Use your head. Prevent brain injuries.

Most of us plow through life head first, living and playing with gusto and trying to have a good time, get our jobs done, compete and enjoy our lives without hurting ourselves or others. But try as we might to avoid them, brain injuries, unfortunately, are quite common. Caused by a bump or blow to the head, these injuries sometimes are called “concussions” or “traumatic brain injuries” (TBIs) and can range from mild to severe.

Most mild brain injuries cause no harm. But sometimes even mild brain injuries can cause serious, long-lasting problems. The best way to protect yourself and your family from brain injuries is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Brain Injury Association of America to reduce the chances that you or your family members will sustain a brain injury.

  • Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. 
  • Always buckle your child into a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt (according to the child’s height, weight, and age) in the car.
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Wear a helmet and make sure your children wear helmets when:�
    • Riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle
    • Playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing
    • Using in-line skates, scooters or riding a skateboard
    • Batting and running bases in baseball or softball
    • Riding a horse
    • Skiing, snowboarding, canoeing and kayaking
  • When possible, make sure the surface on your child’s playground is made of shock-absorbing material, such as hardwood, mulch, and sand.

It’s also important (for your own safety and to meet State and Federal compliance requirements) to always wear an approved hard hat on indoor and outdoor worksites where you could be at risk from falling objects.

Home safety for you and your family

Many head injuries occur in the home. Avoid falls in the home by:

  • Using a step stool with a grab bar to reach objects on high shelves
  • Installing handrails on stairways
  • Installing window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows
  • Using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are around
  • Removing tripping hazards such as small area rugs and loose electrical cords
  • Using non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
  • Putting grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower
  • Maintaining a regular exercise program to improve strength, balance, and coordination
  • Seeing an eye doctor regularly for a vision check to help lower the risk of falling

 Signs and symptoms of brain injury

Here is a list of common symptoms of a brain injury (concussion). If you or a family member has a head injury and you notice any of the symptoms on the list, call your doctor right away. Describe the injury and symptoms, and ask if you should make an appointment to see your own doctor or another specialist.

In Adults:

  • Headaches or neck pain that won’t go away
  • Trouble with mental tasks such as remembering, concentrating, or decision-making
  • Slow thinking, speaking, acting, or reading
  • Getting lost or easily confused
  • Feeling tired all the time, having no energy or motivation
  • Mood changes (feeling sad or angry for no reason)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping a lot more or having a hard time sleeping)
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy, or losing balance
  • An urge to vomit (nausea)
  • Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions
  • Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Ringing in the ears

In Children:

  • Feeling tired or listless
  • Being irritable or cranky (will not stop crying or cannot be consoled)
  • Changes in eating (will not eat or nurse)
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in the way the child plays
  • Changes in performance at school
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys or activities
  • Loss of new skills, such as toilet training
  • Loss of balance, unsteady walking
  • Vomiting

The common mom’s advice, “be smart, be safe,” applies to head injury prevention. Think ahead —  pun intended — and always err to the side of caution and safety.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Make no bones about it. Calcium and vitamin D build strong bodies.

Bone health is one of those health items we typically take for granted until they become a problem. Trouble is, most of those problems will occur later in life, so if you pay attention when you’re younger, the long-term results will benefit you down the road.

It’s important to take steps now so that your bones will be healthy and strong throughout your lifetime. That’s especially critical in the childhood and teen years to avoid osteoporosis and other bone problems later in life. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become softer and fragile, making them fracture or break much easier.

You can build strong bones by getting enough calcium and weight-bearing physical activity during the tween and teen years, when bones are growing their fastest. Young people in this age group have calcium needs that they can’t make up for later in life. In the years of peak skeletal growth, teenagers build more than 25 percent of adult bone. By the time teens finish their growth spurts around age 17, 90 percent of their adult bone mass is established.

Calcium helps build healthy bones

Your body continually removes and replaces small amounts of calcium from your bones. If your body removes more calcium than it replaces, your bones will become weaker and have a greater chance of breaking. By getting lots of calcium when you’re young, you can make sure your body doesn’t have to take too much from your bones.

Bones have their own “calcium bank account,” so depositing as much calcium as possible will help you reach your peak bone mass. After age 18 the account closes so you can’t add any more calcium to your bones. You can only maintain what is already stored to help your bones stay healthy.

Calcium is found in a variety of foods. Low-fat and fat-free milk and other dairy products are great sources of calcium. Tweens and teens can get most of their daily calcium from three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk, but they also need additional servings of calcium to get the 1,300 mg necessary for strong bones. In addition:

  • Low-fat and fat-free milk has lots of calcium with little or no fat
  • The calcium in low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy products is easy for the body to absorb and in a form that gives the body easy access to the calcium
  • Low-fat and fat-free milk has added vitamin D, which is important for helping your body better absorb calcium
  • In addition to calcium, milk and dairy products provide other essential nutrients that are important for optimal bone health and development.

Other good sources of calcium include dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and bok choy. There also are foods with calcium added, such as calcium-fortified tofu, orange juice, soy beverages, and breakfast cereals or breads. Adults or youth who can’t process lactose also can take calcium supplements but you should check with your physician to ensure compatibility with other medicines or conditions.

Exercise builds strong bones, too

Bones are living tissue. Weight-bearing physical activity causes new bone tissue to form, which makes bones stronger. This kind of physical activity also makes muscles stronger. When muscles push and tug against bones during physical activity, bones and muscles become stronger.

So there’s much you can do at any age to ensure strong, healthy bones, but it begins with awareness, and is fortified through diet and physical exercise.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

This Medicine Won’t Cost You a Penny. No Kidding!

As the holidays approached, I made my annual trip to New York City to see the sights and catch a show. With tickets to the symphony burning a hole in my pocket and show time rapidly approaching, I approached a policeman on the sidewalk and asked him, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice,” he retorted.

You likely saw that one coming — it’s an old joke — but it probably still made you smile or lightened the moment. Humor is healthy, and laughter infectious. When shared, it binds people together, relaxes us and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen our immune system, boost our energy, diminish pain, and protect us from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, humor is fun and readily available, and laughter is free and a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict.

Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring our minds and bodies back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens our burdens, inspires hope, connects us to others, and keeps us grounded, focused, and alert. Humor shifts perspective, allowing us to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help us avoid feeling overwhelmed at work, at home or wherever life takes us.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource. Laughter:

  • Relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, improving our resistance to disease.
  • Triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.

Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

  • Protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Makes us feel good. And the good feeling that we get when we laugh remains with us even after the laughter subsides.

All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play adds joy, vitality, and resilience. And humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times by allowing us to be more spontaneous and less defensive, judgmental and critical. It’s important to not take ourselves too seriously, and to remember that many things in life are beyond our control, particularly the behavior of other people.

Ultimately, humor helps us keep a positive, optimistic outlook throughout difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. More than just a respite from sadness, frustration, anger and pain, laughter helps us cope, and gives us the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. So laugh at yourself, laugh with others, and see the humor all around us. The ability to laugh, play, and have fun not only makes life more enjoyable, it also helps keep us healthy.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Keeping an Eye on Your Eyes

When is the last time you had your eyes checked by a medical professional? Are you doing a good job taking care of them and protecting them from injury?

Eye wellness, like our eyesight itself, is one of those items we often take for granted until faced with a problem. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, but glaucoma is only one of many potential causes of impaired vision, eye pain, injury, or blindness. Millions of Americans wear corrective eyewear or contact lenses, but the best courses of action for eye wellness are to head off problems before they occur, use common sense, and know when to seek direction from medical professionals.

Basic care, basic caring

There are some basic rules to follow, especially if the work you do strains your eyes or places you at risk for eye injuries. The first rule, naturally, is to wear approved eye protection. That can be safety glasses on a jobsite or while competing in sports, but also when you’re mowing your lawn or using power equipment. There are so many ways to hit yourself in the eye, or to be injured by thrown objects, splashed liquids, and even wind-blown contaminants or materials. Hospital emergency rooms treat patients with eyes damaged by all manner of chemicals, fish hooks, baseballs, wood chips and much more. So if you’re doing something that might result in an injury, take the safe and easy step to cover your eyes.

Being aware of the potential damage from ultraviolet light also is important. Sunglasses and clear eyeglasses with protective coatings filter out the sun’s damaging rays, so if you work or spend a lot of time outdoors, you need that extra protection.

Eyes are a window to your general health

Adults should visit with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist at least once every other year, and annually if you have bad eyesight or a family history of glaucoma, cataracts, or other congenital or age-related eye ailments. Many eye maladies develop as we get older, part of the natural aging process. Through a comprehensive eye exam that typically involves dilating your pupils and conducting a number of standard (and painless) tests, eye care professionals not only determine sight deficiencies and illnesses, but also find warning signs pointing to other dangers such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Dry eye syndrome and glaucoma are two common ailments that affect people as they age. If the glands in your eyes stop making enough natural lubricants, you can buy over-the-counter remedies, but you should have your eyes checked for inflammation or infection. Sometimes dry eyes occur from living or working in windy, dry, or low-humidity environments, or in buildings with air-blown hot air. Doctors recommend “fake tears,” which don’t have as many chemicals as the “get the red out” eye drops Anti-inflammation medications and vitamins or foods like fish oil which are high in Omega-3 are often recommended.

Glaucoma is a group of illnesses that can lead to blindness if not treated. When fluid builds up inside the eye, pressure and tension can result in damage to the optic nerve, including blindness. Glaucoma has no early warning signs. However, symptoms can include blurriness or clouded vision, sensitivity to light, headaches, reduced peripheral or “side” vision, or “tunnel vision.” It’s more common in adults over 60, in African American adults over 40, or in adults with diabetes or a family history of glaucoma. It’s most often treated through medications and surgery.

Through comprehensive, regular eye exams, your doctor can check for early warning signs of glaucoma, potential retinal detachment (which causes floaters or flashes in the eye but can be sight threatening) and other common eye diseases, and help keep those beautiful peepers of yours sparkling and healthy.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Keeping Your Cool in the Cold

Most of us know enough to bundle up, wear gloves and hats and don insulated shoes when it’s cold outside. But if you work outdoors in the winter, are shoveling or playing in the snow after a storm, or enjoy outdoor recreational activities and walks, take precautions to avoid a common winter nemesis, hypothermia.

When you are exposed to chilly temperatures, cold winds, or wetness, your core body temperature falls below normal. This can happen easily and quickly. Your body automatically begins to shiver to warm itself. As your energy is used up to keep warm, you may reach a point where your body will be unable to re-warm itself. This is hypothermia. If left untreated, your body will gradually shut down and you can die, or risk frostbite and the potential loss of fingers and toes.

Protecting yourself from the elements

You can avoid hypothermia by guarding against dehydration, fatigue, cold winds, and wet clothes. Be sure to choose the right clothes, especially a fabric that keeps you the driest. Wetness conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than dryness, and when clothes get wet, they lose 90 percent of their insulating value. Don’t wear cotton, it absorbs moisture. Instead, choose wool or synthetic fibers that actually wick moisture away from your skin. Additionally, dress in layers to improve insulation and wear a hat – most body heat is lost through the head.

If you’re going to be hiking, recreating, or working outdoors, pack food and beverages. Dehydration contributes to hypothermia, so drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids. Drinking alcohol is dangerous because it gives you a false sense of warmth while actually lowering your internal body temperature. Avoid coffee, tea, and tobacco products as well, because they also cause your body to lose heat. Eat high-energy foods like nuts, fruit, and energy bars for the calories your body needs to generate heat.

Beware of the wind – it multiplies the challenges of staying dry by carrying heat away from bare skin. Wind drives cold air under and through clothes and refrigerates wet clothes by evaporating moisture from the surface.

Understand the cold. Most hypothermia cases develop in air temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees, not necessarily in sub-zero temperatures. Cold water below 50 degrees is a rapid killer, as well. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – dress warmly, bring extra gloves and socks and your bag of healthy goodies. Warning signs you should watch for include:

  • Uncontrollable fits of shivering
  • Vague, slow, or slurred speech
  • Memory lapses or incoherence
  • Immobile, fumbling hands
  • Frequent stumbling or loss of coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Exhaustion

What to do if you suspect you’re in trouble

If you recognize hypothermia in yourself or someone, take action. If the victim is unconscious, seek medical help immediately. If the victim is conscious, call for help and move the victim to shelter.

Be very gentle with unconscious or semi-conscious victims — their hearts are fragile and sensitive to jarring. Remove wet clothes, and replace them with warm, dry garments. If the victim is alert enough to hold a cup, give warm, but not hot, liquids to drink. Sugary drinks are especially helpful.

Moderate exercise such as walking will help generate heat. If unable to exercise or remain awake, place yourself or the victim in a sleeping bag to help speed re-warming, and insulate the sleeping bag with a plastic sheet (or a tarp) above and a pad below. Skin to skin contact is very effective, as well. If you have them, you can place warm rocks, canteens, hot water bottles or heating pads near main arteries close to the skin’s surface. Try to remain awake, and get to a hospital or medical center as soon as possible.

Playing and working outdoors is healthy, any time of year, as long as you take wise precautions and heed warning signs. Have fun and stay warm!

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Washing Your Hands of Germs and Viruses

It’s cold and flu season and, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the single most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others is to clean our hands. As you touch people, surfaces, and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. In turn, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Although it’s impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently helps limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

According to CDC research, some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes up to two hours or more on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, ATM machines, and desks. Additionally:

  • 52.2 million cases of the common cold affect Americans under the age of 17 each year alone…and many of these germs are passed to adults and others.
  • Nearly 22 million school days are lost due to the common cold alone.
  • Students don’t wash their hands often or well. In one study, only 58% of female and 48% of male middle and high school students washed their hands after using the bathroom, and numerous studies measuring adult hand-washing habits show similar patterns.
  • A study of Detroit school children showed that scheduled hand washing, at least four times a day, can reduce gastrointestinal illness and related absences by more than 50 percent.

While many of these measurements document hand-washing habits in young adults and children, the findings are applicable to older adults, as well, and especially important for seniors who may lack capacity to fight germs and infections as readily as youth and younger adults.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which don’t require water, are an excellent alternative to soap and water. If you choose to use a commercially prepared hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

As a general rule, always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food
  • Eating
  • Treating wounds or giving medicine
  • Touching a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Likewise, always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet
  • Changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands or a tissue
  • Treating wounds
  • Touching a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage or something that could be contaminated, such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes.

Of course, it’s also important to wash your hands whenever they look dirty, but as you can’t see germs, err to the side of caution and help prevent illnesses from ever taking hold.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

B Smart and B Healthy — Know Your Vitamins

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps maintain the body’s nervous system, helps keep blood cells healthy, and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak.

What foods provide vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following:

  • Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12
  • Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12
  • Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.

What kinds of vitamin B12 dietary supplements are available?

Vitamin B12 is found in almost all multivitamins. Dietary supplements that contain only vitamin B12, or vitamin B12 with nutrients such as folic acid and other B vitamins, are also available. Check the supplement facts label to determine the amount of vitamin B12 provided.

A prescription form of vitamin B12 can be administered as a shot. This is usually used to treat vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is also available as a prescription medication in nasal gel form.

Am I getting enough vitamin B12?

Most people in the United States get enough vitamin B12 from the foods they eat. But some people have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency affects between 1.5% and 15% of the public. Your doctor can test your vitamin B12 level to see if you have a deficiency.

Certain groups may not get enough vitamin B12 or have trouble absorbing it, such as:

  • Older adults, who do not have enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach to absorb the vitamin B12 naturally present in food. People over 50 should get most of their vitamin B12 from fortified foods or dietary supplements because, in most cases, their bodies can absorb vitamin B12 from these sources.
  • People with pernicious anemia whose bodies cannot absorb vitamin B12. Doctors usually treat pernicious anemia with vitamin B12 shots, although very high oral doses of vitamin B12 might also be effective.
  • People who have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight-loss surgery, or who have digestive disorders, such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. These conditions can decrease the amount of vitamin B12 that the body can absorb.
  • Some people who eat little or no animal foods such as vegetarians and vegans. Only animal foods have vitamin B12 naturally. When pregnant women and women who breastfeed their babies are strict vegetarians or vegans, their babies might also not get enough vitamin B12.

What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 deficiency causes tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue. Vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the nervous system even in people who don’t have anemia, so it is important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible.

In infants, signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency include failure to thrive, problems with movement, delays in reaching the typical developmental milestones, and megaloblastic anemia.

How much vitamin B12 do I need?

Vitamin B12 can interact or interfere with medicines that you take, and in some cases, medicines can lower vitamin B12 levels in the body. Talk with your physician or pharmacist for clarification. Also, tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other health care providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you take. They can tell you if those dietary supplements might interact or interfere with your prescription or over-the-counter medicines or if the medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs, uses, or breaks down nutrients.

The amount of vitamin B12 you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts for different ages are listed below in micrograms (mcg):

Birth to 6 months 0.4 mcg
Infants 7–12 months 0.5 mcg
Children 1–3 years 0.9 mcg
Children 4–8 years 1.2 mcg
Children 9–13 years 1.8 mcg
Teens 14-18 years 2.4 mcg
Adults 2.4 mcg
Pregnant teens and women 2.6 mcg
Breastfeeding teens and women 2.8 mcg

 

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Simple Tips for Healthy Eyes

Your eyes are an important part of your health. There are many things you can do to keep them healthy and make sure you are seeing your best. Follow these simple steps for maintaining healthy eyes well into your golden years.

 

Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

You might think your vision is fine or that your eyes are healthy, but visiting your eye-care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to really be sure. When it comes to common vision problems, some people don’t realize they could see better with glasses or contact lenses. In addition, many common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration often have no warning signs. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages.

During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, your eye-care professional places drops in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil to allow more light to enter the eye the same way an open door lets more light into a dark room. This enables your eye care professional to get a good look at the back of the eyes and examine them for any signs of damage or disease. Your eye-care professional is the only one who can determine if your eyes are healthy and if you’re seeing your best.

Know your family’s eye health history.

Talk to your family members about their eye health history. It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with a disease or condition since many are hereditary. This will help to determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease or condition.

Eat right to protect your sight.

You’ve heard carrots are good for your eyes. But eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens is important for keeping your eyes healthy. Research has also shown there are eye health benefits from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing systemic conditions such as diabetic eye disease or glaucoma which can lead to vision loss. If you are having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, talk to your doctor.

Wear protective eyewear.

Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home. Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specially designed to provide the correct protection for a certain activity. Most protective eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate, which is 10 times stronger than other plastics. Many eye care providers sell protective eyewear, as do some sporting goods stores.

Quit smoking or never start.

Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.

Be cool and wear your shades.

July is UV Safety Month and a good opportunity to remember that you must protect your skin and your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, but their most important job is to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

Give your eyes a rest.

If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing on any one thing, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This can help reduce eyestrain.

Clean your hands and your contact lenses properly.

To avoid the risk of infection, always wash your hands thoroughly before putting in or taking out your contact lenses. Make sure to disinfect contact lenses as instructed and replace them as appropriate.

Practice workplace eye safety.

Employers are required to provide a safe work environment. When protective eyewear is required as a part of your job, make a habit of wearing the appropriate type at all times and encourage your co-workers to do the same.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Protecting Yourself from Tick and Mosquito Bites

While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April through September) when ticks are most active. And in summer, when we’re out hiking, biking, camping, and spending a lot more time in and around grass and woods, there are several steps you can take to limit bites from ticks, mosquitoes and other disease-bearing insects.

Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks and Mosquitoes When Possible

If you can, avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. When hiking, picnicking or walking, try to remain in the center of trails.

You can repel ticks and mosquitoes with DEET or Permethrin. Here are some useful hints:

  • Use repellents that contain 20 percent or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on the exposed skin for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.
  • If you’re using other repellents, go to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website for safety information.

Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body

Finding and removing one of these little critters embedded in your skin can be gross, but painless. The best bet, of course, is to keep them at bay. But if they do find you, here are tips for dealing with them easily and effectively:

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
  • Consult your doctor or a nurse (or Internet sources) to determine the best method for removing the tick; it’s important to remove the entire tick, or it can leave parts embedded in your skin.

Should you or a family member develop a bulls-eye-type red rash near the bite site, or exhibit other side effects such as a fever, lethargy or extreme exhaustion, consult your doctor. You may need to be tested for Lyme Disease, which is common in New England and treated with antibiotics.

Preventing Mosquito-Borne Diseases

When dealing with West Nile virus or other mosquito-related diseases, prevention is your best bet. Fighting mosquito bites reduces your risk of getting this disease, along with others that mosquitoes can carry. The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a single mosquito bite remains low. The risk of severe illness and death is highest for people over 50 years old, although people of all ages can become ill. Obviously, avoid bites whenever you can by covering up exposed areas, especially during peak feeding times (dusk to dawn). Clean out the areas that attract mosquitoes where you live and work, and help your community control these pests whenever possible.

Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites

When possible, wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or DEET will give extra protection. Don’t apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent containing DEET on the skin under your clothing.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Discover the Health Benefits of Swimming

As the fair weather returns, thoughts return to outdoor recreation and water sports. If you’re not already a swimming enthusiast, this might be a good time to discover the health benefits of swimming, and start building momentum for this comprehensive and healthy exercise. It can be practiced indoors or out and can also provide a welcome alternative to bored or injured runners.

Swimming provides a comprehensive workout

Swimming is a whole body workout. To swim for any sizable amount of time, you need to engage all your limbs or you risk getting quickly exhausted. As a consequence, all the muscles in your body are mobilized during a typical swim workout.

You will get an even better workout if you use several swimming strokes because you activate the muscles in several different ways. And as swimming engages all limbs in different kinds of motions, it promotes joint flexibility and allows you to participate in a great aerobic activity that often is easier on backs, hips, and knees than traditional track, court, and field athletic activities.

Good cardiovascular benefits, and low-impact exercise

The health benefits of swimming don’t stop there. Swimming is an endurance sport and one of the best cardiovascular exercises. Swimming exercise reduces your blood pressure, strengthens your heart, and improves your aerobic capacity.

When you swim, your body is supported by the water. The water has a much greater density than air, and this limits the speed at which you can move in the water. These factors make swimming one of the best low-impact exercises than can be practiced even when other forms of exercise aren’t possible. Swimming:

  • Can be practiced safely at any age
  • Can be practiced during pregnancy
  • Can be practiced as an alternative exercise for injured athletes
  • Is a good exercise regimen for overweight people

Weight control and recovering from injuries

There are other health benefits of swimming. As an endurance sport, swimming allows you to lose (or control) weight. It burns about three calories per mile per pound of body weight. To be effective for weight control, you need to swim at a continuous pace at least two or three times a week for at least half an hour.

Swimming also is an excellent sport that can relieve certain types of aches. It is often prescribed to patients experiencing back problems and pain. Swimming backstroke is an excellent exercise to loosen up and strengthen the back. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for people who suffer from arthritis because of the support and soft resistance of the water.

One caution. Even though swimming is a low-impact exercise, there is a possibility to develop certain swimming injuries, so consult your physician or physical therapist to be aware of these potential consequences.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!