Our Health Care Tips

Five Ways to Tackle SAD

Feeling sad in the winter is no big deal. Everyone gets the blues when it starts getting dark at 4 PM and it’s so cold that you can’t step outside your door without five layers of clothing. But feeling SAD in the winter? Now that’s a whole different story.

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Six percent of the US population suffers from SAD each winter, so it is important to remember that you are not alone in your struggle.

SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder, which is a form of depression. It’s much more than just getting bummed out about it snowing during your afternoon commute on the Parkway. It is a serious mood change that stems from the lack of natural sunlight. And as we all know, Pittsburgh weather is infamous for a lack of sunlight. Symptoms can include hopelessness, appetite and sleep changes, less energy, and loss of motivation.

The long wait for spring and summer to arrive can cause SAD to develop into long-term depression. Therefore, it’s best to seek treatment as soon as you feel the symptoms creep into your life. Luckily, there are several ways to fight back, most of which have a high success rate in patients.

1. Light therapy
Light therapy boxes which mimic outdoor light are the most common treatment for SAD. Typically, it is best to begin using them in the fall or early winter before the onset of symptoms. Doctors recommend to use a light for 30 minutes each morning to stimulate your body. Symptoms should begin to improve in three to four weeks.

2. Antidepressants
While you do have to see your doctor for this step, it can be one of the most effective treatments. People usually start to feel better within one to three weeks of taking medicine. Antidepressants are usually combined with light therapy for the most effective results.

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Pittsburgh suffers from heavy cloud coverage approximately 56% of the time, so it’s understandable that you may be suffering from a lack of sunlight.

3. Eating healthy
As if you didn’t know, but eating better can help you feel better! Be sure to take in a well-balanced diet that is packed with energy giving fruits and vegetables. Avoid cramming in extra carbohydrates like bread or pasta, as these deflate your energy levels. Balance your protein and fiber levels to keep your body running smoothly.

4. Exercise
Physical activity boosts your metabolism, which in turn increases your energy levels. Completing moderate activity for at least two hours a week or vigorous activity for at least one hour a week is the recommended amount. Focus on weight training twice a week as this will make you stronger and able to complete more workouts.

5. Counseling
Sometimes, all you really need is to talk to someone and get your feelings out. Speaking with a friend or a professional therapist who knows and understands the symptoms of SAD can help alleviate depression symptoms. Choose to be around people that are caring and respectful of your situation and who will assist you in managing your outlook.

There’s no need to be sad or SAD. Don’t let the winter blues get you down; try out these doctor-approved treatments today to start noticing a difference in your mood.

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5 Common Misconceptions About the Flu

Flu

Don’t let the flu destroy you this season – get a flu shot!

Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is in the midst of an unyielding attack against humanity. Even as you read this, the virus is embedding itself in your family and friends, murdering their healthy cells and using them to reproduce its own genetic material. It won’t be long before the virus catches on to you, and you too become a fellow fallen comrade, drenched in sickness and weary with fever.

Luckily, there is a way to put a stop to this genocidal influenza invasion – a flu shot.

There are a lot of common misconceptions about this magical elixir, probably the biggest of which is that it is a magical elixir. In actuality, a flu shot is a combination of antibodies that have been grown in egg protein. It is these antibodies that help your body create its own protection against the virus.

Here are five more common misconceptions about the flu shot that you should know about before going under the needle.

1. Flu shots can give you the flu.
Unfortunately for the haters, this fact is simply not true. According for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the flu vaccine contains viruses that have been inactivated and are not infectious. Therefore, there is no possible way to contract the illness from the shot itself.

2. If you get a flu shot, you can’t get the flu. 
As with all things human-made, there is always a chance of error. There will never be a foolproof flu shot because it is too difficult to predict every strain of flu virus that will be circulating during the flu season. In addition, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies to develop in your body, which means you could contract the flu during this period.

Vaccination.

A magical elixir? Nah, it’s just the flu shot.

3. The flu can’t kill you. 
Oh really? As of January 4, 2014, the 2013-2014 flu season has killed six people in the state of Pennsylvania alone. During the 2012-2013 season, 200 people were killed in Pennsylvania. In 2010-2011, there were 90. People more at risk for complications include pregnant women, older adults, and young children.

4. You only get the flu in the winter. 
While the high peak of influenza infections does occur in January or February, the actual flu season lasts from October to September. This means you have a chance to catch the flu at any point during the year. During May 2011, there were 67 confirmed cases of flu in Pennsylvania. Numbers were also palpable in the summer, with 15 cases in June and four in July.

5. Only old or sick people die from the flu. 
There are a high number of elderly and chronically ill patients who succumb to the clutches of the flu; however, these do not account for all flu deaths. Three people between the ages of 25 and 49 have already died this year in Pennsylvania. In 2012-2013, two people ages 10 to 18 and 15 people ages 25 to 49 died.

Now that you know more about the flu, you are ready to enter the battlefield. Keep your sword held high and remember to use a flu shot as your shield.

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A Note Regarding Winter Car Preparation from the Gallagher Safety Committee

1134106_55523763It is imperative to make sure you car is in good condition for the winter months. Getting stranded in the middle of nowhere in the midst of a snowstorm is not only unpleasant, but also extremely dangerous.

There are over 6,300,000 vehicle crashes each year, and 24 percent of these stem from weather-related incidents. Overall, that equates to 629,300 people injured and 7,130 people killed due to adverse road conditions.

While some of these incidents may not have been preventable, there are certainly many that needn’t have happened if the drivers had simply taken a little more care. Follow these simple tips to ensure your travels are safe this winter season:

–          Check the battery

–          Check the mileage/date since your last oil change

–          Check other fluids

–          Check wiper blades

–          Check tires

–          Check belts

–          Check the alternator, starter, brakes, heater, defroster, and exhaust system

–          Keep the gas tank full

–          Allow time to scrape

–          Add weight in trunk

–          Keep a flashlight in the car

–          Keep extra clothing in the trunk

–          Bring a small shovel and mat

–          Charge your cell phone

Click here to learn more about the precautions you should be taking before wintry weather hits. Remember to stay safe!

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Seniors at Risk for Frostbite and Hypothermia

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Prolonged walks out in wintry conditions are not recommended.

As temperatures plunge, one demographic that needs to take extra precautions is the elderly. Older people have a much higher risk of contracting frostbite or hypothermia than a healthy adult. It is estimated the nearly 600 elderly people die from hypothermia each year in the United States.

Seniors are more susceptible to cold-related illnesses because they produce less body heat due to a slowing metabolism and have a decrease in physical activity and muscle mass. In addition, many seniors have heart and thyroid problems or take certain medications which increase the risk of hypothermia.

Luckily, if caught early enough, both frostbite and hypothermia are treatable conditions. If left untreated, however, they can lead to permanent damage, amputation, or even death. It is important to know and understand the warning signs of each condition and what actions to take.

Victims of hypothermia typically suffer from shivering and exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech, memory loss, and drowsiness. The body temperature may dip below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, at which case it is a serious emergency.

Frostbite symptoms include pain and redness in the affected extremity which turns to white or grayish-yellow after prolonged exposure to cold. The skin will feel unusually firm or waxy and will eventually go numb.

Often victims must be told they have frostbite as they have no feeling in the area and do not realize it. It can take as little as 30 minutes for serious frostbite to occur, so it is important to limit time outside.

Hypothermia and frostbite are both medical emergencies which must be treated and evaluated by a health care professional. If you do not have access to immediate medical assistance, luckily the treatment for both issues is the same – get the body warm.

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As silly as it looks, this man’s hat and turtleneck protect him from the cold.

Bring the affected person inside and immediately begin to warm them using a lukewarm bath or an electric blanket. Hot beverages help in the case of hypothermia and body heat is most effective in the case of frostbite. Never rub or massage a frostbitten area, as this causes more damage.

In order for the elderly to escape these conditions, it is imperative to make sure they are properly clothed. Seniors should wear gear that covers all skin and have many layers to protect from wind-chill or wetness.

In addition, it is important to eat a healthy diet to ensure your body is functioning at an optimal level. Avoid alcohol, as this causes your body to lose heat more rapidly. Lastly, ensure that your home is heated and insulated from the cold.

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Winter Slips and Falls Prevention Tips from the Gallagher Safety Committee

1135434_11624450Unfortunately, 1.6 million older adults visit the emergency room every year due to a fall-related injury, a statistic which spikes during the winter months. Icy and slick conditions are dangerous for everyone and can catch even the spriest person off-guard.

It is seniors that need to be the most aware, however, as they are the demographic that is most at risk to fall. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for people age 75 and older.

Luckily, there are many different ways to prepare yourself for this type of weather. Taking precautions against black ice is one of the most important steps. Follow these tips to protect yourself when the weather gets rough:

–          Test the area with you foot before you step

–          Take small steps

–          Avoid moving fast

–          Pay attention to walking and avoid distractions

–          Take a detour if possible

–          Wear appropriate footwear

–          Wear ice cleats over your footwear

Click here to learn more about the precautions you should be taking when wintry weather hits. Remember to stay safe!

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