All About Atrial Fibrillation

May 22nd, 2015  |  The Blog

Atrial fibrillation can be a life-changing diagnosis but not usually a life-ending diagnosis.

About 1% of the American population has been diagnosed with atrial fib. Some patients are in atrial fibrillation full-time while others bounce in and out of the irregular cardiac rhythm.

The Facts About Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is commonly referred to as A Fib, AF or atrial fib. This cardiac condition is an electrical defect in the heart. AF causes an irregular heartbeat or rhythm. It is a cardiac arrhythmia.

When this irregular heart rhythm occurs, the heart is unable to effectively pump enough blood.There are some interesting facts about atrial fib, which include:

  • Driving a car is safe when in AF, unless the patient is feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • It is safe to have an active sex life if diagnosed with AF
  • AF can occur at any age but most cases are diagnosed between 50 and 65 years old
  • Sleep apnea can trigger AF but not all patients with sleep apnea are in AF

Symptoms…

The common symptoms of AF are:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, especially when converting from a normal rhythm into or out of atrial fibrillation or those with underlying heart disease
  • Feeling like the heart is ?skipping a beat?

Diagnosis…

Most, but not all, patients can feel when they are in atrial fib. About 15% of patients are asymptomatic before diagnosis, which is usually found on an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG).

Some patients complain about vague symptoms like a change in exercise tolerance, which leads to the diagnosis.

Risks…

Being in A fib does not increase the risk of a heart attack.

Being in atrial fib does increase the risk of having a stroke. The risk is five times higher than it is for someone who has never been in atrial fib.

Treatment…

Patients in AF are prescribed blood thinners like Coumadin or Warfarin to prevent blood clots. This lowers the patient’s risk of stroke.

Other AF treatments include medications to control the heart rate because patients with the arrhythmia have a high pulse rate.

It is important to control high blood pressure and/or diabetes when in atrial fib because both of these underlying conditions also increase the risk of stroke.

Weight control is an important component of AF treatment. While there is no formal literature at this time about weight control and AF control, physicians are finding that there is a positive correlation.

A heart healthy diet is advised, which includes a diet low in:

  • Refined sugar
  • Trans fat
  • Sodium

By eating healthy, atrial fib patients also help control their blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Quitting smoking is a key component of AF treatment. Smokers have an increased risk of developing the arrhythmia and also a higher risk of stroke.

Alcohol and other stimulants like decongestants with pseudo-ephedrine also increase the risk of A fib. Caffeine should also be kept to a minimum, although recent studies do not suggest that coffee be totally avoided.

Regular exercise, not vigorous exercise, is encouraged for good heart health. Walking for ? hour every day is a great form of exercise.

Stress reduction is important. Acute stress can trigger episodes of AF. Yoga can help manage stress, which can reduce atrial fib episodes by 50%.

Atrial fibrillation is a common cardiac arrhythmia. Lifestyle changes can help to control the symptoms.

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The Risks of Tanning

May 15th, 2015  |  The Blog

Summer is fast approaching and so is the urge to get to the beach and get a tan. Skin cancer is the greatest risk created by over-exposure to the sun.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most often diagnosed cancer for Americans. Over the past thirty years, the skin cancer incidence in the US has been higher than all other cancers combined. The number of skin cancer cases is estimated to be about 5 million. Again, most of these cases are preventable.

The cost to treat skin cancer is in the US is estimated to be $8.1 million per year. About $3.3 million of that total is attributed to the treatment of melanoma.

Deaths from skin cancer are directly related to melanoma cases. There are about 63,000 cases and 9,000 deaths every year from melanoma. Unfortunately, melanoma is the most common skin cancer diagnosed among the younger population in the US, adolescents and young adults.

Risks of Tanning

Healthcare providers repeatedly warn patients about the dangers of sun tanning. The US Surgeon General, Vice Admiral (VADM) Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A, from the US Department of Health and Human Services, delivers regular warnings to the public.

Some of the risks of tanning include:

  • Premature skin aging
  • Increased risk of skin cancer
  • Potentially addictive past time

More than one in every three Americans gets sunburned every year. Sunburns signify over-exposure to UV rays. Over-exposure to UV rays causes skin cancer.

The Best Risk Reduction

It is important to note that anyone can get skin cancer. Lighter skinned people have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than those with darker skin. Skin cancer on darker skinned patients is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage, making it more challenging to treat.

Most skin cancer can be prevented. Prevention is the best way to reduce the risks associated with tanning. That is, prevent over exposure to UV rays.

Simple steps can be taken to prevent exposure:

  • Communities providing shade in common play areas
  • Outdoor workers having shade protection
  • Increased patient counseling about using sun protection by healthcare providers

Reducing the risk of exposure everyday of the year is the very best protection.

What to Eliminate

Tanning bed use increases the risk of developing skin cancer. There are ten states that currently prohibit tanning bed use for those under 18 years old.

Indoor tanning is just as delinquent in causing skin cancer as outside sun exposure. One in every three young white women engages in indoor tanning. Indoor tanning causes 400,000 cases of skin cancer every year. About 6,000 of those indoor exposure cases are melanoma.

Heightened Awareness

The Surgeon General has released a Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. The purpose of this document is to heighten the public awareness of the dangers of skin cancer. There are four sections to this document:

Section 1

  • Describes skin cancer and the risk factors
  • Explains the relationship between exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and health

Section 2

  • Describes current information about preventing skin cancer

Section 3

  • Discusses the gaps in current research and where more concentration is needed

Section 4

  • Describes specific opportunities to prevent skin cancer by reducing UV exposure
  • This sections calls for nationwide involvement to reduce skin cancer cases

Prevention

There are simple and effective ways to prevent overexposure to UV rays. They include:

  • Wear a hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Protective clothing
  • Find shade during peak exposure midday hours of sun exposure
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15+ to protect exposed skin. Reapply as needed

Combining several strategies to reduce sun exposure is the best defense to prevent skin cancer.

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12 Tips for Losing Weight Without Dieting

May 4th, 2015  |  The Blog

Continuing along the same topic as last week’s article on weight loss without dieting, here are a few more ways of losing weight without dieting. By incorporating some (or all) of these tips into everyday life, a person can lose at least 10 pounds in a year. So, what are you waiting for??

1. Try yoga

Yoga followers reportedly have a “mindful” approach to eating. They eat until full, not until their plate is empty. Self-awareness is a by-product of yoga and helps people avoid overeating.

2. Eat at home as much as possible

Eating home-prepared meals at least five days per week, according to Consumer Reports, is the “top habit of successful losers [weight loss]“. Using washed lettuce, pre-cut veggies, cooked chicken strips and other shortcuts can reduce preparation time and compliance.

3. Chew strong mint flavored gum

Strong-flavored sugarless gum can help to derail a snack attack. Chewing a strong-flavored gum while preparing dinner, socializing or watching TV can make the tempting snack food not taste great.

4. Take pause while eating

Put down the fork for a few minutes after each bite. Engage in conversation rather than quickly moving onto another bite. This allows the stomach to alert the brain that it is full and helps to avoid overeating.

5. Use smaller plates

Using a 10-inch luncheon plate, not a 12-inch dinner plate, will reduce the average intake by 100-200 calories a day. This can translate into a 10 to 20 pound weight loss in a year.

6. Alter food portions

Eat modest portion, not a full portion at every meal. Typically, Americans overeat at every meal. Make snack-sized portions for in-between treats. Do not keep full portion bags of snacks accessible, which increase the temptation to overeat.

7. Follow the 80/20% rule

This tip works both ways. Dole out 20% less food at every meal or stop eating when you are 80% full, not stuffed. Americans need to work on this because they are known to traditionally eat until they are overfull.

8. Change the rules when eating out

It is okay to place a special, less fattening order at a restaurant. Ask for salad dressing on the side, broil fish of meat, do not pan fry and skip the butter, when possible. Other “out-to-eat” tips include: split an entr?e with whomever you are dining with, order an appetizer as a meal, order from the children’s menu or have half of the meal placed in a take home container before it is delivered to the table.

9. Use red sauce

More important than using marinara sauce, avoid cream sauces like Alfredo. Tomato-based sauce has less calories and less fat. Keep the pasta under the sauce to an appropriate portion, about one cup or the size of a tennis ball.

10. Eat less meat

Vegetarian-based meals have fewer calories than meat-based meals. The high fiber content of veggie-filled meals helps to keep the calorie count down. Try bean burgers, sweet potato burgers or portabella mushroom burgers.

11. Burn an extra 100 calories every day

If you burn an extra 100 calories everyday, you will lose about 10 pounds without dieting. What activities burn 100 calories?

  • Walk one mile, about 20 minutes
  • Mow the lawn for 20 minutes
  • Pull weeds or plant some flowers for 20 minutes
  • Clean the house for 30 minutes; dusting, vacuuming, mopping the floor
  • Jog for 10 minutes

12. Reward yourself

Do not reward good and healthy activity with food. Instead, call a friend to chat, get a pedicure or buy a new outfit. Yes, every once in a great while, indulge in a very small piece of cheesecake or a home-baked cookie.

Make it easy, make it part of your daily life. Make it simple for the best success.

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Weight Loss Without Dieting

April 27th, 2015  |  The Blog

Summer is fast approaching. Most everyone has packed on a few extra pounds over the long winter months. Bariatric surgery is not the answer for everyone. The need to work on losing those extra inches of padding is certainly paramount.

There are simple and effective ways to lose weight without dieting or undergoing bariatric surgery. Here are a few ideas to work on the slim and trim body everyone wants before summer arrives:

Eat slower

If necessary, set a 20-minute timer to slow down the cadence of eating. Why eat slower? The body triggers hormones, which make a patient feel full as they eat. Smaller portions are consumed when sufficient time allows the stomach to alert the brain that it is full.

Sleep longer

Sleeping one extra hour every night can help a person lose 14 pounds in one year. There are two explanations: sleeping eliminates the idle time during which a patient unnecessarily snacks?and sleeping less than 7 hours per night naturally increases the appetite.

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

High fiber and high water content in fruits and vegetables help to satisfy the appetite with fewer calories. Serve more veggies everyday. Eat fruit for a midday snack. One other weight loss enhancer, avoid calorie-laden sauces and dressings. Instead, season the veggies with lemon juice and herbs.

Brothless soups

Avoid cream-based soups, which are high in fat and calories. Serve broth-based soup at the beginning of a meal to reduce overall calorie intake. Low sodium broth is a good base with which to start. Try minestrone, tortilla, or wonton soup.

Whole grains are best

What are whole grains? Brown rice, barley, oats, buckwheat and whole wheat are the main whole grains. They help a patient to fill up on fewer calories. An additional benefit is that whole grains can reduce cholesterol.

Keep “skinny” clothes around

Keep a favorite piece of clothing that is “just a bit too snug” in plain view for the incentive to lose those extra few pounds.

No bacon

Skipping bacon on a sandwich saves about 100 calories per serving. Replace the bacon with other flavorful fillers like tomato slices, roasted red bell peppers or another personal favorite.

Reduce sugar intake

Stop drinking sugary soda. Switch to water or zero calorie seltzer. Each switch avoids 10 teaspoons of sugar intake. Need more flavor? Add in some fresh lemon, mint or frozen strawberries.

Eat meatless pizza

Thin crust pizza reduces calories more than the thick-crust choice. Veggie pizza toppings, instead of a fat-laden meat choice, can take 100 calories off of a traditional pizza meal. Also, use less cheese or a reduced-fat cheese.

Change the shape of the glass

Everyone tends to overfill a short, wide tumbler. Instead, use a tall, skinny glass. Studies report that 25% to 30% less juice, wine or soda is consumed with the tall, skinny glass.

Limit alcohol intake

Go ahead, have an alcoholic drink. Then, follow it with a non-alcoholic, low-calorie beverage like sparkling water. This will help to reduce a patient’s overall calorie intake and fill up the consumer so snacking on chips, dips and nuts is also reduced.

Drink green tea

Green tea increases the body’s calorie burning capacity. This is a result of catechins, which are phytochemicals.

There are a few more diet-free weight loss tips and tricks to share in next week’s nursingjobs.org blog. Patients will appreciate any tips that you share with them as you travel this journey beside them. Please be sure to check next week’s blog for Weight Loss Without Dieting Part II.

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A Discussion About Concussions

April 24th, 2015  |  The Blog

Concussions are caused by impacts or sudden forces, which affect the head.

According to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), a concussion is any injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal function.

The Greatest Affects

Younger, developing brains take longer to recover from a concussion, physically and cognitively, than a mature adult brain. This trend was documented in a study that involved high school, college and professional athletes who sustained head injuries.

Treatment Plan

When a head injury and potential concussion happens, the brain is affected and so is the person?s balance, judgment and/or reaction time. These factors place the person at a greater risk for further injury.

As soon as a concussion is suspected, athletes should immediately stop playing their sport.

It is important that anyone with a suspected head injury be evaluated by a healthcare professional as soon as possible after the impact, even if they “feel okay”.

Symptoms of a Concussion

There are many different symptoms of a concussion. They can occur immediately after a head injury or in the hours or days following the head impact. The include, but are not limited to:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Balance issues
  • Light sensitivity
  • Confusion
  • Mental fogginess
  • Slowed thinking
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances-difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Drowsiness during the day
  • Irritability
  • Increased anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Depression

Concussion Management

Every concussion is managed individually, based upon a patient’s history and previous concussions.

Rest is the key component of concussion management. This holds true until the patient’s symptoms have completely cleared.

Important points in the management of a concussion:

  • No school
  • No learning
  • No screens (including computer, laptop, smartphone, TV)
  • No sports
  • Get as much sleep as possible

In essence, the best treatment is to shut the brain down and let it rest.

Getting Back Into the Swing

Slow progression back into a routine and schoolwork should start when symptoms subside. Many students start with a half-day at school and then go home to rest. Some students sit in on classes but do not participate, do homework or take any tests until they are symptom-free.

Recurrent Concussions

While recovering from a concussion, the brain is very susceptible to further injury, if the head is impacted again. This is true for the ensuing weeks and months after an initial head injury.

Second Impact Syndrome makes the athlete at greater risk of developing long-lasting symptoms. A second concussion in rapid succession can cause severe and permanent neurological disabilities and even death, in some cases. While such situations are rare, it almost always involves a young, high school athlete who returned to play too soon, while still symptomatic.

Prevention

Having a baseline cognitive test, as in an ImPACT test, on file before an athletic season begins is invaluable during the concussion recovery phase. It is important to know how someone?s healthy brain functions in comparison to his or her concussed brain function. When the brain function returns to the healthy baseline, it is an indicator that the person is healthy enough to segue back into their routine.

While the term concussion is sometimes used too frequently and often too loosely, it is a serious brain injury that demands immediate medical attention and follow through.

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The Gentle Cesarean

April 13th, 2015  |  The Blog

Cesarean sections represent 1 in 3 births in the US. C-sections are the most common surgery performed in the United States.

Some new moms that have delivered via C-section feel as though they have missed out on a very important moment in their pregnancy and have somehow failed because they could not experience a vaginal delivery. In an effort to personalize and lessen the harshness of a C-section, there is a new trend afoot to create a gentle cesarean experience.

Why Have a C-Section?

There are many reasons that a woman needs to deliver a baby via C-section instead of a vaginal delivery. Some of them include, but are not limited to:

  • Labor is not progressing fast enough
  • A life-threatening medical condition
  • Breech presentation of the baby

The decision about a C-section versus a vaginal delivery is one that is made with the guidance and expertise of a healthcare professional. The safety and wellness of both the baby and mother are taken into consideration.

Traditional C-Section

Sedation is often administered to the mom, who is actually undergoing major abdominal surgery. Most women doze on and off into a twilight sleep during a traditional C-section.

New C-section moms often feel as if they have missed the birth of their baby due to their more medical entrance into the world.

Traditionally, a sterile drape blocks the mom’s view of the operating field. She does not see the actual birth and then the newborn is whisked away at least one-half hour (30 minutes) for medical care.

The Gentle Cesarean

The changes in cesarean delivery practice are somewhat minor but they are significant for the new mom and baby. The focus is on making a C-section feel more like a birth than a major surgical procedure.

Here are some changes:

The gentle C-section allows moms, if they choose to, to watch the birth. A clear sterile drape is often used so the mom can see the baby being born.

The newborn is then immediately, before the umbilical cord is cut, placed on the mom’s chest for skin-to-skin contact. This helps to stimulate immediate bonding and breast-feeding. This is a standard procedure in most vaginal births.

The newborns often remain on the mom?s chest during the remainder of the C-section, when the wound is being closed. She can talk and bond with the newborn.

Simple changes like moving an EKG monitor from the mom’s chest to the side helps her to visualize the birth. Moms are not strapped onto the operating table. Intravenous lines are specifically placed in the non-dominant hand so the dominant hand is free to hold the baby.

Will It Catch On?

The trend towards gentle cesarean is slowly evolving. Cost is not a factor in its popularity as only minor logistical adjustments are made. The basic procedure remains the same.

Clinical studies and scientific outcomes will be the driving force for the transition from the traditional cesarean to the gentle cesarean.

It is important to note that a gentle cesarean is not a new replacement for a vaginal birth. It is a means by which a traditional and necessary cesarean section birth can be an enhanced surgical experience.

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The Timing of Organ Donation

April 6th, 2015  |  The Blog

Organ donation is truly the gift of life. This gift bypasses 18 people in the US everyday. These 18 people die while waiting for an available organ.

The Controversial Question

When should organs for donation be removed or harvested from a dying patient? There is an ongoing debate about when it is too soon to remove them versus when it is too late, rendering the organs at risk of being too damaged for successful use.

Brain Death Defined

A group of neurologists, public health clinicians, biochemists, transplant surgeons, a medical historian and an ethicist convened at Harvard University in 1968 to define brain death or a permanently nonfunctioning brain.

These points, according to the Harvard University group, define brain death:

  • No response to stimuli, such as noise or pain
  • No movement or breathing independently
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) is flat or shows no electrical activity in the brain
  • No working reflexes, such as pupils do not respond to light or no muscle movement when reflexes are tested

It is important to note that brain death is not synonymous with cardiac arrest.

The group developed criteria for irreversible coma, which later became the new criteria for death. Harvard University’s criteria and definition for death remain the standard in today’s healthcare field.

Dead Donor Rule

The definition of the Dead Donor Rule, which is the standard rule of ethics in the medical world, “forbids organs from being harvested from those who are still living”. Therefore, a patient must be brain dead in order for their organs to be harvested.

Time Limit on Harvesting Organs

Once a heart stops and there is no longer perfusion to the organs. Time is of the essence to remove the organs designated for transplant before irreversible damage is done and they are rendered useless.

Donor Decisions

A living donor is a healthy person who gives their consent to donate a kidney or a lobe of the liver while they are alive. This is an elective donation. Life, for the donor and recipient, continues forward after the organ donation and transplant.

A donation by a dying patient carries more guidelines and further discussion. A donation by a dying patient is guided by two main principles:

  • The patient’s desire to donate their organs
  • Absolute avoidance of doing any harm to the patient

According to multiple studies, there is no uniformity about organ donation from institution to institution. What are some of the differences?

  • Some institutions forbid a healthcare provider from asking a patient or a family member about organ donation until they, the patient or family member, initiate the conversation
  • The decision to hasten an inevitable death, either at a patient or family member’s request to save several transplant recipient lives, is not uniform

Organ donors, living and dying, absolutely save lives. It is a personal decision about whether or not to partake in this circle of life.

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Poof! Disappearing Fat!

March 30th, 2015  |  The Blog

Disappearing body fat is a phenomenon that everyone wants to personally witness. Where does fat actually disappear to when someone “loses” it?

Recent information published in The BMJ, previously called the British Medical Journal, explains what happens to the fat that a person burns off when they lose body fat and, ultimately, weight. The simplest explanation reveals that, when fat is “lost” or “burned off,” it undergoes a complex biochemical process. What exactly does that mean?

What is Fat?

Fat is, scientifically, called adipose tissue. The main component of human body fat is triglycerides.

When a molecule of triglyceride is burned, this is what the chemical formula looks like: C55H104O6+78O2—>55CO2+52H2O+energy.

What does this complex and perplexing chemical formula mean? Simply stated, it means that when fat is metabolized, the end result in the human body is carbon dioxide, water and energy.

CO2 versus H2O?

So, what percentage of the disappearing fat mass turns to CO2 (carbon dioxide) and what percentage turns to H2O (water)? According to the authoring scientists, Ruben Meerman (a physicist from Australia) and Andrew Brown (a researcher from the University of New South Wales), here are the estimated results:

Oxidizing 10 kilos of human fat requires a person to inhale 29 kilos of oxygen. The end result produces 28 kilos of CO2 and 11 kilos of water. So, in real terms, 84% of lost fat ends up as carbon dioxide and 16% of lost fat ends up as water.

Lost fat is exhaled. Since carbon dioxide is the most common gas in the air that we breathe, the person who is losing the weight actually exhales all that fat.

As a result, once exhaled, the CO2 helps the photosynthesis of plants and, conversely, adds to the global warming of the Earth.

Speed it Up

How can you lose more weight faster? If you exhale more CO2, you will lose more weight. That simple fact equates to the simple explanation that running will make you lose weight faster than sauntering along on a leisurely walk. This is true because you exhale more carbon dioxide when you run than when you walk.

The human body, in several ways, disposes of, the water that is produced by fat metabolism:

  • Urine
  • Sweat
  • Other bodily fluids

In the End

Some people theorize that fat metabolites turn to muscle or are evacuated in solid waste or feces. Meerman and Brown dispute this as incorrect information. According to their research, fat is just breathed away…ahhhh.

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MRSA Lurks Among Us

March 23rd, 2015  |  The Blog

Staphylococcus aureus or staph is a common bacteria, which 1 in every 3 people carry on their skin or in their nose. Usually, it does not cause medical issues for those who have staph on their skin surface. But, that said, staph does have the potential to cause serious skin infections, pneumonia or/or a blood infection in some patients.

If a patient develops a staph infection, it is most commonly and effectively treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, some staph bacteria cannot be eradicated with a typical course of antibiotics. If this is the case, it becomes known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.

Who Gets MRSA?

Patients who are most likely to get a MRSA infection especially include:

  • Those who have been or are hospitalized
  • Those who reside in a nursing home or other skilled care facility
  • Those who have been repeatedly treated for infections in the past with antibiotics
  • Patients who have a variety of medical conditions that lower their resistance to the bacteria

How is MRSA Spread?

There are several ways that a patient can become infected with MRSA, which include:

  • The bacteria can be passed from person-to-person when in contact with an infected patient
  • It can also spread from touching infected surfaces like bed rails, bed linen, bathroom fixtures and other medical equipment
  • It can be spread from the hands of caregivers who carry or have touched something or someone carrying MRSA

Treatment Options

There are less common and stronger than traditional antibiotics that can be used to treat MRSA. Some patients have had active MRSA abscesses surgically drained, followed by a full course of antibiotics.

Once discharged from an acute care setting in which an infection occurred, it is important for a MRSA patient to do the following:

  • Finish entire course of prescribed antibiotics
  • Wash hands before and after dressing changes, if applicable
  • Do not share towels or razors
  • Use hot water for laundry and bed linen washing

Prevention Tips

The greatest prevention, as for all bacteria, is hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after caring for every patient. This is important in a hospital, clinic, office or home setting.

Scrupulous cleaning of all medical equipment, according to the facility policies and procedures, is imperative.

Contact precautions should be initiated for those patients with MRSA. Some of these precautions include:

  • A single/private room or sometimes an isolation room
  • Staff and visitors must wear gown and gloves when caring for or visiting the patient
  • Terminal cleaning of an occupied room and equipment when an infected patient is discharged

Patients should be proactive and feel comfortable asking a healthcare provider, at any level of care-giving, to wash their hands if the patient has not seen them do so upon entry into an examination of hospital room.

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How to Understand Food Labels

March 16th, 2015  |  The Blog

Let’s look at some nutrition information, especially that of healthy foods. So what constitutes a healthy food choice?

It is interesting to note that, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 43% of all store-bought food items have at least one health claim in print on the packaging.

What Does It All Mean?

Here are a few of the most common health claims on the food packages found in supermarkets in the US:

With Omega-3s

Some products contain a mere 32 milligrams of healthy fat per serving. This is 1/10 the amount found in one ounce of salmon.

The better option, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) is to eat at least two servings, 3.5 ounces, cooked, per week of fatty, omega-3-rich fish like trout or salmon.

Good Source of Antioxidants

What constitutes a “good source?” According to the FDA, if a packaged food contains 10% of the recommended daily intake of vitamins A, C and E, it is a good source of antioxidants.

The better option is to consume antioxidants from natural food sources like fruits and vegetables. One small carrot contains twice as much vitamin A than a full serving of an antioxidant-enriched breakfast cereal.

Eat four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables per day to meet the suggested requirements. Make note that the more colorful the vegetables, the higher the antioxidant content.

High in Fiber

A high fiber diet, specifically natural fiber, might reduce the risk of heart disease. Some bread, energy bars and other man-made items can deliver up to 35% of the daily fiber requirement.

The better option is to eat natural fiber sources like beans, oats, berries and broccoli.

Made With Whole Grains

What is whole grain? Whole grain denotes foods that are higher in fiber, vitamins and mineral than their refined equivalent. There are many crackers, breads and cereals, which list on the package that they are “made with whole grains.”
There is no minimum content required in order to list “made with whole grains” on the packaging. Some products contain as little as 1/16th of the recommended daily intake.

The better option is to purchase only foods, which list that they are “100% whole grain.” This statement ensures that the product contains no refined flours.

Other Food Package Statements

There are some food items that list “shelf life” and “expiration dates” on the packaging. When should the consumer pay extra heed to these dates?

Eggs

The “sell by” date on an egg carton does not guarantee freshness. Eggs should be kept in refrigerator for 3 to 5 weeks, no longer.

Cereal

The “best by” date on cereals is an estimate of the duration for quality. Cereals will stay fresh and crisp for 3 months after opening, if the inner package is tightly sealed.

Apples

The best way to store red apples is by placing them in a plastic bag with a few holes poked to allow air circulation. The bag should be stored in the refrigerator. The apples should last for up to 3 weeks.

Deli meat

Unopened packages of deli meat will safely last in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, even if the “sell by” date has passed.

Bread

The “best by” date on bread is not significant. Storing a loaf of bread in the refrigerator extends bread freshness by 2 weeks.

So, there you have it, a few tips and tricks about food labeling content. The wording on food packaging is important but leaves room for consumer translation.

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