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Overcoming the Opioid Epidemic

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(Family Features) America is in the midst of an ongoing opioid epidemic affecting families across the country. Reports show that there are almost 80 opioid-related overdoses a day, amounting to more than 28,000 deaths annually.

This figure continues to climb as over 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Additionally, the rise of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, W-18 and carfentanil are threats to those already using opiates as the epidemic worsens.

Where do opioid overdoses occur?

Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that 77 percent of opioid overdose related deaths occur outside of a medical setting and 56 percent occur in private homes, meaning family or friends must often be the first to take action in an emergency situation. Accordingly, it is increasingly important that responders understand how to prevent death from overdose, including knowing how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication.

What does naloxone do?

Naloxone, the antidote that reverses an opioid overdose, works by neutralizing the opioid receptors in the brain, allowing an overdosed person to breathe again moments after it is administered. It’s been used in ambulances and hospital settings for decades and is now available for people to use in their homes or other remote areas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 10,000 reversals of overdoses with naloxone are conducted by non-medical bystanders. Without having a solution in the hands of those closest to opioid-related overdoses, lives are left hanging in the balance while waiting for emergency medical services. However, there is an FDA-approved naloxone nasal spray designed for use by laypeople, like friends and family, who are not medically trained. It’s needle-free and requires no training or assembly to use while providing a strong enough dose to help reverse opioid-related overdoses. Naloxone is only effective in opioid-related overdoses and does not affect a person without opioids in their body.
What can you do?

A majority of states have issued standing orders for FDA-approved naloxone products, which permit pharmacies to dispense the nasal spray without a physician’s prescription. If you or someone you know is susceptible to an opioid-related overdose, whether caused by illicit drugs, like heroin, or prescription painkillers, it is important to prepare for an emergency overdose situation. By having naloxone on hand, you can save a life when every second matters.

 

Learn more about naloxone at getnaloxonenow.org.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

March 22, 2017 |

It’s Not Too Late to Jumpstart a Healthy Lifestyle for 2017

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To Your Health

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 tips you need to succeed

(Family Features) Each year, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to achieve personal or professional goals. For many, that means focusing on improving health and wellness. You tell yourself this is going to be the year you join a gym, eat better or drink more water. Yet that commitment often falls short, as a recent survey suggests less than 10 percent of Americans achieve their resolutions.13632_A

There are many reasons people fall short of their goals, including setting the bar too high or being overly restrictive, which can lead to small failures and setbacks. However, there are easy ways to get back on track. A Global Water Survey, published by Nestlé Waters and Kantar TNS, revealed 94 percent of American respondents believe drinking water helps maintain a healthy lifestyle.

One key to jumpstarting a healthy lifestyle is staying hydrated by drinking more water. With so much focus on food, beverage choices are often overlooked. With no calories or added sugars, water is a smart choice to stay hydrated. Here are four tips from Sarah Ladden, a registered dietitian and Director, Nutrition, Health and Wellness at Nestlé Waters North America, to help you stay hydrated in 2017 and beyond.

1.     Good habits shouldn’t feel bad. Overly restrictive commitments can set you up for failure. Instead, adopt small and manageable changes to your daily routine and they can add up to big changes over time. For example, swapping just one 12-ounce (140 calorie), sugar-sweetened beverage with water each day could cut up to 50,000 calories and more than 65 cups of sugar from your diet in a year.

2.     Replace what you lose. Adults are made up of 60 percent water, which needs to be replenished throughout the day to help you maintain a proper fluid balance. Keep water within reach all day – a pitcher on the kitchen counter, a bottle in your car’s center console, a refillable bottle at your desk – to keep healthy hydration top of mind.

3.     Add some sparkle to your day. Sparkling water is a great option for those who favor something other than plain water. With zero calories and no added sugar, sparkling water is a delicious, refreshing choice for healthy hydration. When entertaining, consider adding a DIY sparkling water bar to your repertoire – just put out some sparkling water, sliced fruits, vegetables and herbs, and your guests can do the rest.

4.     Turn your water bottle into your travel companion. The survey revealed that American consumers are 72 percent more likely to drink water in their cars. Whether you’re commuting to work or running errands, you’re constantly on the go and a bottle of water could be your best companion.

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To learn more about healthy hydration, visit nestle-watersna.com/en.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

 

March 15, 2017 |

A Soup-er Meal Solution

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(Family Features) One-pot meals are all the rage, but the original dinner you could make in a single dish still stands the test of time. Whether your tastes tend toward hearty or light, soup is the perfect answer for a simple, fuss-free meal at home or the office.

As if you needed more motivation, these five reasons explain why you should grab your favorite spoon and settle in to enjoy a big bowl of piping hot soup.13399_A

Weight management. Most experts agree portion control is one of the most important aspects of weight management. With the right ingredients, a single bowl of soup can provide plenty of satiety to carry you comfortably to your next meal. No matter what diet plan you follow, you’re sure to find an array of soups that fit your needs.

Quick and easy preparation. A pot that simmers all day is a surprisingly easy way to put dinner on the table. Simply throw all your ingredients in a giant pot or a slow cooker and walk away. Or for a meal in mere minutes, you can rely on a store-bought option that tastes homemade. Delicious Idahoan Premium Steakhouse Potato Soups bring together real Idaho red potatoes with flavorful spices and rich cheeses to provide a creamy taste in every spoonful that is ready in just 5 minutes. The steakhouse-style soups are available in four flavor varieties: Creamy Potato, Loaded Potato, Cheddar Broccoli and Three Cheese Chipotle.

Affordability. Even if your wallet is stretched thin, it’s easy to scrape together a handful of inexpensive ingredients to create a soup from scratch. You can even use leftovers or odds and ends from the pantry or freezer. Another way to make those grocery dollars stretch or to curb your work week lunchtime spending is to visit the soup aisle for a wide variety of meals you can pick up for a modest price.

Boost veggie intake. Most soups provide an ample serving of veggies in every bowl, making it easy to reap the health benefits, including a vast number of vitamins and minerals. There’s also a practical reason that soup is in high demand when you’re feeling under the weather. Many vegetables contain anti-inflammatory properties, and a steamy bowl of broth-rich soup can help ease clogged sinuses. For those who typically avoid veggies, remember that it’s easy to hide them in broth or among other ingredients.

13399_BVersatility. Soup is the ultimate adapter. You can find soups representing nearly every flavor imaginable and ethnic influences from around the world. When you purchase ready-made soups, you can switch gears after just one bowl to satisfy virtually any flavor your taste buds crave.

Explore more soup-er mealtime solutions at Idahoan.com.

(family in kitchen)

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

March 8, 2017 |

March is Nutrition Month: Learn Habits that Lead to a Longer, Healthier Life

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To Your Health

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, the American Heart Association (AHA) wants to remind families of the many tools available to build healthy lifestyle habits. Through the AHA’s Healthy For Good initiative, individuals can use online tools to choose heart-healthy recipes, build grocery lists and learn tips on choosing the foods that pack the most nutrition, and how to avoid those that don’t.

According to studies funded by the American Heart Association, 37 percent of Americans think they are in optimal health, but less than 1 percent actually are. The AHA created Healthy For Good to educate and motivate Americans to eat healthier and get active. A healthy diet and lifestyle are your most powerful weapons when fighting the risk factors of heart disease, according to the AHA. Eating smarter, adding more healthy foods like colorful vegetables and fruits, and moving more can mean you’re on the path to living well.

Here are some nutrition and healthy lifestyle tips from the American Heart Association:

1. First, use up at least as many calories as you take in. Start by knowing how many calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. Go to www.heart.org/myfatstranslator to calculate the number of calories you need to maintain your weight. Increase the amount and intensity of your physical activity to match the number of calories you take in. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week or. Regular physical activity can help you maintain your weight, keep off weight that you lose and help you reach physical and cardiovascular fitness

2. Next, eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. You may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories. To get the nutrients you need, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often. Unrefined whole-grain foods contain fiber that can help lower your blood cholesterol and help you feel full, which may help you manage your weight. Eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout, and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.

Pack-up your fruits and veggies on the weekend to make sure you have healthier snacks all week long. Cut up celery, peppers, broccoli, carrots to enjoy as a crunch snack with fat-free ranch dressing. Round up your favorite fruits and leave them in a bowl on the refrigerator shelf to they’re ready to grab when you’re making your lunch. Top sandwiches with lots of veggies like lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, red peppers, or avocado slices. Make veggies the star of the plate, and meat and whole-grain carbs the supporting actors.
3. Eat less of the nutrient-poor foods. The right number of calories to eat each day is based on your age and physical activity level and whether you’re trying to gain, lose or maintain your weight. You could use your daily allotment of calories on a few high-calorie foods and beverages, but you probably wouldn’t get the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients, and limit how much saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Read labels carefully — the Nutrition Facts panel will tell you how much of those nutrients each food or beverage contains. 

Here are more nutrition tips from the American Heart Association:
Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat. Select fat-free, 1 percent fat, and low-fat dairy products. Swapping out high fat sour cream for fat free Greek yogurt is a great way to cut fat without cutting taste.

Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet, including store bought baked goods and crackers. Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day. Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars. Aim to eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt, and use low-sodium versions of canned goods, and choose the healthy versions of frozen prepared meals that say “low-sodium.” If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.

Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out, and keep an eye on your portion sizes. For more information on healthy lifestyle habits, go to www.heart.org/gettinghealthy.

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About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

March 6, 2017 |

4 Ways to Stretch Your Health Benefits

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(Family Features) Often, employees enroll in medical insurance plans for protection against unpredictable events, sudden illness or serious health concerns that may result in expensive medical bills. Getting the most from your benefits requires understanding coverages and deductibles, as well as taking advantage of voluntary benefits, like dental, vision and hearing, to stay healthy and save money.13559_A

Avoid surprises. About 91 percent of adults in the United States are confused about what their benefits cover, according to a recent Harris poll. The best starting point is to review your plan so you understand the care and services covered. If you have a high-deductible plan, you will need to pay for most or a percentage of the health costs until reaching the individual or family deductible. Be prepared to pay any copayments or deductibles the plan requires before receiving care. Also, before scheduling appointments, ask for a cost estimate for the appointment, tests or service.

Preventive dental and vision. Many voluntary plans, such as dental and vision, offer preventive exams, such as routine cleanings and vision exams, that are fully covered. That’s because these preventive exams help to maintain and improve overall health and help reduce health costs. Voluntary coverage is affordable and many plans offer added incentives. For example, coverage for LASIK, dental, vision and hearing benefits can increase from one year to the next for those who continue to enroll and use their benefits. Members could earn monetary rewards to use for dental, vision, LASIK, orthodontia and hearing benefits, care materials and services simply by using their benefits and keeping the benefits paid out under a specified amount.

Medical screenings. Routine health screenings, such as mammograms, immunizations, colonoscopy procedures and prostate cancer screenings, which may be covered fully or in part by your medical coverage, can help you stay healthy and lower health care costs.

Get paid to save. Many employers encourage employees to save money by matching a percentage of the amount the employee contributes to the plan. If available, enroll in a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account to set aside money to pay for health care costs.

Remember that these accounts are not a substitute for the coverage provided by voluntary benefits.

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Learn more about the questions to ask when reviewing benefit plans at ameritasinsight.com.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

March 1, 2017 |

News from the International Stroke Conference

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To Your Health

 

FYI, this week is American Heart Association/American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in Houston. Thousands of stroke healthcare providers and scientists come together to share research, learn, and be inspired by their peers in stroke care.

Why report on stroke? (more stroke facts on attached sheet, FYI)

• Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every four minutes, someone dies of stroke.
• Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 people a year (128,978). That’s 1 in every 20 deaths.
• Nearly 800,000 (approximately 795,000) people in the United States have a stroke every year, with about three in four being first-time strokes.
• An estimated 6.6 million Americans 20 and older have had a stroke.
• Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability.
• Total direct medical stroke-related costs are projected to triple by 2030, from $71.6 billion in 2012 to $184.1 billion.
• Stroke is more disabling than it is fatal. Early recognition and treatment can save lives and prevent long-term disability.

 

Defining Stroke
• Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells die.
• 87% of strokes are classified as ischemic. An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot or a mass blocks a blood vessel, cutting off blood flow to a part of the brain.1
• A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel, or cerebral aneurism, ruptures, spilling blood into the brain. Like ischemic stroke, a major cause of hemorrhagic stroke is uncontrolled hypertension.
• A cryptogenic stroke is a stroke of unknown cause. About 1 in 3 ischemic strokes fall into this category.2
• A TIA (transient ischemic attack) is often called a “mini stroke” or “warning stroke”. The difference between a TIA and a stroke is that the blockage is transient, or temporary. Symptoms are exactly the same as stroke, but usually last less than five minutes. Even if symptoms go away, emergency help should be called immediately.

Stroke Incidence, Mortality and Disability
• Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every four minutes, someone dies of stroke.1
• Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 people a year (128,978). That’s 1 in every 20 deaths.1
• Nearly 800,000 (approximately 795,000) people in the United States have a stroke every year, with about three in four being first-time strokes.1
• Stroke deaths are higher in the southeastern U.S. in an area known as the “Stroke Belt”: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas.1
• Stroke is more disabling than it is fatal.1
• An estimated 6.6 million Americans 20 and older have had a stroke.1
• Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability. Stroke, or vascular dementia, is also a leading cause of memory loss.1
• Projections show that by 2030, stroke prevalence will increase by more than 20 percent over 2012.1
• Total direct medical stroke-related costs are projected to triple by 2030, from $71.6 billion in 2012 to $184.1 billion.1

Stroke Warning Signs and Treatment
• Stroke patients who receive tPA within 90 minutes of symptom onset are almost 3 x more likely to recover with little or no disability.3
• AHA/ASA updated guidelines for acute ischemic stroke to recommend the use of stent retrievers for eligible patients. While tPA is a drug to dissolve a clot, a stent retriever is a medical device used to pull it out. Guidelines recommend using them together in eligible patients at capable facilities.4
• Only 9 percent of Americans can identify each letter in the F.A.S.T. acronym for stroke.5
• Most people say they would call 9-1-1 for stroke,6 but fewer people are arriving at the ER by ambulance after suffering stroke symptoms.7
• Ethnic minorities and rural residents are less likely to call 9-1-1 at the onset of a stroke.8
• For stroke, someone other than the patient makes the decision to seek treatment in a majority of cases.
• Telestroke allows neurologists to deliver remote treatment to stroke patients through interactive videoconferencing.
• One study found telestroke increased use of tPA by two to six times.9
• Telestroke has proven effective in reducing racial and ethnic disparities in access to stroke care.10

Stroke Prevention and Risk Factors
• More than half (58%) of Americans don’t know if they are at risk for stroke.11
• 80% of strokes can be prevented.12
• What’s good for your health is good for your brain. The American Heart Association recommends following “Life’s Simple 7” to achieve ideal health: don’t smoke, be physically active, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy body weight, and control cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
• About 15% of strokes are heralded by a transient ischemic attack (TIA), aptly known as a “warning stroke”. People who have a TIA are more likely to have a stroke within 90 days. 1
• High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke
• Atrial fibrillation, which causes the heart to beat irregularly or rapidly, raises stroke risk up to 5 times. It’s often difficult to detect because it is sporadic and may not have symptoms. 1
• Stroke risk is 2 to 4 times higher among smokers than nonsmokers or those who have quit for more than 10 years. 1
• Exposure to secondhand smoke is a risk factor for stroke. 1
• Moderate to vigorous physical activity may reduce ischemic stroke risk by 35%.1
High Blood Pressure
• About three in every four people (77%) who have a first stroke have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. 1
• One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. 1
• Nearly 1 in 5 (17.2%) American adults with high blood pressure don’t know. 1
• Nearly half of people with high blood pressure (46%) do not have it under control. 1
• At age 50, total life expectancy is 5 years longer for someone without high blood pressure, compared to someone with it. 1
• A 10-mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number in your reading), or a 5mmHg drop in diastolic pressure (bottom number) can cut your risk of stroke death in half.13

Stroke in Women
• More women than men have strokes each year, in part because women live longer. 1
• Each year, about 425,000 U.S. women have a stroke. 1
• There are about 3.8 million women stroke survivors in the U.S.14
• More women die from stroke than from breast cancer. 1
• A woman’s risk for stroke is affected by hormonal status, pregnancy, childbirth and other gender specific risk factors. 1
• Preeclampsia doubles the risk of stroke later in life.15
• Risk factors such as high blood pressure, migraine with aura, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, depression and emotional stress are stroke risk factors that tend to be stronger or more common in women than in men. 1
• Stroke during pregnancy affects 34 pregnant women out of 100,000, compared to 21 women out of 100,000 who are not pregnant.15

Stroke in Multiculturals
• African-Americans are more impacted by stroke than any other racial group within the American population. 1
• African Americans have nearly twice the risk for a first-ever stroke than white people, and a much higher death rate from stroke. 1
• African-Americans are more likely to suffer a stroke at a younger age. Among people ages 45 to 64, African Americans are two to three times more likely to have a stroke compared to Caucasians. 1
• African-American stroke survivors are more likely to become disabled and have difficulty with activities of daily living than their white counterparts. 1
• Stroke prevalence is projected to increase the most among Hispanic men between now and 2030. 1
• Lack of English proficiency is strongly associated with lack of stroke knowledge among Hispanics. 1
• Hispanics are less likely than whites or blacks to know know stroke warning signs. 1
• Diabetes increases stroke risk at all ages. African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and other ethnic minorities bear a disproportionate burden of diabetes in the U.S.
Stroke in Children
• Estimates of the overall annual incidence of stroke in US children are 6.4 per 100 000 children (0 to 15 years), with approximately half being hemmorahgic strokes. 1
• Compared with white children, black children in the U.S. have more than 2 times the risk of stroke. 1
• Maternal health and pregnancies are normal in most perinatal stroke cases1
• Children with congenital heart disease have 19 x the risk of stroke. 1

Stroke Policy Work
• The Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act is a bill currently in Congress that would require Medicare to pay for telestroke consultations regardless of where the patient lives.
• President George H. W. Bush first declared May National Stroke Awareness Month, also known as American Stroke Month, in 1989.
• The AHA/ASA will continue to urge Congress to repeal Medicare’s harmful caps on outpatient rehabilitative therapy for all Medicare beneficiaries, including stroke survivors.
• Among other things, the AHA/ASA is also working to address inappropriate limits imposed on therapy services by private insurers, to support the Credit for Caring Act to provide a tax credit to family caregivers who are caring for stroke survivors or others with disabilities, and for policies to prevent stroke and its risk factors.
• Numerous state legislative and regulatory policy advancements have been achieved around the recognition by state health departments of all three tiers of stroke facilities and require EMS authorities in the states to develop and implement transport protocol plans for acute stroke patients. As of March 2016, 12 states and the District of Columbia have enacted these important policies.
• As of March 2016, 12 states and the District of Columbia have enacted policies across the country for the requirement of statewide stroke registries that collect nationally approved consensus measures and metrics.

Research
• The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association funds more research into cardiovascular diseases and stroke than any organization except for the federal government.
• In 2014-2015, AHA/ASA committed to funding 926 new research projects worth more than $149 million. However, we did not have the resources to fund an additional 1,121 worthy projects worth $189.6 million. This means that many scientific projects must be shelved, deferring the knowledge that would result from their completion.
• For fiscal year 2016, Congress gave the National Institutes of Health (NIH) an additional $2 billion in funding. Despite this increase, NIH invests only 1 percent of its budget on stroke research.
About the American Stroke Association
• The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat stroke. The Dallas-based association was created in 1997 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit StrokeAssociation.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Sources:
1. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2016 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=2712533; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=16874357
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11113218
4. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2015/06/26/STR.0000000000000074
5. Ad Council Stroke Continuous Tracking Results March 2016
6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24926394; http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/42/6/1697.abstract?sid=1250e75e-19df-4188-bf01-746a3a69928c
7. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db194.pdf
8. http://circoutcomes.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/04/29/CIRCOUTCOMES.113.000089.full.pdf+html
9. http://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract/24968197
10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26116854
11. AHA/ASA Stroke Discovery Research, Ad Council, 2011
12. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/preventing_stroke.htm
13. http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/65/6/1372.full
14. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/02/06/01.str.0000442009.06663.48.full.pdf+html
15. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/02/06/01.str.0000442009.06663.48

February 23, 2017 |

Make Time for Family Meals

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To Your Health

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Family Features) Juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy, modern life often come at the expense of family mealtime at home. Even though life never seems to slow down, now is the perfect time to renew your commitment to creating and serving meals at home that nourish your kids’ brains and help them flourish.13366_aPO

Not only is time together around the table an opportunity to catch up and reconnect, numerous studies provide evidence of the positive, lifelong benefits of family meals. Regular family meals are linked to the kinds of outcomes that ensure a bright future for children: higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behaviors.

For example, according to research published in the “Journal of Pediatrics,” kids and teens who share meals with their families three or more times per week are significantly less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to have eating disorders.

Other studies have shown that children who grow up sharing family meals are more likely to exhibit positive social behavior as adults, such as sharing, fairness and respect.

On the other hand, research also suggests that aside from missing out on the benefits, families that share fewer meals together can also experience adverse effects when it comes to certain risky behaviors. A study on the relationship between certain family characteristics and adolescent problem behaviors, published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health,” found that teens who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or have used an illegal drug; 2.5 times more likely to have used tobacco and 1.5 times more likely to have used alcohol.

Meal planning

Planning for family meal time can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Promoting one more family meal each week is an educational program created by the Food Marketing Institute Foundation and the nation’s grocery stores. Take the stress out of planning and preparing family meals with these tips and begin reaping the benefits of more time together around the dinner table:

  • Commit to having one additional meal with your family each week at home. It doesn’t matter whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. The benefits are the same. After a month, you may be surprised by how easily your new commitment has become a habit for the entire family.
  • Rely on the resources available at your local grocery store. Even when you don’t feel like cooking, there are countless meal-planning solutions such as pre-prepped fresh ingredients, delicious ready-made entrees and wholesome heat-and-eat dishes.
  • Make meal planning a family affair. List each family member’s favorite foods in each of the main food groups and see how many combinations you can create. Then ask your children to accompany you to the store to help select the ingredients (and use the trip for age-appropriate learning, such as comparing prices, reading labels, etc.).
  • Save time by engaging the whole family in meal preparation. Even the littlest hands can help with tasks like setting the table.
  • Set a regular meal time so you can plan other activities around it. Sit around the table, turn off the TV and put away phones and electronic devices. Keep the focus on each other.

Learn more about the positive impact regular meals at home together can have for your kids’ emotional, intellectual and physical well-being at nationalfamilymealsmonth.org.

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

 

February 22, 2017 |
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