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Oh, My Aching Eyes

  • Written by Kerri W. Scarbrough, OD
School is back in swing again, and eyestrain is often close behind. During the summer children’s vision doesn’t have to be subjected to the endurance tests that come with long hours in the classroom, computer use, homework, and less sleep.

Eyestrain in technical terms is called asthenopia, or vague symptoms of eye discomfort. The history is very important in these cases.  Children experiencing eyestrain may complain of headaches, double vision, watery eyes, light sensitivity, seeing spots, or falling asleep while reading. Some relief can be found by closing one eye, laying the head down while reading, or turning the head to the side, effectively blocking the vision in one eye. This keeps the eyes from having to coordinate their movements.  Signs and symptoms such as these should prompt parents to make an appointment for a thorough eye examination.

Vision has two parts:  clarity and comfort. Vision may be clear but not comfortable and effortless. During an examination the doctor will not only check the clarity of the vision for 20/20 in each eye, but will also test eye coordination. Covering and uncovering the eyes, measuring depth perception, looking for a head turn or tilt, measuring eye drift, observing a chin lift or depression, or seeing squinting are all means of detecting adaptations to eyestrain. Attention spans can be directly related to the amount of effort it takes for a child to read or perform near activities. If a child is uncomfortable, no amount of coercion can generate increased effort.

Often eyestrain in children or adults is eased quickly and effectively with appropriate glasses.  Because the visual demand increases up close, glasses are usually needed only for reading or computer.  Sometimes bifocals are prescribed so one does not have to remove the glasses for mixed-distance activities. Wearing glasses does not increase a person’s dependence on glasses or change the ultimate need for them in the future. The ideal situation is that the sufferer reaches for the glasses before the onset of a headache or eyestrain rather than waiting until he is miserable.

Ergonomic changes such as increased lighting, better posture, eye lubrication, and print quality and size can make substantial differences in overall visual load.Be prepared with samples of difficult tasks. For accuracy ask someone else measure the working distance from the computer or the book and bring that information to the eye examination.

Eye exercises, too, can in some cases ease eyestrain, but only as long as they are done properly.The easiest thing to do is 20/20/20 — every twenty minutes take a twenty second break by looking 20 feet away. This can eliminate eyestrain and discomfort in many cases. Also moving the body around, shrugging the shoulders and blinking the eyes several times can break up the lactic acid which accumulates in muscles held stationary too long.

Eyestrain can be difficult to pin down but once addressed can bring great relief and increased stamina. Get a thorough eye examination, address ergonomic challenges, wear lenses specifically geared toward the cause of the eyestrain and many happier work hours are in store for you.

Kerri W. Scarbrough, OD is the owner and doctor at Eagle Eye Vision Care in Woodinville.

Dinner makes a difference in fighting childhood obesity

  • Written by ARA
13608_B226_rgbAs families have gotten busier, traditional mealtimes have become more of a novelty than a necessity. While careers and activities keep many away from the family dinner, missing those meals is leaving more of an impact than many suspect.

While many acknowledge that sitting down to eat creates family bonds and opens lines of communication, many don’t realize that missing those meals can contribute to childhood obesity.

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that more than a third of U.S. adults are obese. Perhaps more alarming is that the number of obese children has tripled in the past 30 years, to 17 percent. Because of all of the associated health risks of obesity, it is possible that the current generation of children may be the first generation whose life expectancy will not be greater than their parents.

"In terms of healthy eating habits, family meals are one of the most powerful tools available. Research has consistently shown that children and adolescents who eat more family meals are less likely to be overweight or obese. In addition, children who eat dinner with their families consume more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t," says Sherry Rieder, Ph.D., an obesity expert and assistant professor in Argosy University’s College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences online programs. "If children learn about realistic food portions and healthy food options from a young age at family dinnertime, they are more likely to carry these habits with them into adulthood."

In addition, regular and routine family meals add needed structure to a child’s day. "In my family, we have a designated dinner time," says Victoria Hooker, assistant director of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Dallas, a branch of South University. "There’s no snacking before dinner, which means I know my family will be ready to fill up on a good meal as opposed to eating junk food. Family meal time is something parents can do now to fight childhood obesity. What’s best is that they can do it without any outside advice or help."

Rieder agrees and adds, "Getting kids involved in preparing food is a great way to teach them about healthy and balanced eating. Children are far more likely to eat food that they helped prepare — so get them to help prepare vegetables. Focus on consuming fruits and vegetables whenever possible and avoid sweetened drinks like sodas and juices."

For busy families who may not have much time to cook, a little planning can go a long way. "Even if the whole family cannot sit down at one time, eating home made meals is often a better alternative than eating take out food," says Rieder. "One trick is to try to stock up on some easy-to-prepare meals at home for those evenings when everyone is running late and feeling the stress of a long day. Another alternative is to prepare extra portions when cooking meals and freeze half."

When you simply can’t be home for dinner, Hooker advises families to plan and pack food ahead of time. "With today’s busy lifestyles, it is almost impossible to eat at home seven days a week, but families can make it a priority to eat at home five nights a week. When you do have to eat on the run, make healthy choices. Institute family rules like fried food only once a week," she says.

Are everyday activities costing you your hearing?

  • Written by ARA
 What have you done today to damage your hearing? You might think that you haven’t done anything that would put you at risk, but a surprising number of everyday situations and common actions can have a lasting impact on your ability to hear. Being aware of the damage you can do to your hearing every day is essential — when you know where the risks lie, you can take action to prevent or mitigate further harm.

Renewed concerns about hearing loss arose with a 2010 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed increased incidence of damage in young people. While some were quick to attribute that trend to loud music and listening to it on headphones, other risks in our environment can accumulate and result in gradual hearing loss.

The National Institutes of Health says that noises louder than 85 decibels can damage your hearing. Since many common activities fall into that dangerous range, it’s important to equip yourself with protection. Starkey, a leader in hearing technology, offers protection products that allow you to enjoy fun activities and get the necessary tasks done without putting your hearing in jeopardy.

Consider these activities that most people are exposed to, and which can pose a risk:

• Mowing the lawn. At 90 decibels, this simple chore could be taking a toll on your hearing. It’s important to not simply shrug it off as something that you’ve always done. Wear hearing protection like over-ear headphones to muffle the sound and keep it to a lower level.

13617_B17_rgb• Listening to headphones. While it’s not the only factor in hearing loss, listening to loud music on your headphones definitely poses a risk, as noise levels can easily ring in at 100 decibels. Parents should talk to children and teens about appropriate volume levels and instill good habits for listening to music.

• Sporting events. Indoor or outdoor, the cheering, rousing fight songs and play-by-play announcements add up to a very noisy environment, sometimes nearing 100 decibels. For anyone attending a sporting event, wearing hearing protection, like ear plugs, is important. If your kids are joining in on the fun, it’s essential that they wear appropriately-sized ear plugs.

• Concerts. With sound levels often reaching 120 decibels, rock concerts can have a serious effect on your hearing - in fact, according to the hearing experts at Starkey, at those sound levels, there’s potential for damage in just seven minutes. You should always bring hearing protection to concerts, and if your kids and teens want to go, start teaching them early on that there’s nothing uncool about wearing ear plugs to protect their hearing.

As hearing impairment starts showing up in younger generations, it means that they will have to live longer with the problems it causes. Those with damaged hearing might feel the effects in different ways; it can have an impact on learning, work performance, earning power and social interactions.

Because hearing loss is often cumulative, building up over the years, it’s important to start preventing damage as soon as possible. Using hearing protection products like those from Starkey, you don’t need to completely avoid the fun, noisy activities that can be a problem. By wearing ear plugs, keeping the volume down and protecting yourself, you’ll be able to keep on enjoying life for years to come.

Sports physicals & back to school health

  • Written by Dr. Elizabeth Thybulle & Dr. Lanika Buchanan
The new school year is coming up soon and so are those required sports physicals. School sports are an exciting opportunity to grow mentally, physically and emotionally. Be sure your student is in the best health to start the year and ready to compete in their chosen activity. Fall sports like football, soccer, swim/dive, tennis, golf, cross country and volleyball often start practice early so getting in before school starts is best. Winter and spring sports also need physicals and it may be easier to get them done in the summer. Winter brings basketball, wrestling, swim/dive and gymnastics, while spring has track, baseball, soccer, tennis and golf.

Each of these sports has different physical requirements necessitating more specific nutritional needs. Whether you are feeding a line backer or a golfer you want to be sure you are giving them the correct balance of goodies. Healthy eating for athletes includes foods in their natural form such as fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, lean meats, nuts, seeds and beans. Limit the junk and sugary foods and be sure they get plenty of good old plain water.

Quality performance also means getting plenty of rest and mental down time. Sorry kids, this does not include video games! Here’s a bit of information you might find interesting regarding sleep. Pre-teens require about 10-12 hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8½-9½ hours. They tend not to meet their needs due to demanding schedules filled with school, homework, friends, activities, sports, and jobs. That and the fact they just don’t want to go to bed. Because of the demands on their time they are often chronically sleep deprived. If your child misses one hour of sleep each night it will add up to an entire night of missed sleep by the end of the week. This is a really big deal because the ability to pay attention in school is decreased along with diminished athletic performance, decreased response time and poor short-term memory. A tired teen behind the wheel is also much more likely to smash up your car. (Arrgh!)

Now a bit about the immune system. Protect against those nasty buggies now before it’s too late! A good quality multiple vitamin is a start but alone can’t stand up to the viral soup that most schools have become.

In the Pacific Northwest it is usually a good idea to supplement additional vitamin D and vitamin C for an extra boost.

You may also want to consider high quality fish oil supplements as they contain essential fatty acids which help reduce fatigue and improve memory, immunity, dry skin, mood swings and poor circulation.

At Health Moves we focus on overall support during a sports physical with activity- specific dietary advice and nutritional support for those growing, maturing bodies and brains. We turn simple sports physicals into an opportunity to learn about optimal health. Our naturopathic doctors look forward to seeing your junior high to college age student soon.

 

Dr. Thybulle is a Naturopathic Doctor & Dr. Lanika Buchanan is a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist.

Health Moves 17311 135th Ave NE Ste. C-800 Woodinville, www.HealthMoves.org

Focus on: Aging and eldercare

  • Written by Marla Beck

As people age, issues arise … maybe it’s health, mobility or mental acuity. Each of us knows someone who is aging … maybe it’s our parents, a friend, or a spouse. Each month in this column, I will address issues facing our aging family members and friends.

This month, we’ll look at balancing care and living options with a loved one’s quality of life.

Our No. 1 concern is an aging person’s health and safety. Inquire how they are feeling; be concerned about their socialization. Determine if they are eating properly. Maybe they are feeling lonely and isolated; this can lead to depression. If you are observing significant changes, schedule a checkup from a qualified senior-health specialist.

Ask your loved one if they are open to considering help at home or a change in living status. In-home caregivers can be a perfect fit. Good nutrition, a clean house and friendship can greatly improve an elder person’s attitude and joy in living.

A reputable care agency will fully screen caregivers’ backgrounds and qualifications before placing them in a vulnerable person’s home. Ask the in-home agency to carefully match their caregiver to your mom’s personality and needs. Caregivers are employees of the agency; they should be bonded and insured. Long-term care insurance and the VA can cover costs of in-home caregivers.

Otherwise, it is private-pay. Services range from $25 to $30 per hour.

If you directly hire caregivers, they become your employees. Background checks are an absolute must.

Medicare and insurance plans cover some in-home services when under a physician’s directive.

If able to get out, community-sponsored adult day programs and senior-center activities (often low or no-cost) provide socialization.

In King County, the Access Bus program provides door-to-door, affordable transportation for qualifying seniors.

Independent-living retirement communities, continuing-care retirement communities, assisted-living and adult family homes may or may not fit your loved one’s current needs. Levels of mobility and mental agility are determining factors; as are financial resources. Monthly fees range from $2,000 to $8,000 and more. If you think your loved one might outlive their resources and would transition to state aid, be sure the community you choose accepts people on state aid.

Independent-living retirement communities and continuing-care retirement communities have dining rooms, housekeeping and offer a community of friends. Always take a tour and have a meal. Speak with residents and their families. Drop in unexpectedly to see what goes on day-to-day. Fees vary with the size of the living space, level of services and meal options. Be sure to read the fine print. Keep in mind: Independent living communities do not provide medical services, whereas assisted living and continuing-care retirement communities do.

Which option is most appropriate for your loved one depends on their health, mobility, mental acuity, financial resources and personal wishes.

About Marla Beck – Marla Beck is the founder and president of Andelcare – a provider of personalized in-home care. Beck and her staff enrich lives by enabling seniors to stay independent and in the comfort of their own homes. www.andelcare.com Reach Marla at (206) 838-1844 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.