Choose your Way to Participate in Earth Day!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated each year on April 22nd. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. This observance arose from an interest in gathering national support for environmental issues. 

Earth Day’s campaign for 2017 is Environmental & Climate Literacy. Goals include advancing environmental and climate laws and policies and accelerating green technologies and jobs. This day aims to engage a larger group of citizens to participate in environmental activism, community engagement, civic involvement, and green mobilization.

Two specific activities have been planned and materials created so that groups across the country can easily set up Earth Day celebrations in their local communities. There is a short description of each below, and you can find additional detail and all the related materials on the Earth Day Network website.

  • Teach-ins
    The featured event idea for Earth Day 2017 is a teach-in. Teach-ins will educate your community about environmental issues and empower your community to take informed civic action to protect the environment.
  • Earth Day in a box
    Earth Day Network has created this toolkit so that environmentally-minded citizens can create change in their communities by organizing and coordinating Earth Day events in their local neighborhoods.
One of the most common practices of celebration year after year is to plant new trees for Earth Day. Planting trees helps reduce pollution, increase biodiversity and avoid the loss of species It also helps our cities move toward reduction of the use of fossil fuel and closer to becoming 100% renewable.

The list of activities that can be done to support the cause, however, is nearly endless and there are activities for people of all ages and abilities. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking… 

  • Plant a vegetable garden
  • Plant wildflowers
  • Help pick up litter along a roadway, public park or shoreline
  • Donate to a charity that helps protect the environment
  • Participate in or organize a community clean-up day
  • Return hangers to the cleaners
  • Donate clothing and computers to charities
  • Pack lunches in reusable containers instead of bags
  • Fix a leaky water faucet to conserve water
  • Use natural, non-toxic cleaners

Many of the concepts of Earth Day may sound obvious to the older generation where much of this behavior was common practice when they were young. Reusing is not a new idea. Seniors will remind us that they never threw away anything that could be re-purposed by themselves or someone they knew. Hand me down clothes, furniture, and other household items was a way of life. This thought process is regaining support with the "reduce-reuse-recycle" mantra that is promoted today.

Behaviors encouraged on Earth Day should be carried out every day to improve our environment for generations to come. After you’ve finished your contributions on this year’s Earth Day on April 22nd, take a moment to enjoy the beauty of the Earth we share. Whatever you choose to do - go outside! Enjoy the fresh air, walk on the grass in your bare feet, and commune with nature!

To learn more about what is happening in your community, attend a local Earth Day event. Some nearby towns are hosting a variety of interesting activities including composting classes, backyard chicken keeping, backyard goat keeping and organic bee keeping. There is a lot of information online but here are a couple of links to get you started:

Are You in the Medication Predicament?

If so we may have some tips to help you. There are many reasons for mistakes in taking your medications on time; it’s rarely intentional. Here are several common causes: 

  • Vision Difficulties: You may not be able to read the small print on labels or distinguish between pills can lead to potentially dangerous mistakes. Ask your pharmacist for medication labels in larger print. Carefully take the time to look at what you’re taking – don’t grab a bottle and assume it is what you think it is.
  • Memory Loss: If you suffer from memory loss, it is easy to understand that you may simply forget to take your medications, or potentially you may take your medicine on time, then forget you took it and then take it again. In either case – skipping a dose or taking an overdose – could cause potential harm. Use a pill organizer for your medicine for a week at a time that is very helpful so that you can see at any point in time what you’ve taken and what is left. 
  • Swallowing Problems: If you have trouble swallowing a tablet or capsule due to health conditions, do NOT try to chew, crush, break or mix the tablet or capsule in food or drink. This can make the medicine ineffective because it may be released too quickly into your system. Instead, ask your doctor or pharmacist for if a liquid form is available. 
  • Hearing Loss: Hearing problems can make it difficult to understand instructions that the doctor or pharmacist is saying. If this is an issue for you, ask for instructions in writing or take someone with you to be a second set of ears. Also, if you have a hearing aid, make sure you wear it!
  • Understand the Medication & Follow Directions: Find out as much as possible about every medication – the name, dosage, frequency and side effects. See why it has been prescribed and ask the doctor to write down instructions for its use. Once you understand and have your questions answered, make sure to follow the instructions exactly and finish the entire prescription if instructed to do so.
  • Make a List of All Medications: Keep a detailed list of all your medications and dosing information including the drug name, dosage and any special instructions from your doctor or pharmacist. Carry a copy of this list with you.  In the event of a drug interaction or overdose, this record will be invaluable. Share the files with your doctors. Also, use the same pharmacy to fill all your prescriptions and ask the pharmacist to check for possible drug interactions.
  • Associate Taking Your Pills with Another Daily Activity: Try taking your pills at the same time each day — right before you read the morning paper, at the start of your favorite TV program, when you brush your teeth, or maybe with the same meal if taking them with food is recommended.

Some drugs are taken with food, while others took on an empty stomach. Medications can keep you healthy and extend your life when taken correctly. Determining the best method for staying on schedule may take some trial and error, but with a little determination, you can take charge of the situation. As allows consult your doctor, healthcare professional or pharmacist for assistance and clarification.

Mental Health Tips to Keep Your Brain Healthy

Mental health is an immense concern with increasing cases of Alzheimer’s in the news almost daily. It is now the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s, however, is not the only disease that robs individuals of their mental capacity. There are other forms of dementia that affect millions of seniors every day. Some decline in mental abilities, particularly memory, is normal and expected as we age, but be aware of changes in yourself or others regarding mental sharpness and seek help if there are significant signs of a problem.

Dementia is essentially the deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior, and the ability to perform daily functions. While not all forms of dementia can be halted, the mental health of older adults can undoubtedly be improved via exercise, diet, social engagement and other activities. There are lots of things you can do to help keep your brain healthy. This list from Harvard Health Publications from the Harvard Medical School is a fantastic guideline.

  • Get mental stimulation - Read, take courses, try "mental gymnastics," such as word puzzles or math problems Experiment with things that require manual dexterity as well as mental effort, such as drawing, painting, and other crafts.
  • Get physical exercise - Exercise spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells. Exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, fights diabetes, and reduces mental stress, all of which can help your brain as well as your heart.
  • Improve your diet - Keep your calories in check. Reduced caloric intake has been linked to a lower risk of mental decline in old age. Eat the right foods. That means reducing your consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol from animal sources and of trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Remember your B’s. Three B vitamins, folic acid, B6, and B12, can help lower your homocysteine levels, high levels of which have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Fortified cereal, other grains, and leafy green vegetables are good sources of B vitamins.
  • Improve your blood pressure - Use lifestyle modification to keep your pressure as low as possible. Stay lean, exercise regularly, limit your alcohol to two drinks a day, reduce stress, and eat right.
  • Improve your blood sugar - Diabetes is an important risk factor for dementia. You can fight diabetes by eating right, exercising regularly, and staying lean. But if your blood sugar stays high, you'll need medication to achieve good control.
  • Improve your cholesterol - High levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol increase the risk of dementia, as do low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Diet, exercise, weight control, and avoiding tobacco will go a long way toward improving your cholesterol levels. If you need more help, ask your doctor about medication.
  • Consider low-dose aspirin - Observational studies suggest that long-term use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce the risk of dementia by 10%–55%. It's hopeful information, but it's preliminary. Experts are not ready to recommend aspirin specifically for dementia.
  • Avoid tobacco – Avoid tobacco in all its forms
  • Don’t abuse alcohol - Excessive drinking is a major risk factor for dementia. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to two drinks a day. But if you use alcohol responsibly, you may actually reduce your risk of dementia. At least five studies have linked low-dose alcohol with a reduced risk of dementia in older adults.
  • Care for your emotions - People who are anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived, or exhausted tend to score poorly on cognitive function tests. Poor scores don't necessarily predict an increased risk of cognitive decline in old age, but good mental health and restful sleep are certainly important goals.
  • Protect your head - You may be surprised to learn that moderate to severe head injuries early in life increase the risk of cognitive impairment in old age. Concussions increase risk by a factor of 10.
  • Build social networks - strong social ties have been associated with lower blood pressure and longer life expectancies.

Other important suggestions include getting plenty of rest, ideally eight hours per night, and picking up a new hobby, which can help increase brain activity and keep you sharp.Supporting mental health also involves creating living conditions and environments that stimulate well-being and enable healthy, independent lifestyles.

If you’re interested in specific ideas on how to implement the advice above, Review the article Brain Power: 100 Ways to Keep Your Mind Healthy and Fit, by the Open Education Database.

Act Fast to Prevent a Stroke

According to Stroke.org Nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. experience a stroke each year, and someone dies from a stroke every four minutes. A stroke is a lack of blood flow to the brain caused by a clot or rupture of a blood vessel resulting in sudden brain damage. Fortunately, knowing the signs of stroke, how to prevent it, and how to help others around you, just might save a life. May is Stroke Awareness Month, so please education yourself on the symptoms and help raise awareness.

Somewhat surprisingly, strokes can happen to anyone, at any time, at any age. During National Stroke Awareness Month you are encouraged to watch this video to learn more about the impact of stroke, learn stroke symptoms and what to do if you spot them. Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented – *IF symptoms are recognized quickly and the person is immediately taken to a place where appropriate medical care can be provided.

Common stroke symptoms:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you see someone experiencing any of these symptoms, or if you are experiencing them yourself, call 911 immediately. Appropriate treatment is more effective if given quickly. Per the Stroke.org website, an easy way to help remember the symptoms of stroke and what to do, is to learn the Face, Arms, Speech Test, otherwise known as FAST.

 F = FACE: ask the person to smile

 Do both sides of the face move equally? (Normal) 

 Or does one side of the face not move at all? (Abnormal)

 A = ARM: ask the person to raise both arms

 Do both arms move equally? (Normal) 

 Or does one arm drift downward compared to the other? (Abnormal)

 S = SPEECH: ask the person to speak a simple sentence

 Does the person use correct words with no slurring? (Normal) 

 Or do they slur their speech, use inappropriate words or cannot speak at all? (Abnormal)

 T = TIME: call 911

 If you observe any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

 Every minute matters!

As mentioned, many strokes are preventable if you pay attention to pre-existing medical conditions and control lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. The National Stroke Association recommends the following stroke prevention guidelines.

  • Know your blood pressure
  • Find out if you have atrial fibrillation – a type of irregular heartbeat
  • If you smoke, stop
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
  • Find out if you have high cholesterol
  • If you are diabetic, follow you doctor’s recommendation carefully to control your diabetes
  • Incorporate physical activity that you enjoy into your daily routine
  • Enjoy a low-sodium (salt) and low-fat diet
  • Ask your healthcare professional if you have circulation problems

Some stroke victims make a full recovery while others suffer from long-term effects in various degrees. There are several types of treatments available that will help victims improve their wellness post-stroke and become as active as possible, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and recreational therapy. Learn more at stroke.org

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