Every year, an estimated 13 million babies are born too soon and too small. More than a million of these tiny babies do not survive. Premature birth is a big problem in the United States. In other parts of the world, where hospitals and health providers may be ill-equipped to care for preemies, or the nearest hospital is days away, the problem is even more serious.
This blog is dedicated to one of my favorite little girls Maiya, who lights up a room every time she walks in, makes you laugh hysterically and has more personality at the ripe age of 4 than most adults I know. She is truly a fighter, strong willed and very determined. Much like she was on the day she was born.
Maiya was born 8 weeks premature with underdeveloped organs, a lot of hair and so small that I could literally hold her in one hand. Her mother, one of my best friends, spent weeks at the NICU, waiting to hear the words from the doctor — “You can take her home.” When that day finally arrived, we were all overjoyed with an enormous amount of faith that Maiya would grow strong and develop into the amazing little girl she is today. My girlfriend did everything she thought was right — early prenatal care, healthy diet, no smoking, no drinking, etc. But we also know that prematurity can be caused by so many different things. So, while we may not have the answer to the question “why this baby?” we do know she is a survivor.
As one of her many Aunties, I am so thankful to not only Maiya’s NICU nurses but to all of the nurses around the country. Your job is so critical and I wonder if you truly know how much relief you provide to families every day. It is because of you that babies are strong enough to go home sooner rather than later.
I encourage you all to spread the word about prematurity and help increase the awareness so we can reduce then number of babies that are born too soon. We need to fight ― because babies shouldn’t have to.
When I first decided to write a blog about health and women, my goal was to ensure women had access to all types of information that would help them make informed decisions about their health. Since I work directly in health, my hope was to be able to provide cutting edge information and information that is not generally shared with the public. This latest information I truly had to share. You are not going to want hear it, read it or know about it. But I felt compelled to share.
Earlier this week, I was out to dinner with some public health friends from the FDA and they were casually talking about the “things” that fall into food items that are packaged in factories and plants. They were specifically talking about baby formula and the recent baby formula Similac that was recalled because beetles were found in the products. (No doubt I will be breastfeeding)
Naturally, I am in shock over this. But then they began saying how often there are “things” that fall into food items which factories have no control over. These are unavoidable things within a factory or a plant when processing mass quantities of items, but are also not harmful to us to eat. At this point, my mouth is wide open and I am in disbelief. “What things,” I ask. They inform me that there are “things” like insect legs and hairs that often get mixed in with the food. Immediately, I begin thinking how can I avoid any food processed in a plant or factory. Yup, that would be just about everything I consume they tell me, from cereal to pasta. My first question is does the FDA know about this and they both say yes!
Apparently, the FDA has regulations for plants and factories to ensure the sample “batches” of food that are tested are deemed edible. The FDA set these action levels because it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects. Products harmful to consumers are subject to regulatory action whether or not they exceed the action levels.
So what can be done? Nothing except pray. But I just don’t think the 3-second rule is going to cut it this time. It is FDA’s position that pesticides are not the alternative to preventing food defects. The use of chemical substances to control insects, rodents and other natural contaminants has little, if any impact on natural and unavoidable defects in foods.
There you have it. I still have no words nor have I decided what my plan of action is for eating. According to my friends, I would have to literally just stop eating. All packaged (a box, a bag, a can, a jar) food goes through some form of a plant or factory. If you want to read more about the regulations and defect levels go to this link to the FDA website: http://www.fda.gov/food/guidancecomplianceregulatoryinformation/guidancedocuments/sanitation/ucm056174.htm
This link also provides a listing of food items and the common defects associated with them. I am telling you now, beware of the truth. You may want to remain ignorant. Ignorance is bliss!
When I was little I couldn’t wait to hug my grandmother. She was all squishy and soft, and I loved it when she would pull me close to her stomach. To me, it was a place of warmth and love. Not knowing until now, that her extra softness was not the best for her health. But we are talking 30 plus years ago and there wasn’t a lot of research about the link between belly fat and heart disease and other health complications.
In the 19th century, plump women were desired because it was assumed they could handle the physical strain of repeated pregnancies and childbirths. This contributed to the idea that full-figured women were pleasant and rubenesque. Nowadays, it’s all about the flat stomach, obsessing to get rid of the baby fat right after pregnancy and wearing spanx to hide it all away. While we may be tired of society putting pressure on us women about having flat stomachs, they are on to something.
What you may not realize is belly fat is pretty bad for your health. Carrying around extra weight in your abdominal area can have a negative impact on your lungs and your heart. Having excess abdominal weight may lower one’s lung function, regardless of a person’s age, smoking history, or body mass index, according to a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Too much belly fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, as you age and your metabolism slows down, the amount of fat in your body slowly increases. Women experience an even greater fat percentage increase than men do. Then after menopause, your body fat distribution tends to shift — less in your arms, legs and hips, and more in your abdomen. Keep in mind that it’s what is underneath that can really hurt your health. Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds the abdominal organs that is linked to health issues like those mentioned earlier. This is the bad fat!
- Slow down on the foods high in sugar, fat, and cholesterol, as well as high caloric beverages. A no brainer to lose weight in general.
- High impact exercise is a fast way to watch your stomach shrink. But you have to do it regularly to see results and to keep the weight off.
- Doing strength training (lifting weights) is another good way to tone your stomach and trim it down. Using light weights to do side (obliques) exercises can help get rid of love handles.
- Do exercises to work out those lower ab muscles. Traditional sit-ups aren’t the most effective way to firm your tummy, but focusing on your lower stomach area can be effective. A strong core is key to great posture and a strong back. Also strong ab muscles allows you to challenge yourself and do more advanced ab exercises.
It is so not easy being a woman and having something else to worry about health-wise is no fun. But there is something we can do about reducing belly fat. It is hard work and you will not be able to do it overnight. If you find you have been doing all of these things and not getting results, it may be time to consult your doctor to determine if something more serious is going on.
For moral support, grab a friend and challenge each other with different ab exercises each week.
If you are like me, then you have been on the road a lot lately for work. In September, I was in three different hotels over a three-week time period. Or was it four? Every year, at the same time, it happens to me — I begin to lag behind in my workout routine. The carefree days of summer allow to me work out later with the extra hours of daylight and when Fall hits, all of that hard work goes out of the window. Each year, I tell myself “this will not happen again.” Sigh, but it does. I am about to start traveling again next week and have been in search of creative ways to get some form of exercise in between meetings. Here are a few things I am going to try and hope that you find them useful too:
Be realistic and pack what you think you will really use. My biggest excuse is that I say I don’t want to over pack my suitcase, so I take nothing. With airline baggage fees steadily increasing, we are all conscious of how many bags we carry. Therefore, when packing workout gear, I keep it light — tank tops, shorts, light t-shirts and yoga pants. Sneakers are bulky so I either try to squeeze those into a carry-on or wear them on the plane.
Do your research ahead of time. Call the hotel or visit their website to see what fitness services they offer. So many hotels are all about meeting the needs of their business traveler. They have either a fitness center, fitness DVDs and equipment you can rent, or discounts for a fitness center nearby if they don’t have one. Most often access to the fitness center is complimentary to guests or you if you are a member of the hotel reward program.
Use the environment around you. If the fitness center has a cost, there are also free activities that can be done. Ask the concierge for walking maps or running trails near the hotel. This also allows you to become familiar with the area.
Eat healthy. If you just cannot squeeze in a workout, at the very least don’t go overboard on your eating. When you are on travel, you may be tempted to splurge a little here and there — buffalo wings and fries from room service or cheesecake at the reception. Stick to your healthy eating habits and maybe you won’t feel too bad about skipping the workout.
Pack your own gear. I recently picked up some resistance bands from Sports Authority as an attempt to “get back in the groove” of working out. Since they are so lightweight and thin, you can carry them anywhere. They are perfect for doing bicep curls or squats while in your hotel room, watching TV.
Get an early start. When meetings start at 9 a.m. and end at 8 p.m. there is little time to workout throughout the day. I have found that working out before the meeting helps me not only stay focused during the meeting, but I got it out of the way. And quite honestly you have more time to workout since you don’t have a commute time with the meeting being downstairs in the hotel. Now you have an extra 30-45 minutes to workout.
Live Life, Live Healthy
Today I spent the day with about 50 breastfeeding experts and advocates from around the nation, including representatives from key US government agencies. As I sat and listened to the latest research, current community initiatives and strategies from lactation consultants; I found myself having to sit on my hands. While I am very much an advocate of breastfeeding and truly believe breast is best for our infants, there were a few things my colleagues were saying that I did not agree with 100%. There were staunch breastfeeding advocates and I did not want to get put out of the room, so I never went to the mic or raised my hand. Surprisingly, the MEN had the loudest voices in the room today.
So I would like share my two cents on the subject with all of you:
Breast is best! Research shows this is true and that the benefits of breastmilk are profound. Not to mention the unique bond that is established between mom and baby when they are skin to skin. In addition, there are great benefits for mom too. So new moms and moms-to-be, I urge you to learn about breastfeeding during pregnancy and do all that you can to not only initiate breastfeeding, but maintain it for at least 6 months.
Breastfeeding takes time, patience and support. Many people think, “oh it just comes naturally.” Uh NO, it does not. Even a lactation consultant will tell you this. Is it a natural and biological thing for moms? Yes, but I repeat, it takes time, patience and support. I have watched so many of my girlfriends struggle through tears, guilt and anxiety as they initiate breastfeeding and fail the first few times. They want to breastfeed but the overwhelming feeling of wanting to ensure their baby doesn’t starve, takes over. So they begin to lean towards the solution of giving the baby formula. I think lactation consultants in the hospital could offer different methods to breastfeeding, ways to soothe mom and more support. As a result, Mom, may not give up so quickly.
Dads’ support is key to breastfeeding. So many women find it difficult to breastfeed because they don’t have support from their partner. He may not understand the importance or significant benefits that breastfeeding has on the baby short and long term, as well as for mom. If Dad is not supportive, this can cause additional stress for mom as she focuses on trying to breastfeed. If she doesn’t have support at home, she will find it increasingly difficult to do it. On the other hand, if Dad is very supportive then great! But he should also not “browbeat” mom if she cannot breastfeed or is having difficulty breastfeeding. This will only make things worse and make her feel more guilty as well as anxious. So to my men, participate in learning about breastfeeding, be there for her and do everything possible to understand that this is not as easy as you may think.
Mom, it really is okay if you cannot breastfeed! SCREECH!! Nails going down a blackboard. The needle on a record player stopping! Yes, me, the SavvyHealthGirl said it! The breast advocates are going to shoot me! But, I never want any mother to ever believe that she is a bad or awful mother because she was not able to breastfeed her child. A woman goes through enough as it is over nine months of carrying a human being and then having to figure out what to do with it now that it’s out! So making her feel guilty because she didn’t produce enough milk, is cruel. Many of us were not breastfed and we were healthy, intelligent and well adjusted children. Let me be clear, I am not saying not that you should not try to breastfeed, but if you try and are not able (for whatever reason) your baby can still be healthy. You will still be a good mom.
There are so many resources out there for moms on breastfeeding. I have listed some below. You can find out if your city has a Baby Friendly and/or a Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital. You can get also find out where lactation consultants are in your area who can help you ease into breastfeeding.
This post is dedicated to all of my friends who are either pregnant, trying to get pregnant or think they may want to get pregnant some day. For those of you outside of the world of public health, there has been a new focus since 2006 on preparing a woman’s body BEFORE she thinks about getting pregnant. It’s called preconception health and health care. Naturally, when most women hear the word “preconception” they automatically break it down in their minds and think this doesn’t apply to them because they are not thinking about being pregnant anytime soon. But that is the key — having a healthy body BEFORE you even begin thinking about getting pregnant or planning to get pregnant. Because 50% of the U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, it is even more important for a woman to be healthy NOW and not when it’s too late. It’s simple actually — healthy women=healthy babies and healthy babies=healthy communities. It’s a cyclical effect.
Generally, a woman doesn’t know she is pregnant until after 4 weeks of gestation which is the most critical period of development. This is why preconception health trumps prenatal health and care. By taking of your body in advance, you can feel a little better about that 4 week period of development, that you may not be aware of, because you know you were eating healthy, exercising, less drinking of alcohol and not smoking.
Here is an idea of what is happening during those first 4 weeks:
Neural tube forms - It will develop into the nervous system (Brain, spinal cord, hair, and skin). The baby already has the foundation for thought, senses, feeling, and more!
The heart and primitive circulatory system rapidly form – While still in its beginning stages, this is the very life support system that will carry the baby throughout his or her life.
So ladies (and men), I ask that you if you are thinking about having a baby next month or two years from now, that you do some simple things today to help you have a healthy baby and healthy pregnancy. It will make a difference!
- Get a check-up for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, seizures and thyroid disease.
- Get tested for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Take a vitamin with folic acid every day.
- Eat healthy, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Be active! Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Keep stress under control and do pleasant things that will keep you in good spirits.
- Don’t smoke, drink or use drugs.
I don’t know about everyone else, but it has come to my attention that my scale . . . the one I hide behind the bathroom door is officially a LIAR (and evil)! Maybe that’s it. It’s upset with me because I keep it hidden and out of sight and it’s getting revenge. There is no other reason why it would want to lie to me like this when I step on! Oh and it is such a BIG lie too! All women know exactly what I am talking about because I know your scale has probably lied to you at least once if not twice. It’s Monday morning, you are about to get in the shower (so you have nothing that could cause unnecessary weight), you step on the scale and BAM it spits out a complete untruth. A boldface lie! You are wondering why it would deceive you this way. Right? Everyone knows the best time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning when your stomach is empty. So you’re not sure what went wrong. You did everything right and you get this lie. It is definitely angry with you about something!
Well, I am going to do something about mine. I will not stand for this treatment anymore and I am going to make the scale my friend again. First, for the next month it is going in the closet. We need some time apart for a while. There will be no more play time with me getting off and on at least 5 times, shifting feet, or alternating foot positions. I’m done with that!
Next, I am going to show that scale. I’m cutting out all of those holiday sweets that I have been consuming since Thanksgiving. Ha, take that scale! You’re gonna want to be my friend. Only apples and grapefruits for me. Yeah!
Did you say wine, margaritas? You got it, cutting back on that too and juice (especially Mango Lemonade and Trader Joe’s Pink Lemonade Italian Soda). That scale doesn’t know who it’s messing with. 100% pure aqua, H20, good ol’ fashion faucet fluid. Okay well maybe filtered.
Oh I am not done yet. No more french fries (for now)! Yep, I am getting out the big guns to take down the scale and it will begging for us to be friends again. I will not succumb to the fries calling my name or the delicious smell wafting from the door as I walk pass Five Guys.
Croissants for breakfast? No way! Who cares if they are buttery, flaky, come with different fillings and melt in your mouth. (Oh my!) They are out too and nothing but multigrain toast will do. Next thing I know, that scale will be rushing to be underfoot.
Finally, and this is huge. This will surely get me back into the good graces of the scale. I am going to start running, spinning and yoga-ing again!! Apparently, you lose tons of calories and fat from exercising! Who knew? If that doesn’t win it over, then nothing will.
I sure hope this works because I would hate to have to throw that scale out of the window and watch it splatter into tiny pieces. So, if you are fighting with your scale, maybe you too should try getting back into its good graces. But remember, everything in moderation.
Well it’s that time of year again – time for my annual Turkey Day tips! It was two years ago this week when I launched the blog and my first post was about how you can eat healthy and stay active during the Thanksgiving holiday. So why break a tradition? I hope you enjoy this year’s tips and can apply them somehow over the next week. Like I always say, enjoy the yummy food but in moderation.
Well, this year I am going old school, I am actually road-tripping to Memphis, TN for the holiday and for a girlfriend’s wedding over the weekend. It’s a 13-hour car ride from DC to Memphis. I am trying not to think about that considering I start squirming after 3 hours on a 5-hour flight to LA. But when you wait too late to book your flight, this is what happens. So off we go! In honor of my road trip this year, here are tips for all of the car travelers.
Pack your own healthy snacks. While it is tempting to stop for food off of the highway, you have to remember you will rarely run into healthy options. You are going to primarily run into a Burger King, Arby’s, McDonald’s, or Cinnabon. So do your body and your wallet a favor and bring your own snacks/meals. Stop at your local grocery store and pick up apples, granola mix, cheese, ready-made meals from the deli (not the frozen section) or whatever you like. And sure we all want some hot food on a chilly, Fall day, especially in a car. Pack up some chili or stew and store it in a thermal container.
Choose healthier options from fast food stops. If you must eat off of the side of the road, then try to resist the Super Size, double cheeseburger, fries and Chocolate Frosty. Grab a salad or the broiled options opposed to the fried options. If you have time to stop and sit down to eat, there is always an IHOP or full service restaurant along the way. They tend to have more options that are healthy than fast food places.
Stick to regular eating habits and times. I don’t know about you but when I am in a car for a long period of time, I tend to eat more than usual. A snack here, a meal there, another snack here. Before you know it all of the cookies are gone and the chips are next. Resist overeating. If you are bored, get a book you have been wanting to read or do a puzzle. Often when we don’t have anything to do, our impulse is to stuff our mouths.
Take stretch breaks. All of that sitting and eating can’t be good, especially if you are going the fast food route. Make a point to stop and get those limbs moving. Do some stretches, park the car and walk around the gas station lot or do a quick race with the kids. Quick sprints tend to burn calories faster anyway. On your mark, get ready, get set, GO!!!
To those of you traveling by plane or train, you can definitely apply many of these tips. Airports don’t have the healthiest options of food either, especially in the smaller airports. Regardless of how you are traveling this year, remember to keep it healthy. Eat in moderation and don’t remain too sedentary over the next four days. Enjoy this time with your family and friends and cherish every moment!
Every time I hear someone sneeze these days I cringe. I immediately cover my nose and mouth with my hands or the inside of my shirt. I began frantically searching my purse for hand sanitizer, wipes, a tissue or anything I can find to ward off of the germs that are now flying about my entire personal space. I am silently screaming, “H1N1, H1N1 . . . Oh please, please I hope they covered their mouth!” But I know they didn’t because we can all tell the difference between a sneeze in a tissue and a sneeze that is wet and full of who knows what! What’s worse is when you are on the plane and the person behind you lets out a gigantic sneeze and you know it’s over! Those germs are not just flying over your head and into your space, but throughout the entire plane. Just prime for recycling right back into your nose and mouth at some point. What can you do?!? Absolutely nothing, just take it like a soldier. And yes, it would be ridiculous for you to sit the entire 4-hour flight with your hands over your face, wondering when it’s safe to bring them down. People will think you are crazy. So please do not do that. Well, maybe for like 10 minutes is okay. But what is our alternative? Painter’s masks? Has it really come down to having to wear a mask in public places? Apparently it has.
Since this whole H1N1 madness began, I always think back to the scene in the movie Outbreak, when the guy is in the theater and he sneezes, and they show how his sneeze spreads to everyone in the theater and goes up their nose. The mere thought of it makes me want to put on mask. I really need to start carrying trial size Lysol and start spraying as soon as I hear the sneeze. I think in addition to the H1N1 flu shot, they need to hand these out at every airport, train station, bus depot and movie theater. When someone sneezes, spray a Lysol bubble around you.
While I am being humorous in this blog piece, I am very serious. People I beg you – COVER YOUR MOUTH AND NOSE WHEN YOU SNEEZE!!! It is disgusting and harmful to the rest of us when you do not!! If you have no tissue, use the inside of your arm to sneeze into. It’s attached to your body, so it doesn’t cost you anything extra. Teach your children to do the same. They are a high-risk group for the H1N1 flu and their immune systems are still developing. Also, for whatever reason, babies and children have some powerful little germs! They will knock an adult off of their feet for week. Ask any parent or teacher.
I don’t think we realize how far a sneeze goes and what is coming out of our mouths when we do. So let me enlighten us all with this video on sneezing. I am sure we will all think twice, three times about covering our mouths and noses the next time we sneeze. Watch closely, it is in slow motion.