do not let your conscience guilt you into retaining your membership in the Clean Plate Club.
  7. Sample the fattening choices. Yes, it is okay to “treat yourself” to more fattening items. Just limit it to a spoonful or two!
  8. Stay away from junk food. Keep away from the bags of chips, cookies, popcorn, and other temptations. This is a good time to “just say no.” If you need something to munch on, go for the carrots, almonds, apples, bananas, and other easily tote-able foods.
  9. Skip dessert more often. Save dessert for one day per week. You can curb your cravings and satisfy a sweet tooth by substituting fresh fruit for dessert after a meal.

Do you have helpful, healthful tips to share? Comment below!


If you read this article to the end, and you would like to enter the Hilbert College Wellness Center monthly drawing, stop by the Wellness Center between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or send me an email with a brief description of what you learned, at wellnesscenter@hilbert.edu.

4 Methods To Break Your Cell Phone Addiction

Put Down the Phone!
Health Consequences of Using Cell Phones
From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

The topic of cell phones and courtesy frequently comes up in conversation these days. Generally, the sentiment is that cell phone users do not follow polite protocol regarding the use of their phones. In fact, many users are becoming less aware of just how obtrusive, interrupting, and just plain rude the use of cell phones is these days.

All social etiquette aside, if you know anyone like this (or if this is you), it might help to break the habit by learning the health consequences of too much cell phone use.

According to several reliable sources, these are just a few of the possible health consequences cell phone abuse can cause:

1.     Injury or death in a car accident (25 percent of car accidents in the U.S. are caused by cell phone distraction)

2.     Addiction involving dopamine and serotonin, with physical withdrawal symptoms

3.     Anxiety and depression

4.     Brain alteration

5.     Eye diseases (including retinal damage leading to macular degeneration)

6.     Nerve damage to eyes (occipital neuralgia)

7.     Finger, neck, back and other musculoskeletal problems

8.     Carpal tunnel syndrome

9.     Physical inactivity, leading to obesity-related diseases

10.     Slow reaction time, caused by distraction

11.     Increased likelihood of falls/accidents, also caused by distraction

12.     Stress

13.     Disturbed sleep

14.     Bacterial infection/reinfection from the unsanitized surface of the phone

15.     Decreased attention span

16.     Social isolation

17.     Hearing damage (if listening to headphones above 85 decibels)

18.     Possibility of carcinogenic radiation

YIKES!

So What are some solutions? The logical solution is to decrease the amount of time spent on your phone, and this can be accomplished by putting restrictions and boundaries around your own phone use. One way to do that is to change your mindset.

Here are four methods to break your cell phone addiction:

  1. Think privacy. Whenever possible, do not text or talk on the phone if someone else is there to see or hear you. Most phone conversations can wait until you are safely out of sight of other humans.
  2. Think courtesy. Is there someone physically in front of you waiting for your attention, and you are using your phone? This is not considered polite. Always give physical people priority. While we’re on the topic of courtesy, make it a habit to turn off your phone in worship services, at work, in theaters, and while eating with family, friends and/or colleagues.
  3. Think safety. Are you walking, driving, or operating machinery? Put your phone away until you can safely pick it up again! A great suggestion is to keep your phone in the back seat of your car, out of arm’s reach, so you will not be tempted to use it while driving.
  4. Think necessity. Do you really need your phone at all times? Couldn’t you leave it in your room or the back seat of your car? Do you need to keep social media or games on it? Or, could you delete those apps in favor of instead using your computer later, after homework is done? (Just kidding! Homework is never done.) If you do not live in a residence hall, is it necessary to keep the phone next to your bed while you sleep? Probably not. That is why alarm clocks were invented!

So, the next time you are in a group of people, just put down the phone, encourage them to do the same, and engage with them. You just might gain a bit of old-fashioned connectedness, which we all need for our good health!


If you read this article to the end, and you would like to enter the Hilbert College Wellness Center monthly drawing, stop by the Wellness Center between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or send me an email with a brief description of what you learned, at wellnesscenter@hilbert.edu.


For more information on cell phone usage and physical health, and cell phone usage tips, visit the following sites:

Health.com

Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy

Natural Living Ideas

Reader’s Digest

11 Ways to Stay Healthy During Winter Break

Keeping it “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
How to Stay Healthy on Winter Break!
From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

It’s mid-December, and you finally made it to winter break. Congratulations! While you’ve earned the right to celebrate after cramming for finals, there’s one more fact you should learn: Students are often more susceptible to illness during the holidays because of the considerable amount of stress they endure during the end-of-semester rush. Bummer, right? No one wants to be sick during the “most wonderful time of the year”. Luckily, there are some ways that can help you avoid feeling down and out during break.

Here are 11 tips to help you fight off holiday illness:

1.     Maintain proper hygiene by washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and covering your sneezes and coughs.

2.     Drink enough water. 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.

3.     Manage your stress by not over-scheduling, sticking to a budget for gifts and entertainment, and avoiding negativity. (e.g., watching too much TV news, letting a negative relative influence you, negative self-talk)

4.     Catch up on your sleep by going to bed at the same time each night. After all, you will not have to study for any tests! Try to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

5.     Stay warm and dry, and dress in layers.

6.     Eat healthfully, and avoid too many sweets. It is possible to take only one cookie or to save room for your favorite dessert, and forego having a slice of each one. Also, when you are consuming a large meal, eat your veggies first.

7.     Exercise wisely. Even in the winter months, exercise is important to maintain a healthy body and brain, and it keeps your immune system strong. It might be safe to go for a walk each day, but then again, there could be ice or snow in your way. Use proper footwear or exercise indoors if possible.

8.     Do not smoke or vape. Smoking exacerbates respiratory illnesses, and it lowers resistance to illness and disease. Even though vaping does not contain the tar in a traditional cigarette, it is still a danger to your health. If you smoke or vape, it is pertinent to your long-term health to quit now. You will never regret that decision!

9.     Be wise when drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful. 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 drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. One drink is defined as five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or one ounce of liquor. In order to maintain fluid levels, drink eight ounces of water per hour also. (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.

10.     Take time for down time. Make certain this involves praying, listening to music you enjoy, thinking positive thoughts, a hobby you love, and/or spending time with someone you enjoy.

11.     Be a blessing to others. Remember, holiday time is not all about you. The more you give of yourself, the more blessed and healthy you will be. Go caroling, visit an old friend or a nursing home, smile at and hug your negative relatives, and go to church. Do something good for someone else. Spiritual health and physical health are not two separate entities; they complement each other!

The Wellness Center wishes you a very healthy and happy Holiday Season and New Year!


If you read this article to the end, and you would like to enter the Hilbert College Wellness Center monthly drawing, stop by the Wellness Center between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or send me an email with a brief description of what you learned, at wellnesscenter@hilbert.edu.


For more information on managing your health during the holidays, visit these Web sites:

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Activebeat.com

Realsimple.com

9 Ways to Manage Late Semester Stress

Deadlines, Darkness, & Holidays – Oh My!
How to Manage Late Semester Stress
From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

It is that time of the year again. School projects are in full swing, finals are on the horizon, and you haven’t even started your holiday shopping! 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.

Here are 9 ways to lower the negative effects of stress:

  1. 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.
  2. Make a list each day, and put the most important items at the top. Check them off as you go.
  3. Don’t procrastinate. Get your homework or important tasks done right away, so you won’t prolong the worry 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.
  4. Don’t skip meals, and keep healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables or 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.)
  5. 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. (More about dehydration here)
  6. Stay away from alcohol and drugs, and stop smoking and/or vapingThese put even more stress on your body by lowering your immune response.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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, in no particular order:


If you read this article to the end, and you would like to enter the Hilbert College Wellness Center monthly drawing, stop by the Wellness Center between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or send me an email with a brief description of what you learned, at wellnesscenter@hilbert.edu.

 

For more information on stress, check out these sources:

Mayo Clinic, Holiday Stress Management
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
WebMD
Mayo Clinic, Stress Management In-Depth
Psychology Today, Why Some Stress Is Good
Health.com, Ways Stress Can Be Good For You

14 Ways Thankfulness Can Improve Your Health

Thankfulness Significant in Good Health
From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Ask any health practitioner what the keys to good health are, and he or she will tell you exercise, proper nutrition, enough sleep, and (especially in this culture) the properly prescribed drug.

However, this season of Thanksgiving is the perfect timing to point out the connection between thankfulness (or gratitude) and good health.

Gratitude is defined as a highly positive feeling of being thankful for phenomena that are of personal value and significance.

Studies show that feeling gratitude has a positive correlation to good health.

Here are 14 of the many ways people with gratitude benefit:

  1. They take good care of themselves (exercise, healthy diet, regular physicals)
  2. They can handle stress better, thereby reducing ailments such as heart disease and cancer
  3. Their optimism boosts the immune system, protecting them from colds, flu and disease, but also making existing disease less damaging and more minor
  4. They are less affected by severe loss because they focus on what is positive, not what is negative
  5. Their gratitude can be a buffer against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  6. Counting their blessings helps take the focus off negative thought patterns
  7. They live longer and have a slowed aging process
  8. They have lower rates of depression
  9. They are more patient
  10. They have healthier relationships
  11. They have greater willpower and self-control
  12. They have higher self-esteem
  13. Their feelings of thankfulness improve their quality of sleep
  14. They know the difference between instant gratification and true gratitude

What are some ways to show gratitude?

  • Being kind and respectful
  • Acknowledging that your good fortune is a result of a connection to something larger than yourself, such as other people, your environment and/or God
  • Thanking people! In person, or with a thank-you note
  • Thanking God! People who pray cultivate gratitude more easily than those who do not
  • Smiling—smiling produces positive feelings that improve mood

How can someone increase gratitude? Some ways are:

  • Showing gratitude (see above) can actually help increase gratitude
  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Writing a list of things in your life that you take for granted
  • Using positive self-talk
  • Finding a new perspective on your situation, to reframe it in a positive manner
  • Expressing your thankfulness to someone else
  • Finding the humorous side of your situation
  • Choosing to spend time with positive people
  • Practicing kindness
  • Thinking positive thoughts on purpose, especially about people and situations in your life

Many wise people have said, “What you choose to focus on will grow.” This Thanksgiving (and every day thereafter), choose to focus on gratitude!


If you read this article to the end, and you would like to enter the Hilbert College Wellness Center monthly drawing, stop by the Wellness Center between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or send me an email with a brief description of what you learned, at wellnesscenter@hilbert.edu.

For in-depth information on how Gratitude can improve physical and mental health, visit these sites:

Web MD:
https://www.webmd.com/women/features/gratitute-health-boost#1

Mayo Clinic (Positive vs. Negative Self-Talk):
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

Mayo Clinic (Practicing Kindness):
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/how-sharing-kindness-can-make-you-healthier-happier/art-20390060

Harvard University (Information on Research and More…):
https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Time Magazine (Research on the Health Benefits of Gratitude):
http://time.com/5026174/health-benefits-of-gratitude/

Mind Body Green:
https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11819/scientific-proof-that-being-thankful-improves-your-health.html

Today (Be Thankful: Science Says Gratitude is Good for Your Health):
https://www.today.com/health/be-thankful-science-says-gratitude-good-your-health-t58256

Happier Human (31 Benefits of Gratitude):
https://www.happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

Psychology Today (7 Scientfically Proven Benefits of Gratitude):
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude

Psychiatry (Research abstract on “Gratitude and Well Being, the Benefits of Appreciation”):
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/

American Heart Association:
https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/thankfulness-how-gratitude-can-help-your-health

“Energy” Drinks or “Stimulant” Drinks?

Does anybody “need” them?

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Centerenergy-drinks-healthy.jpg

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.

Caffeine

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,
  • Dehydration,
  • 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.

Sugar Content

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….

Calories

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.

Sodium

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.

B Vitamins

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:

CNN:
https://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/health/energy-drinks-health-concerns-explainer/index.html

WebMD:
https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/whats-the-buzz-about-energy-drinks#1

National Institutes of Health:
https://nccih.nih.gov/health/energy-drinks

Mayo Clnic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/energy-drinks/faq-20058349

U.S. News and World Report:
https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/01/16/are-energy-drinks-really-that-bad

Energy Drinks Lawsuit:
https://www.energydrinkslawsuit.com/fda-regulate-energy-drinks/

American Heart Association, Sugar 101:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp#.WtDqhIjwaUk

SFGate, FDA recommended sodium intake:
http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/fda-recommended-sodium-intake-1873.html

Healthline, L-Carnitine:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/l-carnitine

Caffeineinformer.com, 20 harmful effects of caffeine:
https://www.caffeineinformer.com/harmful-effects-of-caffeine

LiveScience.com, Is caffeine bad for kids?:
https://www.livescience.com/36164-caffeine-bad-kids.html

Johns Hopkins Medicine, Are vitamin supplements beneficial?:
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/is-there-really-any-benefit-to-multivitamins

The Sunshine Vitamin:

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:
http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-vitamin-d-overview

WebMD, Breast cancer link:
http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20110429/low-vitamin-d-linked-to-aggressive-breast-cancer#1

MedlinePlus:
https://medlineplus.gov/vitamind.html

CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) vitamin D nutrition report:
https://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/pdf/Second%20Nutrition%20Report%20Vitamin%20D%20Factsheet.pdf

Mayo Clinic, vitamin D overview:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792

Getting Your Zzzs: The Importance of Sleep

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

sleepA recent email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states 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, it states if you sleep less than 7 hours per night, you are at risk of developing a chronic condition, such as “obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.” Lack of sleep can also elevate stress hormones; and cause mood swings, slower response time, confusion, lack of focus, poor decision-making and unnecessary risk-taking. This can have hazardous side-effects and consequences in our everyday lives, such as poor performance on the job, in school, in our relationships, and also in driving or operating machinery.

By all conservative estimates, the number of sleep-deprived adults can be significantly higher in college communities. As the nurse in the Hilbert College Wellness Center, most of my sick patients are sleep-deprived, acquiring less 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 important. 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. Use caffeine only in the morning. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it will disrupt your sleep.
  2. 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.
  3. Establish a “bedtime” again, and stick to it. Your parents were right to enforce this, and now you know why.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door, if you live in a community that stays up late.
  8. Wear ear plugs, if necessary.
  9. For chronic insomnia, see a doctor who can help you determine the cause of your sleeplessness.
  10. Avoid sleeping pills. These are habit-forming, and should be used only as a last resort and only occasionally.
  11. 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.
  12. 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!
  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):
http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Guide to Healthy Sleep:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf