From the Hilbert Wellness Center – Stay Healthy on Winter Break

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Keep it “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”:
How to Stay Healthy on Winter Break!

holiday-1It’s mid-December, and you’re looking forward to your semester break. Congratulations! But, because of the considerable stress most students endure at the end of the semester, they are often more susceptible to illness during the holidays. It is a bummer to be sick during the best time of the year. Here are some 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 won’t 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 okay 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. 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. Even in the winter months, exercise is important to maintain a healthy body and brain, and it keeps your immune system strong.
  8. Don’t smoke. Smoking exacerbates respiratory illnesses, and it lowers resistance to illness and disease. If you smoke, 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. In order to maintain fluid levels, drink eight ounces of water per hour also. (In addition, this will 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. 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. So 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.

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

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
http://www.cdc.gov/family/holiday/

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):
http://niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/college-drinking

Activebeat.com:
http://www.activebeat.com/diet-nutrition/10-tips-to-help-you-stay-healthy-this-winter/

Realsimple.com:
http://www.realsimple.com/magazine-more/inside-magazine/your-words/give-during-holidays

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

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

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

manage your 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 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.

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: https://hilberttoday.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-the-importance-of-sleep/.)

Make a list each day, and put the most important items at the top. Check them off as you go.

Don’t 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.

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:

Journaling

Reading for leisure

Crafting, or following a hobby

Breathing exercises

Aromatherapy

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

Massage

Bathing or swimming

 

For more information, check out these sources:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
http://www.cdc.gov/bam/life/butterflies.html#short

WebMD:
http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/default.htm

Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495?p=1

Mayo Clinic, Stress Management In-Depth:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

 

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center: How to Avoid the Freshman 15

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

How to Avoid the Freshman 15:
Eating Healthfully at the Campus Cafeteria

freshman_15Dorm food, historically, has carried with it a reputation of flourishing in fat, salt and starch, thereby placing extra pounds onto unsuspecting freshman. Hence, the term “freshman 15” was coined. Indeed, a quick look at some cafeteria menus would seem to confirm this notorious reputation. Chicken fingers, French fries, onion rings, hot dogs, grilled cheese, etc. are all rife with fat.

But wait! There’s more! Now there are ways students can eat healthfully in the campus cafeteria. According to Jessica Lively, Director of Food Services at Hilbert, there are several ways conscientious Hilbert students can increase nutritional content and lessen consequences.

The Hilbert College Cafeteria offers a daily menu of quick, traditional food. And, yes, the food selection is usually along the lines of large-crowd pleasers, such as scrambled eggs, bacon, and muffins for breakfast, hot dogs, chili, and “junk plate” for lunch, and meatloaf, pizza and barbecued chicken for dinner. But, did you know that you can eat healthful items on a regular basis, also?

The first thing that comes to mind is the salad bar. The salad bar is stocked with two kinds of lettuce (refreshed several times per day), onto which can be added a multiple assortment of vegetables, fruit, cheese, and more. During a recent visit to the dining hall, I noted these healthful choices: Mesclun and romaine lettuce, peas, broccoli, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, red and green bell peppers, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, garbanzo beans, cauliflower, hard boiled eggs, ham strips, mixed fruit, onions, banana peppers, cottage cheese, shredded cheddar, and more. Also available was pasta salad and fruit-flavored yogurt. There were 13 kinds of salad dressing, including oil and vinegar.

Now, even though the salad bar is among the best places to find proper nutrition, there are some guidelines to follow. Stay tuned.

The next thing Lively pointed out was a new system she is using, involving meal tickets. If someone chooses to go this route, he or she is given a breakfast, lunch or dinner ticket with items to be circled. Examples of choices on these tickets are omelets for breakfast, turkey avocado sandwiches for lunch, and a grilled chicken dinner. These tickets are sent to the short-order cook and are usually ready in five to 10 minutes, according to Lively. Also on these tickets, students can make requests, such as substitutions, side dishes, and omissions. In addition, they can choose whole grain bread, spinach wrap, what to have in their omelet, and more.

For students with dietary restrictions and allergies, Lively says to contact her for an individual dietary assessment and plan. “Usually I ask the student to come and sit down with me, and I go through what their needs are and what we can do for them.”

With so many choices at the cafeteria, what is a student to do? Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Drink a glass of water before you eat. Chances are, like most busy people, you are a bit dehydrated. Drinking water will hydrate and energize you, and it will make you less likely to overdo it calorie-wise. Then choose skim or 1% milk, unsweetened iced tea, or water instead of pop. High-caloric beverages are the stumbling block for many diets, because people don’t think of them as having calories. The truth is that the beverage actually can contain a large percentage of the meal’s calories.
  2. Get to the cafeteria before the big rush so that you can order meals in a timely manner with the meal tickets. Lively says noon and 6:00 p.m. are the heaviest times. If you can get there a half hour early, you will have your special order in less time.
  3. When using the meal tickets, the most healthful items include:
    1. For Breakfast: The Veggie Lovers’ Omelet light on the cheese (and you can write that in on your ticket), whole wheat toast, the Healthy Hilbert and Veggie Hawk egg sandwiches, the Skinny Wrap with a spinach tortilla (which you can write on the ticket, as well), orange juice and skim milk. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Don’t skip it. You will consequently eat more at lunch and dinner to compensate.
    2. For Lunch: The Turkey Club sandwich, the Grilled Chicken sandwich, the Turkey Avocado sandwich, the Grilled Chicken wrap, and the Roast Veggie Wrap. It is important to note that you want them light on the mayo.
    3. For Dinner: The Grilled Chicken Wrap, the Roasted Veggie Wrap, and especially the Grilled Chicken Dinner.
  4. Choose to eat from the salad bar a few times per week, perhaps for lunch every day. The lettuce is changed regularly, so it is always fresh. One of the best guidelines for the salad bar is don’t stack your plate too high. Forego the macaroni salad in favor of veggies and protein items. Protein items include meat and hard-boiled eggs. Cheese also has protein, but you should use it sparingly, since it is usually fattening. It is true that the biggest mistake dieters make at the salad bar is loading up on dressing. Be conscientious about how much dressing you use. Oil and vinegar, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Fat Free Raspberry Vinaigrette, and Salsa are the best choices at Hilbert Cafeteria. Use only two tablespoons, if possible.
  5. Eat the vegetables on your plate before you eat the main course. If you run out of room in your stomach because your “eyes were bigger than your stomach,” then you will be ahead of Joe Student, who ate his chicken fingers, but didn’t have room for his carrots. (And, remember, potato chips and French fries are not considered vegetables!)
  6. If you accidentally took too much food, don’t be afraid to eat only half. Nobody at college is looking over your shoulder to make sure you cleaned your plate.
  7. Give yourself enough time to eat. The common recommendation is to allow 20 minutes or more for your stomach to send the signal to your brain that it is full. This means you need to budget your time well, so that you can actually sit down and eat, instead of running to class, high-caloric muffin or fried-chicken-fingers-to-go in hand.
  8. Change your mindset. The campus cafeteria is not an all-you-can-eat restaurant that you visit once or twice per year. Choose to eat less. Worry about your waistline instead of getting the most from your already-spent room and board payment.
  9. Use moderation. Finally, we all know that many of us live for fattening foods. If that is you, you don’t have to give them up entirely. Just eat them in moderation. For many people, that may mean saving dessert for one day a week. For others it means eating only half of what you used to eat.

 

For more information on choosing healthfully at the campus cafeteria, visit these Web sites:

MedLine Plus, Food Guide Plate:
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002093.htm

WebMD, Freshman 15:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/diet-myth-or-truth-the-freshman-15#1

Nutrition.gov, Nutrition 101:
https://www.nutrition.gov/smart-nutrition-101

Huffington Post, Salad Dressings:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-daily-meal/the-healthiest-and-unheal_b_3517759.html

From the Hilbert Wellness Center: How to Avoid the Holiday Bulge

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

holiday-bulgeHow to Avoid the Holiday Bulge:
Making Wise Choices During the Holiday Season

With the Holiday season upon us, many college students are already regretting the “Freshman 15” (as well as the sophomore, junior and senior 15) they already added to their weight this year. But now, here come the Holidays, with their usual amount of irresistible snacks and food, and fewer chances to get outside and burn off the calories. It would be easy to just give up and buy a larger clothing size!

But wait! Before you devour that second piece of pumpkin pie and suck down the eggnog, here are some great tips that may help you to avoid the bulge this year, and not have to make losing weight part of your New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Eat your vegetables first. Your plate should be half-full of vegetables, more than a quarter grains and rice, and less than a quarter protein. If you eat the healthiest part of your meal first—your vegetables and fruit—you will have less room for fatty and calorie-laden foods.
  2. Keep your protein lean. If you are eating turkey, remove the skin. Don’t dump on lot of extra gravy. With fatty meats, cut back on your proportions, skip the breaded selections, and trim off the fat.
  3. Skip the fat. (See above.) If your table is like mine, everything on the table is bound to be loaded with fat. Be aware of choices between buttered broccoli and green bean casserole. While we all love green bean casserole, with its mushroom soup and crunchy deep-fried onions, the broccoli is a much better choice, even with some butter on it. Also, instead of au gratin potatoes, settle for mashed or baked.
  4. Skip the salt. Most likely, the cook already added plenty of salt to your meal. Before you pick up that salt shaker, sample your selection first. Your cook will thank you, and so will your blood pressure!
  5. Skip the sugar. Sugar has long been linked with diabetes, as well as obesity, high blood pressure, cancer and inflammatory diseases. But now there is new evidence pointing out that it is actually worse for your arteries than cholesterol. There is an amazing difference between sweet potatoes with marshmallows and sweet potatoes baked and served whole. Choose the latter. Instead of two slices of pie, have only one, or ask for a “sliver” of pie. Take it easy with the whipped cream!
  6. Go for a walk. After dinner, instead of napping, as many are prone to do (no pun intended), go outside for a walk. It may be a challenge if the weather isn’t cooperating. If so, try and remain active inside. Help clean up, run up and down stairs, play some active games, and don’t be a couch potato. On non-feast days, exercise for a half hour every day or every other day. This will help burn calories, as well as increase your sense of well-being.
  7. Resist the temptation to snack. As difficult as that sounds, with plenty of temptation around, give yourself permission to have one small snack per day. Stick with it.
  8. Eat only half of what you would normally eat. On the days between feasts, this is a great idea! If you are eating at a restaurant, it is OK to eat only half. Restaurant portions are not usually healthful, anyway. (If you are afraid to waste food, ask for a doggy bag.)
  9. Use a smaller plate. It tricks you into thinking your portion is larger than it is. (And don’t go back for seconds!)
  10. Liquid calories count! Be aware that a large percentage of the meal’s calories can be hidden in the beverage, so always opt for healthful choices, such as skim milk, unsweetened tea, or just plain water.
  11. With alcoholic drinks, choose wisely. If you must imbibe in alcohol, be smart. Most college students are not of legal drinking age. That aside, also know that the only healthful alcoholic drink is five ounces per day of red wine for women, and 10 ounces for men. Beyond that, you are taking your chances. If you choose to venture into this territory, be aware that a serving of beer is 12 ounces, and a serving of liquor is one ounce. Your liver cannot process more than one serving per hour. If you damage your liver, contrary to hearsay, it does not always grow back to normal. (Think fatty liver and cirrhosis.) With all this knowledge, however, the liquor stores are still in business. As far as calorie content, generally you should choose wine over regular beer, and Champagne over eggnog. Drinking alcohol can also lower your inhibitions and cause you to succumb to tempting snacks, so drink in moderation.
  12. Skip the caffeine, if possible, or limit it to the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day. Caffeine can be found in chocolate, tea, soft drinks, and other foods. Consuming too much can cause headaches, heart palpitations, shakiness, disturbed sleep patterns, and dehydration.
  13. Take the proper amount of time to eat, since the stomach will not usually register it is full until 20 minutes afterward. Slowing down to savor your favorite Holiday food will also decrease heartburn and gastrointestinal issues.
  14. Keep hydrated. One of the current recommendations for how much water to drink involves doing a little math: Take your weight in pounds, and drink from half that amount to that whole amount in ounces every day. For example, someone who weighs 150 lbs. should drink 75 to 150 ounces per day. This seems like a lot, but all the liquid from your diet adds up. Sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are really just dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water before you eat will cut down on how much you eat.
  15. Be wise. Remember that these are the Holidays. If you follow some healthful guidelines, you will be able to enjoy yourself. As the late Oscar Wilde is often quoted, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

For more information, try these sources:

National Institutes of Health (NIH), Healthy Holiday Foods:
https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/nov2016/Feature1

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Choose My Plate:
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

WebMD Low-Calorie Cocktails:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/low-calorie-cocktails#1

MedLine Plus on Caffeine:
https://medlineplus.gov/caffeine.html

 

Lifestyle Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

How to Handle the Dark Days of Late Autumn and Winter:
Lifestyle Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

winter-bluesAccording to some recent news reports, even though we gained an hour of sleep, the time change has had an overall negative effect on many people’s moods. In fact, as the daylight grows shorter, you may be feeling as if the walls are closing in on you. This is not uncommon. Terms frequently used for this feeling are “Cabin Fever” and “winter blues,” though health professionals have actually recognized it as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Typical symptoms of SAD include feeling depressed, hopeless, worthless, helpless, irritable, restless, disinterested in activities you formerly enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, disturbed sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide.

If you suffer from these symptoms even just a little, it is reassuring to know that there is hope, and there are lifestyle changes you can make to get through it. Some helpful ideas to try are:

  • Exercise. Exercise increases the chemicals in your brain called “endorphins.” These endorphins are thought to decrease your perception of pain and increase your happiness, giving you a natural high. So, take a walk to the gym, or do calisthenics in your dorm room. Park on the far side of the lot, and walk the extra distance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, when it finally snows, take up a winter sport, like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or sledding. If the snowfall isn’t as deep as you’d like, you can still go for a brisk walk. (I don’t recommend jogging due to the stress it puts on joints.) Or you can extend the warm weather sports you enjoy, only with a couple extra layers of clothes!
  • Fresh air. Yes, you may have to bundle up. But a dose of fresh air can lift your spirits. You may also want to open your dorm room windows for a few minutes to let the fresh air in!
  • Sunshine. Besides improving our moods, sunshine actually has a reaction with your skin that produces vitamin D. Studies show that vitamin D could lessen the symptoms of depression.
  • Vitamin D. If you can’t find any sunny rooms in which to hang out, or if it’s cloudy out, you can supplement with vitamin D. But, since vitamin D is absorbed by fat and is stored in your body, you may want to consult your doctor before taking large doses. The best bet is to add food rich in vitamin D to your diet. Some foods that have vitamin D are salmon, swordfish, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolk, beef liver, and fortified cereal and milk.
  • Proper nutrition. We can’t give our bodies the wrong fuel and expect it to operate correctly! Skip the pop and the junk food, and opt for some fresh veggies and a lean piece of meat. Add vitamin D fortified milk (see above) and some whole grains, and you will feel human again.
  • Hydration. Even though you are not sweating a lot, as you do during the hot summer weather, drinking enough H2O is actually energizing, plus it helps combat the dry winter air.
  • Sleep. Make sure you are getting the right amount of this. Seven to nine hours of sleep at the same time every night does wonders for the mood.
  • Socialization. Yes, you need this. Go to church. Hang out with your friends. Go on a date. Take an elective class. Just don’t spend too much time alone. Be selective, and choose positive people.
  • Avoiding alcohol. Alcohol is a known depressant. Overdrinking on a regular basis can cause brain damage and change your brain chemistry. Currently, the only alcohol considered healthful is five ounces of red wine per day for women, and 10 ounces per day for men.
  • Light therapy. Because of the shortened daylight hours in the winter, some people do well with light therapy. If you think you would like to try it, ask your doctor to recommend a treatment.
  • Talk therapy. Go talk to someone who is trained to help walk you through. Sometimes having an expert there to hold your hand is just what you need. (At Hilbert College, that expert is Psychologist Phyllis Dewey, who is located in St. Joseph Hall. Phyllis is eager to help all students with this and any other issues that crop up.)
  • Antidepressants. These should be used only as a last resort after you have made lifestyle changes, especially in the areas of exercise and nutrition. There is no “happy” pill. In fact, these drugs take several weeks to kick in. Antidepressant medication has side-effects that are, well, depressing! Their dosage also needs regular fine-tuning.
  • Get some perspective. In many other countries where daylight is short, the frequency of SAD is lesser than in the United States. In Norway, for instance, the people have a different mindset. Instead of rejecting the darkness and cold, they embrace it! Winter is a time to get outside and enjoy themselves, or to snuggle closer to the fire with someone they love. Another way to get perspective is by leaving campus every now and then. Also, try reading a book just for fun. You deserve it!
  • Take up a craft. Some new studies have shown that spending time crafting improves mental health. Some of the crafts on the list are knitting, drawing and painting, cooking, photography, music, cake decorating, and even doing crossword puzzles. It is thought that doing such activities increases the brain’s level of the natural anti-depressant dopamine.

The idea to take away is there is always hope. This year the winter solstice (the day with the shortest daylight) occurs on Wednesday, December 21, at 5:44 a.m. After that, the daylight will lengthen again!

For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, click on these links:

MedMD
http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/seasonal-affective-disorder#1

MedLine Plus
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/seasonalaffectivedisorder.html

MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/seasonal_affective_disorder_sad/article.htm

Focus on the Family
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional-health/depression/depression

Mother Nature News
http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/blogs/why-crafting-is-good-for-mental-health

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

 

 

Avoiding Cold and Flu Viruses

fluseasonFrom the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

It is that time of the year again, time for cold and flu symptoms to abound. Colds and influenza are both caused by viruses, but cold symptoms include a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, congestion and coughing; and the flu adds on fever, muscle aches, chills and headaches (and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea).

Nobody has time to be sick—especially college students—so let’s review the basics of avoiding germs that cause illness.

The good news is you may possibly avoid catching both of them if you follow these tips:

  • Wash your hands regularly. This has been proven to be the number one defense against germs!
    https://hilberttoday.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/remember-to-wash-your-hands/
  • Don’t share water bottles, cups, or utensils. This is common sense, but not always observed.
  • Get a flu shot. A flu shot will help protect against three or four of the most prevalent influenza strains, depending upon which vaccination is available. (The next opportunity to receive a flu shot on campus will be at the Hilbert Wellness Fair on Wednesday, November 2, in the West Herr Atrium from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
    https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/hilbert-wellness-center-flu-shots-are-on-the-way/
  • Disinfect your bathroom—handles, knobs, sink, countertop. Also disinfect all door knobs and surfaces where germs are more likely to proliferate.
  • Stay home to avoid infecting classmates. Professors are usually sympathetic toward students who call or email them beforehand when they will miss because of illness. (If you need an excuse note, come and see the Hilbert Wellness Center nurse, on duty Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the back of St. Joseph Hall.)
  • Take good care of you (follow healthful lifestyle habits)—nutrition and hydration, exercise, rest, etc. When you don’t maintain healthful habits, your immune system will weaken, giving germs the advantage.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Studies show that optimistic people become ill less often than their pessimistic counterparts. You can do this by staying involved in life, giving to others, caring for a pet (if you are able), listening to music, taking up a hobby, meditating and praying, etc.
  • Avoid ill friends. Give them chicken soup, and then make your exit!
  • Don’t touch your face—especially your nose, mouth and eyes. Germs make their entrance into your body through these orifices, since they have the perfect medium for growth.
  • Reduce your stress. Do this by exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep.
  • Don’t smoke or vape. Smoking puts your lungs at a higher risk for infection with a respiratory virus. It also lowers your resistance to disease. Quitting now is a decision you will never regret!
  • Brush your teeth and tongue two or three times per day. Your mouth can be like a petri dish for germs. By keeping it clean, you may stop a respiratory virus in its tracks.
  • Take your vitamin C. Vitamin C is well-known for boosting the body’s defense mechanisms. It can be found in supplements, but the best way to obtain it is through your daily diet. Fresh fruit, as well as some vegetables, including bell peppers, leafy green vegetables, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and squash are all abundant in vitamin C.
  • Eat red apples. They contain an antioxidant called quercetin, which strengthens your immune system. New research has discovered that blueberries, green tea, broccoli, and cranberries also contain quercetin.
  • Don’t assume you are sick if you have only one symptom. If you have a sore throat, don’t give into the temptation of thinking you are getting sick. Sometimes you will come down with something. But if you are vigilant about taking care of yourself, a sore throat may be the only symptom you will experience.

For more information on avoiding colds and the flu, visit these Web Sites:

WebMD:            

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/default.htm

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ss/slideshow-foods-cold

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/flu/ataglance.htm

MedlinePlus:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/commoncold.html

 

Hilbert Wellness Center: Flu Shots are on the Way!

Roll up your Sleeve:
Flu Shots are on the Way!
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

Ifflushots you have not received your flu shot yet, here’s good news! There are two dates approaching on which you may be able to attain your flu vaccine on campus in the West Herr Atrium. Mark your calendar for:

Wednesday, October 12 from 10:00 a.m. to noon, or

Wednesday, November 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Here is what you need to know about the flu vaccine:

What is the flu? Influenza (flu) is a contagious infection that spreads most easily each year from October to May (flu season). The flu is caused by a virus and is spread by coughing, sneezing and personal contact. Everyone is susceptible to the flu virus, but symptoms can vary by age and immunity status. Typical symptoms are fever with chills, sore throat, achy muscles, unexplained fatigue, coughing, headache and a runny or stuffy nose.

The flu causes thousands of deaths in the United States every year. Many more are hospitalized. Most of these people are immunity challenged, such as infants and young people, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and others with compromised immune systems.

How can I prevent contracting the flu? Even if you are not immunity challenged, one of the best ways to stop the virus from spreading is by attaining a flu vaccine. A flu vaccine can also keep you from contracting the flu, or it may help make your symptoms less severe. Because there is no “live virus” in the vaccine, a flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. (As always, remember hand-washing is the ultimate way for you to prevent the spread of viruses.)

Can I still get the flu if I get a flu vaccine? Yes. A flu vaccine contains only those strains of the virus thought to be most prevalent for the year in question. This year the flu vaccine offered on campus will be “trivalent,” meaning it will protect against three common flu strains. It is possible to contract a rarer strain of the virus. Also, because the vaccine takes approximately two weeks to become effective, you may still become sick within that two-week window of time. However, once immunity has been established, you will be protected for the entire flu season.

There are illnesses that look like flu, but are actually other illnesses. This may explain why some people have claimed that the flu vaccine caused them to contract the flu. This is really not the case.

Should some people forgo the flu vaccine? Yes. People with egg allergies, people who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or someone not feeling well should not get the vaccine.

For otherwise healthy people, side effects of the flu vaccine can be rare or mild. But, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), they may include skin soreness around the area of the vaccination; hoarseness; itchy, sore, red eyes; cough; muscle aches; fever; itching; fatigue; and headaches. These mild effects usually last one or two days, but they are a much better alternative than contracting full-blown influenza. Most health professionals agree that the flu vaccine is a worthy effort in keeping healthy through the winter months. So go ahead and roll up your sleeve!

For more information, visit these Web sites:

Medline Plus
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/flu.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/upcoming.htm

Rite Aid Flu Shot Information
https://shop.riteaid.com/info/pharmacy/services/vaccine-central/immunization-information/flu?gclid=CPmw–7xocgCFZeaNwod2VIPmQ&gclsrc=ds

 

 

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – Vaping is Risky Behavior

By Kirsten Falcone, RN

novapingThe use of electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes (or e-cigs), commonly known as “vaping,” has become more prevalent, since e-cigarettes first appeared more than ten years ago. Primarily marketed to young people aged 18 to 24, the demand has increased so much so that vaping shops seem to be springing up in practically every shopping plaza. E-cigarettes are also available online.

E-cigarettes operate by the use of an internal battery that heats a flavored fluid (“e-juice”) into a vapor, which can then be inhaled. The resulting vapor has little or no effect on the environment, an added benefit, and one reason why they are so much in demand.

Among middle and high schoolers, who may not legally purchase e-cigarettes, the demand is the greatest. In fact, according to WebMD, three million of these students used e-cigarettes in 2015.

According to medical health Web sites, vaping is popular due to a belief that it is healthier than smoking cigarettes. Some consumers believe that e-cigarettes can also help in the reduction of cigarette smoking. Advertisers claim that without the tar, contained in traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative, and they draw in their customers by offering their product in many colors and flavors, including candy, ice cream, fruit, and more. E-cigarette devices also come in many colors and styles, adding to the attraction for young consumers. It is certain, there is a reduction in second-hand smoke. However, the effects to the e-cigarette user are not as clear.

The obvious answer to that question is that, e-cigarettes still contain a third to a half of the nicotine in a traditional cigarette. Nicotine is an addictive drug with well-known health risks. In addition to nicotine, research has revealed that vaping also exposes the user to diacetyl, a chemical that causes respiratory diseases, especially bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn lung). Due to lung irritation, asthma will get worse with e-cigarette use. Other effects are throat and mouth irritation, vomiting, nausea and coughing.

Because e-cigarettes are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), content labeling is not required. Therefore, it is not known exactly how much nicotine or other chemicals may be present in each e-cigarette. Some are reported to contain heavy metals, formaldehyde, and other toxic substances.

In a recent study, smoking nicotine was shown to permanently damage DNA. This may also be a risk factor for vaping. More research is needed.
(See http://circgenetics.ahajournals.org/content/early/2016/09/14/CIRCGENETICS.116.001506).

Here is what we do know. Nicotine, the main ingredient in most e-cigarettes, absorbs quickly into the bloodstream, and reaches the brain within ten seconds. Once there, the brain signals the body to release adrenaline and dopamine, which are pleasurable to the user. Adrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormone, increases heart rate, blood pressure (putting users at risk for stroke) and blood glucose (causing hyperglycemia and leading to possible insulin resistance or diabetes), and it lowers blood circulation to the cardiac muscle.  As the high fades, the user feels tired and depressed, thus leading to the need for another dose. With each dose the body creates a tolerance, thus requiring higher levels of nicotine in order to feel the same as with the first puff. It is much like an addiction to other recreational drugs, such as cocaine, alcohol, and heroin. In fact, if the user tries to quit, he or she will likely experience withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety, irritability, and continuous cravings for nicotine products.

What’s more? Teens and young adults who are drawn to e-cigarettes are more likely to become regular smokers. This is ironic, since many people begin vaping in order to quit smoking. Smoking is one of the worse things you can do to your health. The best thing to do is to avoid nicotine addiction in any form, especially in your formative and reproductive years.

If you or anyone you know vapes, and would like to stop, the steps are very much like those taken by a smoker who wishes to quit. (Please visit http://betobaccofree.hhs.gov/quit-now/index.html).

 

For more information, visit these Web sites:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/success_stories/ecigarette_study.htm

WebMD:
http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/features/vape-debate-electronic-cigarettes
http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/features/teen-vaping

MedLinePlus:

https://medlineplus.gov/ecigarettes.html

BeTobaccoFree.gov:

http://betobaccofree.hhs.gov/health-effects/nicotine-health/index.html

VeryWell.com:

https://www.verywell.com/nicotine-addiction-101-2825018

 

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – Wash Your Hands

By Kirsten Falcone, RN

Cold and flu season has begun.
Remember to wash your hands!

handwashing-banner1A few cases of the common cold have already been treated in the Wellness Center this fall semester. To avoid becoming sick, please review the following procedure for washing your hands.

Did you know washing your hands is the best proven way to reduce the spread of illness? Wash your hands before and after touching food, after using the bathroom, after contact with another person (such as shaking hands), and after they are soiled. You can also wash your hands as soon as you walk in the door of your dorm room or home, to keep your roommate or family from catching anything you drag in with you. Hands can become “soiled” even if they do not appear that way. Some ways this can happen are by touching your face, touching common surfaces that may contain microorganisms, or from poor hygiene.

Not everyone knows the proper technique for washing hands. Here it is:

  1. Using tepid or warm (not hot) water, wet your hands and then lather up with soap. Antimicrobial soap is not necessary; any hand soap will do.
  2. Let the water run, while you lather and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing the Happy Birthday song twice).
  3. Make certain to wash under your nails, between your fingers, the backs of your hands, and even your wrists. Rinse these areas well.
  4. Keep the water running, while you dry your hands on a paper towel. (Or have a separate cloth towel for each roommate or family member.)
  5. Finally, turn the water faucet off with a dry paper towel or clean cloth towel.

If you are not able to wash your hands, using a gel hand sanitizer is an acceptable alternative. Use enough to wet the entire area, and rub it in until the gel is dry. (Two exceptions are when hands are visibly soiled, and when you have already used hand sanitizer several times.)

For more information, please visit these Web sites:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html

WebMD:
http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/tc/hand-washing-topic-overview