All posts by Erin Raupers

How to Stay Healthy at Summer Picnics

Picnics and barbeques are a fun summer tradition. These events are a great opportunity to socialize with friends and family.  Picnics and barbeques also present challenges when it comes to healthy eating and drinking.

Here are some helpful tips to work your way around a picnic table:

  • Avoid dips that are cream cheese, mayonnaise or sour cream based. Try other fresh dips like guacamole and homemade salsa or use plain greek yogurt as the base for your veggie dip. Sub out regular potato chips for baked chips or homemade tortilla chips (1).
  • Instead of preparing the usual potato or pasta salad with mayo, try making a fresh green salad with fruit or a pasta salad full of fresh chopped vegetables with vinaigrette or Italian dressing. These types of salads are packed with nutrients and the ingredients don’t spoil as quickly in the hot sun.
  • Tired of hamburgers and hot dogs? Beef burgers can easily be replaced with turkey, chicken or even veggie burgers.  Tuna steaks are a great alternative to regular steaks and are full of healthy fats and proteins (2). Kebobs are great for grilling.  You can make them with almost anything and the size helps you be mindful of portion sizes.

Drinking:

  • Sodas and juices are always available at picnics. Both are tempting, but are loaded with sugar.  If you are looking for an alternative to sugar and caffeine, try seltzer water mixed with 100% fruit juice for a light fizzy drink. You can even opt for fruit-infused ice water for a refreshing drink.
  • If you do choose to drink at a picnic make sure you stay hydrated by drinking a glass of water for every standard drink. Alcohol and hot temperatures cause fluid loss and can lead to dehydration.  It is also important to have a plan for how you will get home safely if you are drinking.  Don’t drink and drive!  Keep in mind that if you are boating and/or swimming alcohol affects your judgement, balance, reaction time and increases risk taking.
  • Hydration seems to be key on a hot summer day! With plenty of activities going on at a picnic it can be easy to forget to drink water. The recommendations for how much water you should consume per day vary by sex and exercise level.  You should drink more on especially hot days or if you are really active outside.  Heat exhaustion is real, so be aware of your water intake.

As with everything, moderation is your best bet for a happy and healthy summer. Enjoy!

  1. EatingWell Magazine. (2012, May). Retrieved from http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/248363/tortilla-chips/
  2. Health Benefits of Tuna and Salmon. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2017, from https://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/All-Star-Foods/Protein/Article-Viewer/Article/89/Health-Benefits-of-Tuna-and-Salmon.aspx

Parks and Health

If you feel like a walk in a park is all you need to feel physically and mentally better, then you might be right! In a study conducted by Andrew Mowen and other Penn State researchers, it was shown that the vast majority of Pennsylvanians view parks as a valuable place to promote overall health and wellness, and as a critical part of primary health care. These results were based on two surveys; one was sent out via mail to a random sample of 12,000 adults and the other was conducted with outpatients at a medical clinic run by Penn State College of Medicine.

Christopher Sciamanna, one of the co-investigators, thinks the reward structure for primary health care will change in the future.  Sciamanna believes that doctors will be paid more for their prevention efforts and keeping patients healthy.  Given this redefinition of health care, we may see an increase in the preservation and use of parks, trails and open spaces! (1)

  1. http://sustainability.psu.edu/spotlight/pennsylvanians-consider-parks-essential-part-health-care-system

 

Lyme Disease

Do you spend a lot of time outdoors during the summer? That’s great! One thing to keep in mind while enjoying nature is the risk for insect bites, especially tick bites. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is carried by blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis or Ixodes pacificus) which are often referred to as “deer ticks”.  Ticks can attach to any part of the human body (or your furry friends) and are often hard to find.

Symptoms vary, but typically Lyme disease can be identified by a bull’s eye rash that is sometimes followed by flu-like symptoms. Although, keep in mind, that not everyone will experience a rash. Individuals who receive appropriate antibiotic treatment in the early stages often experience a full recovery; however, if Lyme disease isn’t caught in the early stages, symptoms can persist for more than 6 months (1).

Here are steps you can take to prevent contracting Lyme disease:

  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants when outside. This prevents ticks from reaching your skin. Always wear socks and closed toe shoes if you are walking in a wooded area.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check.   Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours).
  • If you find an embedded tick, remove it using a tick removal devices or a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers. Follow these instructions to remove a tick:  https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/index.html (2).

It takes about 36 to 48 hours for the bacteria in the tick’s gut to be transferred.  You want to make sure you do a full-body check and remove any ticks within 36 hours (3) of being bitten.

See a doctor if a bull’s eye rash appears. Be sure to tell your doctor when the bite occurred because it is possible to test negative even if you have Lyme disease.  It can take 4-6 weeks for the blood tests to be positive.

Check out the CDC website (www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html) for more information about prevention, tick removal, symptoms and treatement.

  1. Signs and Symptoms | Lyme Disease | CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/index.html
  2. Tick removal and testing | Lyme Disease | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/index.html
  3. Lyme disease transmission. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/transmission/index.html

Outdoor Activities

When the sun is shining and you have a few free hours, check out these fun activities to get you moving:

  • Go for a walk- this is one of the simplest ways to be active and offers numerous health benefits. Maybe a nature walk is for you or maybe local streets are your thing. Here’s a campus map if you’re at Upark! https://sites.psu.edu/healthypennstate/files/2016/09/Campus-Run_Walk-Map-accessible-version-2gmv9mi.pdf
  • Kick your hiking up a notch and try out rock scrambling. This fun blend of hiking and rock climbing is a great total body workout that improves cardiovascular health, strength, and flexibility.
  • Grab a friend and a Frisbee and head outside for a light and fun workout. Disk golf may be your next favorite activity. Check it out! http://www.pdga.com/introduction
  • Go Kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, swimming… the list goes on and on. If you live near water your options are endless. Check out Lake Perez at Stone Valley for boat rentals

For more fun activities and local outdoor events check out onlyinyourstate.com (1) to see all your state has to offer.

Check out Penn State Adventure Recreation for all of your adventure needs!

  1. Only In Your State | Discover What’s In Your Own Backyard. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/

Sleep Debt

When life gets busy, one of the first things we cut out is sleep. An hour here or there may not seem like a big deal, but those hours can add up quickly. Lost hours of sleep are referred to as a sleep debt.
Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night to stay alert and focused throughout the day. Getting even 30 minutes less sleep per night can contribute to feeling sleepy and disconnected. Sleep deprivation can also affect your mood by causing depression, anxiety, and irritability.  When 30 minutes here and there start adding up to multiple hours, it can be hard to feel fully rejuvenated. Sleep debt, like financial debt, needs to be repaid in full if you want to get your body back on track.
Here are some smart tips for catching up on sleep without throwing off your regular schedule:
1. Try going to bed an hour early. If your sleep debt is 4 hours, commit to going to bed an hour early for 4 days in a row.
2. Do not try to make up for all of your lost sleep in one night.  This will throw off your normal sleeping schedule and cause further sleepiness.
3. Naps can be an effective tool to make up for small amounts of sleep. But you should limit naps to 15-20 minute sessions. Naps lasting longer than 30 minutes can make you even more tired than you were before!
If you struggle with getting enough sleep check out these resources and start sleeping better tonight

Exercise is Medicine Earns Gold Status

Penn State’s Exercise is Medicine on Campus program (EiM-OC) recently received gold-level status from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). By actively implementing physical activity as a vital sign of health, Penn State EiM-OC was awarded gold level recognition at the World Congress meeting in May 2017 (1).

EiM-OC aims to improve the health and wellbeing of students and faculty through physical activity. The initiative encourages physical activity as part of everyday life and overall health.  At Penn State, EiM-OC initiatives include campus walks, push-up challenges, classroom presentations and promoting campus health services & fitness centers on social media. Every year in October, Kinesiology students and faculty spend a week at locations around University Park engaging the campus community in exercise and general physical fitness. The outcomes from the 2016 EiM week are available on Penn State’s EiM website (2).

Penn State EiM was founded in 2012 and awarded silver status in 2015 and 2016. Dr. Melissa Bopp, associate professor of kinesiology, and Zack Papalia, EiMOC coordinator, hope to reach even more students and increase the impact on the Penn State community in 2017-2018.

  1. http://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/recognition-program/
  2. https://sites.psu.edu/psueim/eim-2016-outcomes/

Resources at CAPS

Penn State’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is committed to helping students cope with and prevent mental illness. CAPS has recently added new resources to their website,  http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/counseling/ . Click on the “wellness” section to get to online educational and screening tools. You can use the resources to learn more about common mental health issues and to see if you or a friend might need help from a professional.

The first resource is WellTrack, an online mental health resource to help students deal with stress, anxiety, and depression.   You’ll complete an initial self-assessment and then work through modules to learn how to handle what causes you stress.

The second resource is a compilation of self-help videos on various health topics. These educational videos cover a wide range of topics such as mental health, common concerns for college students, and descriptions of services offered by CAPS.  Each video is under 30 minutes.

The third resource is anonymous mental health screening tools. Each screening tool takes about 4 to 5 minutes to complete.  You’ll receive immediate results that can be printed.  The screening topics include depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol problems, eating disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD.

Skin Health Series 2

Summer is about to begin and you may be tempted to get an early start on your tan.  Here is “need to know” information about tanning salons that could help you avoid serious health risks down the road.

According to Spencer (1998) the ultraviolet radiation from the artificial light in tanning beds is linked to skin cancers and other types of skin damage.  Indoor tanning beds are associated with a 50% increase in the risk of basal cell carcinoma (i. e., skin cancer).  In fact, 90% of melanomas are estimated to be caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure (1).  “Tanning beds use fluorescent bulbs that emit mostly UVA. The UVA radiation is up to three times more intense than the UVA in natural sunlight”. (2)

The tanning bed industry often makes inaccurate claims about the benefits of artificial tanning.  For example, the industry claims that indoor tanning promotes the production of vitamin D which is important for bone health and has been linked to reduced risk for cancer.  The industry also claims that indoor tanning helps protect against sun burn.  In reality, an indoor tan provides “the equivalent of a sunscreen rated SPF 4 or less”. (2)   And you can obtain all the vitamin D that your body needs through a healthy diet.

Given the science behind the dangers of indoor tanning, you might be wondering why people still do it?  Harrington and colleagues (2011) found that the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from tanning beds stimulates areas of the brain associated with reward and, therefore, encourages excessive tanning. (3)

  1. Spencer, J. “Tanning beds and skin cancer: artificial sun old sol = real risk.” Clinics in Dermatology4 (1998): 487-501. Web.
  2. Harvard Women’s Health Watch – By the way, doctor: Is a tanning bed safer than sunlight?
  3. Harrington, C. R., Beswick, T. C., Graves, M., Jacobe, H. T., Harris, T. S., Kourosh, S., Devous Sr, M. D. and Adinoff, B. (2012), Activation of the mesostriatal reward pathway with exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) vs. sham UVR in frequent tanners: a pilot study. Addiction Biology, 17: 680–686. doi:10.1111/j.1369-1600.2010.00312.x