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Healthy Living: CDC closer to answers on mysterious illness, AFM

We expect to learn more soon about a rare and mysterious illness affecting kids across the country.

We’re learning more about Acute Flaccid Myelitis , or AFM.  It’s a serious, and rare condition that resembles polio.  This year the Centers for Disease Control says there have been nine confirmed cases in Washington state.  Although we still don’t know what’s causing AFM, a team of experts are getting closer to some answers.

AFM affects the spinal cord and causes limb weakness and even paralysis.  What we know, according to the latest update from the CDC is most patients who have AFM had a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before contracting the condition.  What doctors don’t know is why some people get AFM from a virus and others don’t.

AFM has been reported in 46 states.  With nine confirmed cases, Washington state is on the higher end.  Only Colorado, Texas and Ohio have more cases.  The CDC says more than ninety-percent of the AFM cases are in children.

Right now, the CDC is gathering a task force, working to find possible risk factors and causes for AFM.  Important answers may come down to finding a pathogen or germ in the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord.

While we wait for results, their message to the public and health care providers is to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of AFM and report it to state health departments.

AFM cases have been showing up nationwide since 2014.  Although people are hearing more about the mysterious illness this year, 2016 actually had more cases than what we’re seeing currently.

If you’d like to read more about AFM and follow the latest update from the CDC, click here

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8 Surprising Health Benefits of Music

Upbeat songs get our toes tapping. Sad songs can reduce us to tears. But music has many more powerful effects on the body you might not even realize. Here are eight surprising health benefits of music.

1. Keeps your brain young

Just like reps in the gym exercise your body, music trains the brain, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool,” a Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist says. “It provides a total brain workout.”

For optimal benefits, keep expanding your music library as you age, instead of constantly listening to your old favorites. Unlike familiar songs, new music forces the brain to work to understand it. And this helps you maintain an active, creative mind.

2. Helps you recall memories

Have you ever heard an old song and flashed back to a specific moment in your youth? Recalling memories is much easier for your brain if there’s a song attached to them. “Reach for familiar music, especially if it stems from the same time period that you are trying to recall,” Johns Hopkins says. “Listening to the Beatles might bring you back to the first moment you laid eyes on your spouse, for instance.”

This recall boost can be especially helpful for people with dementia. “Because the ability to engage with music remains intact late into the disease process, music therapy can help to evoke memories, reduce agitation, assist communication, and improve physical coordination,” according to Harvard Medical School.

3. Reduces chronic pain and depression

woman relaxing and listening to music with headphonesCredit: shironosov/Getty Images

Listening to music has the ability to reduce chronic pain and depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. Researchers divided 60 people into three groups: one that listened to their favorite music, one that listened to songs the study provided and a control group. The participants had various conditions, including arthritis and disc problems, that caused them chronic pain.

At the end of the trial, the music groups reported their pain had fallen by up to 21 percent, compared to an increase in pain of 1 to 2 percent for the control group. And the music groups reported up to 25 percent less depression than the control group. Thus, the researchers concluded listening to music can help people cope with chronic pain.

4. Lessens stress

Many people turn to their favorite tunes to relieve stress. And science has found that’s a pretty good idea. One study gave 60 healthy women a psychosocial stress test after they either listened to music, listened to the sound of rippling water or rested in silence. The researchers found the participants who listened to music experienced a faster physical recovery from the stress compared to the other groups.

Furthermore, similar research has found people undergoing medical procedures experience less anxiety and discomfort when they listen to music, according to Harvard Medical School. Consequently, they have less of a need for sedatives and painkillers.

5. Restores speech

Music therapy is an important tool for people who experience damage — such as a stroke or an injury — to the left-brain region responsible for speech. “Because singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody,” according to Harvard Medical School.

Both the melody and rhythm of music seem to help promote speech, research has found. In fact, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords used this technique to relearn how to speak after she was shot in the head.

6. Aids patients undergoing cancer therapies

Just like music can help patients manage pain and stress of medical procedures, it also can help those undergoing cancer treatments. “Listening to music reduces anxiety associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” according to Harvard Medical School. “It can also quell nausea and vomiting for patients receiving chemotherapy.”

A review of studies on cancer patients also found music is effective at lessening pain, as well as fatigue. Plus, it can reduce recovery and hospitalization time and improve patients’ quality of life.

7. Enhances exercise and physical therapy

A woman runs on a treadmill listening to music on her headphones.Credit: vgajic/Getty Images

Have you ever skipped a workout because you forgot your headphones and couldn’t listen to your music? You’re not alone. Many people swear by music while they exercise — and for good reason. “Most people have an instinct to synchronize their movements and expressions with music,” according to Scientific American. And this rhythmic movement can help the body to use energy more efficiently. In fact, one study on cyclists found those who kept pace with music used less oxygen than cyclists who did not.

Plus, because of its effects on the body, music can help those undergoing physical therapy. “Music therapy enhances people’s physical, psychological, cognitive, and emotional functioning during physical rehabilitation programs,” according to Harvard Medical School.

8. Improves heart health

A good song can warm your heart in more ways than you might realize. Music can actually change your brain chemistry, resulting in cardiovascular benefits, according to Harvard Medical School. Studies have found listening to music can relax arteries to improve blood vessel function. Plus, after physical exertion, music can more rapidly return your heart rate and blood pressure back to baseline levels.

And don’t fret if you have a very specific taste in music. “Research suggests that patient-selected music shows more beneficial effects than music chosen by someone else,” Harvard Medical School says. So listen to whatever you’re in the mood for, and let your heart sing its praises.

Main image credit: bluebird13/Getty Images

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Health calendar: Updated Dec. 8, 2018 | Health Living

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Healthy Living: The definition of heroism

In ancient societies and cultures, the hero was an individual who, dissatisfied with the current situation, felt there must be something more or better to life. So, they abandoned the comfort of their current place to endure life-threatening hardships and deadly obstacles, risking everything to return with new awareness or knowledge to enrich the collective life of the community.

As a member of an immigrant family, I see my parents as fitting this definition of heroism. In an age when great steamships were still used for transportation between continents, my mom loaded a smaller version of me, my sister and a trunk with our every worldly possession onto a big boat and traversed the globe on a courageous search for a better life.

Even though my mother, Elizebeth Skender, passed on after a stoic fight with colon cancer almost 20 years ago, her strength of spirit, self-sacrifice and kind values is the example of healthy behaviour that guides me on my wellness journey.

She is my hero and her spirit still shines bright like a sun, especially on the more dimly lit days.

In terms of mental wellness, we all need tangible reference points of character and behaviour to emulate during times of hardship and inner turmoil.

Rather than conjure up the usual suspects when we think of heroes: pro athletes, musicians, actors, or even famous writers, real heroes and heroic behaviour are lot less glamorous but a lot easier to identify with.

Self-sacrifice, courage and kindness are qualities that make up a hero. Someone who can shows us, no matter how difficult life gets, there is a possibility for a better place, emotionally and physically.

The single mom who sacrifices her own basic needs for her children’s happiness and well-being, the volunteers in our town who quietly give thousands of hours so community enriching events seamlessly happen. Or, even, the high school student who gets to school daily despite persistence social anxiety or other discouraging, invisible obstacles.

Currently, a group of Hondurans are now walking, without vehicles, from Honduras through Mexico toward the United States. Men, women and children walking over two thousand kilometers for the purpose of leaving extreme poverty and one of the most dangerous places on earth, to give their children a better, safer life. To me, that defines heroism.

The plight of refugees all around the globe have various causes: war, famine, environmental and climate disaster, but the common thread with all the situations is heroism and courage.

Your hero could be a loved one who is still with you in spirit, people in faraway places walking great distances to escape violence and suffering, or our locals friends who put the community’s needs before their own.

Acts of heroism surround us everywhere. We just have to choose to see them.

Robert Skender is a Powell River freelance writer and health commentator.

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Mapping health: barriers to healthy living, from a woman’s perspective

Pins on a map of Australia

Women’s Centre for Health Matters will be mapping ACT services that can help women eat healthy and be active.

We all know we should eat healthy and get regular exercise. We know this because governments and the community sector spend a lot of time and money telling us this. We know they care about our community’s average waistline and fitness because of the relationship between BMI and preventable disease. But putting it all into practice as individuals is not that easy. Especially at this time of year.

Women’s Centre for Health Matters (WCHM) recently published Physical activity and healthy eating promotion to ACT women: A guide to getting it right. The research behind the report included interviews and focus groups with 52 ACT women aged 18 to 64 years old, talking about what works and what doesn’t in health promotion. On Wednesday 12 December, WCHM will host a MapJam event to map services in the ACT that can help women eat healthy and be active, with a focus on free or low-cost services.

A key finding is that the majority of women know that they should eat healthy and be active, they want to be healthy, and they are trying to do the right things. But it’s not always easy, and they would appreciate some constructive advice on how to achieve their goals rather than just messaging that reinforces the importance of healthy behaviours. In the words of women who participated in the WCHM research:

“We all know we need to eat healthy and exercise. Okay. We’re not dumb. We know this.”

“The formula is simple, but the activation of it is hard.”

Women told WCHM that they value healthy behaviours because of the impact it has on their ability to live a full and happy life, doing all the things they need to do:

“… for me, it’s about endurance. It’s about being physically and mentally healthy because I can’t afford to break.”

It will come as no surprise that one of the biggest barriers to women eating healthy and being physically active is time. When women spend all their time juggling paid work, caring responsibilities, and domestic tasks, there just isn’t enough time left for them to meal plan or prepare healthy food, or to get the exercise they want and need. Other barriers include affordability, safety in public spaces or in carparks outside gyms and sports centres, and the fear of judgement or feelings of shame around their body and knowing how to do the activities.

“I guess from a women’s perspective, I don’t feel safe on my own at night-time running through the suburbs or walking even…”

Making exercise a social activity helps women to continue the habit.

“There’s a real community with whatever sport you do. Even running, which you think of as a solitary sport, there’s still a running community. Being able to do something with friends.”

Healthy eating is also easier when it’s shared with family and friends.

“… my partner and I enjoy eating healthy. We have set cooking nights and we plan and go to the markets, it’s social as well, we get coffee and walk around. It’s nice …”

These healthy habits become a part of some women’s identity, something that they want to do for intrinsic reasons because it’s part of who they are.

“For me, it’s like a basis of who I am. When I am unable to be physically active because (of) illness or injury or constraints on my time at work or obligations, it feels like a part of my life is being sacrificed and it’s degrading and it’s the foundation of who I am. It’s part of my identity. That’s what it means to me, it’s part of how I engage with the world.”

Women who had healthy eating habits growing up also found it easier to maintain or return to healthy eating habits as adults. Other women found innovative ways to develop new skills:

“Two years ago I had a mum friend who just couldn’t get organised. And so I’d go in … and just help her declutter. And she would help me with recipes … ‘Look I’m crap in the kitchen. Show me some skills, man’ … Bounce off a buddy.”

To find out more about effective health promotion to ACT women, read the report from Women’s Centre for Health Matters, or come to the MapJam.

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Health news that might surprise you | Healthy Living |

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Healthy Living With TAU: A very filling vegetable soup

Too Many Requests

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Top 10 Foods to Eat if You Have Depression

If you’re like most people suffering from depression, it is just too easy to reach for all the comfort foods. Sadly, most of these foods only aggravate this serious condition. And, while we know that foods like sweets, harmful fats and caffeinated beverages can aggravate the symptoms of depression, few people know the foods that can help heal depression or reduce the severity of symptoms.

There are many excellent foods to choose if you suffer from depression, but here are my top 10 picks:


Magnesium is critical for the production and proper functioning of mood-regulating serotonin, yet most people are deficient in this essential mineral. There are many excellent sources of magnesium, including many of the foods that follow, but almonds are among the best. Enjoy raw, unsalted almonds on a daily basis to help restore your magnesium levels.


Whether you enjoy black beans, chickpeas, lentils, navy beans or another type of legumes, you’ll want to add more of these foods to your diet. That’s because beans are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates which are needed in sufficient amounts to manufacture brain hormones known as neurotransmitters. Try to get at least one-half cup of beans daily. You can enjoy them atop a salad, added to soups or wraps, or blended with some herbs and a touch of sea salt for a delicious dip.


Organic green soybeans are an excellent source of many of the B complex vitamins needed for sufficient brain energy, including: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and pyridoxine (vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6, respectively).

Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil

Essential fatty acids are necessary to treat depression as they are required to create healthy brain cells and are also involved in regulating neurotransmitters—the brain hormones that balance mood. While there are many hormones linked to regulating mood, essential fatty acids are needed for two of the main mood-regulating hormones—serotonin and oxytocin. Both ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are good source of essential fatty acids. Two tablespoons daily of flax oil can be helpful if you’re suffering from depression. You can drizzle flax oil over baked sweet potatoes or vegetables, organic popcorn or blend some into smoothies.


If you’re eating a high protein diet or if your diet lacks whole grains like oats and oatmeal, you may be deficient in the building blocks to make important the important neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain—a natural chemical that helps regulate mood. Enjoy a breakfast of cooked whole oats with a sprinkling of ground flaxseeds, a sprinkle of cinnamon and some stevia instead of the sugar-laden packaged options.


A staple of the ancient Incas who revered it as sacred, quinoa is not a grain like most people think. It’s actually the seed of an herb. As a result, it is a complete protein that is also high in nutrients like magnesium, B-vitamins and fiber. Magnesium is nature’s relaxant that can help people deal with stress-induced depression. B complex vitamins increase the energy available to brain cells to ensure they can function properly. And fiber helps to regulate blood sugar to ensure a constant supply of energy for brain functions, including the manufacture of hormones needed to regulate depression.


Three cups of raw spinach contains over 40 percent of the daily folate (vitamin B9) needed to help restore balanced moods and sufficient brain cell energy. That might sound like a lot but it’s about the size of a medium- to large-sized salad.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds (the raw, unsalted variety) are among the best food sources of pantothenic acid, an integral nutrient needed to help the body’s stress glands, the adrenal glands, deal with stress. Depression, on its own, is a severe stressor to the body but often other stresses precede episodes of depression, so it’s good to restore the body’s ability to handle stress. One ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds contains about 20 percent of the body’s normal pantothenic acid needs. However, people suffering from chronic stress may need more. Enjoy the seeds as a snack or atop salads, creamy soups or stews, or as a delicious addition to stir fries and vegetable dishes.

Wild Salmon

Few foods contain vitamin D, which is actually a hormone based on its function in the body; however, wild salmon is an excellent source.  A typical 3.5 ounce (100 grams) serving of wild salmon contains 988 IU of vitamin D. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts studied a group of post-menopausal women for a possible correlation between vitamin D and the symptoms of depression. They found that the lower the levels of vitamin D the women had, the more likely they were to experience symptoms of depression.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Cancer-Proof: All Natural Solutions for Cancer Prevention and HealingFollow her work.

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East Park Elementary learns the importance of healthy eating through pop up market

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – WVU Extension, Mountaineer Food Bank and East Park Elementary joined forces to help not only eliminate food insecurities, but present a hands-on lesson on the importance of healthy living for students at a young age.

“Our mission is to feed the hungry in West Virginia. We realize that there is a correlation between food insecurity and also rates of obesity, so we want to promote the healthy, fresh options and provide those as well. Food insecurity is our main mission, so we are actually tackling both of those.” stated Lauren Phillips, Mountaineer Food Bank worker.

Students met in the gym and were rewarded with their own green bag to pick produce for the ‘Kid’s Pop Up Shop’ at East Park Elementary.

” A child getting excited about things that are health at an early age makes them more likely to eat them. We spend a lot of time making unhealthy food exciting like cupcakes and pizza and those sort of things, so our goal is to present healthy foods and the most fun and exciting way possible so the kids are excited to see them. They get to pick them themselves.” said Lauren Prinzo, Marion County Family and Community Developement agent at WVU Extension Service.

With help from a ‘DTE Energy’ grant, each child will able to take home seven to ten pounds of produce for free each month, as students themselves learned the importance of agriculture and healthy living. 

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Peace Ahuchama

Sugarcane is one of the most popular juicy plants in the world, especially in tropical countries. It is very good for health and can be used to make delicious dishes, sweet porridge, smoothies, and juices.

Sugarcane is sweet and provides essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Incidentally, most people just know about sugarcane as a delicious drink but are ignorant of its magical health

Below are the benefits:

Prevent tooth decay: Due to its high content of minerals, sugarcane juice can help to prevent tooth decay and
limit bad breath. Therefore, after eating meals, you just eat a piece of sugarcane as a healthy dessert to improve your breath and to avoid tooth decay.

Help to relieve flu and sore throat: Drinking one glass of sugarcane juice on a regular basis can help you stay
away from illnesses, such as sore throats, colds, and flu. If you are suffering from one of these problems, the sugar cane juice is an effective remedy for you.

READ ALSO: Echo Lab to bridge gap in medical diagnosis

Help treat jaundice: Sugar cane juice is considered a natural medicine to cure jaundice and is recommended
for people with this condition. If you drink two glasses of sugar cane juice with lemon and salt on a regular basis,
it will help the recovery process. It also provides a lot of energy, helping you stay energetic throughout the day!

Provide antioxidants: Sugarcane juice is a rich source of flavonoids and phenolic compounds. Flavonoids
are known as an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-allergic substance. Therefore, when you are expose to the sun and feel tired, you should drink a glass of sugarcane juice. It will cool and lower your body heat immediately and re-energise you.

Although sugarcane juice has many health benefits, make sure you drink it from a clean source.

Improve the immune system: Sugar cane contains high levels of calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc. Vitamins contained in sugar cane are also very diverse, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5 and Vitamin B6, and some natural nutrients, such as chlorophyll, antioxidants, protein, fiber, and other unsaturated compounds, which are good for health.

Moisturise the body: Sugarcane is a delicious drink for you in hot summer days, especially when your throat is
dry due to the high body heat and over sweating. Drink a glass of sugarcane juice in hot summer days can help to keep your body hydrated effectively. In fact, this is also one of the most common benefits of sugar cane juice that people should make use of.

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