Do you know what a stroke is?

A stroke happens when an artery that carries blood from the heart to the brain bursts or is blocked. This means that part of the brain does not get the blood and nutrients it needs, so it starts to die. When this happens, abilities caused by that area of the brain, like memory or muscle control, are lost. There are three main types of stroke.

Ischemic stroke is the most common. It happens when an artery in the brain is blocked, and there are two types:

  1. Embolic stroke is when a blood clot or plaque forms and moves through the arteries to the brain. Once in the brain, the clot blocks a blood vessel and leads to a stroke.
  2. Thrombotic stroke is when a blood clot forms inside an artery that takes blood to the brain. This interrupts blood flow and causes a stroke.

Hemorrhagic stroke, less common than ischemic stroke, happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and spills blood in or around the brain. There are two main types:

  1. Intracerebral hemorrhage is when a burst blood vessel bleeds into brain tissue. This causes brain cells to die and part of the brain to stop working correctly.
  2. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is when a blood vessel bursts near the surface of the brain and blood leaks in between the brain and the skull.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke, happens if an artery in the brain or one that goes to the brain is blocked for a short time. This causes temporary numbness, weakness or loss of vision, and it might cause trouble speaking or loss of balance.

Even though blood flow to the brain is only blocked for a short time – usually no more than 5 minutes, a TIA is a medical emergency and a serious warning sign that you might have a stroke.

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car seats

Kids, car seats and bulky coats don’t mix. Here’s why.

If you’re about to buckle your child into his or her car seat, think twice before you zip up that bulky winter coat.

Puffy winter clothes and coats have too much wiggle room, which can cause your child to slip out of the harness should the car stop suddenly.

Here’s how to keep your kids safe in the car, even when it’s freezing outside:

Dress your child in warm, thin materials, such as fleece.

Remove bulky clothing and blankets before putting you child in their car seat.

Adjust the harness straps to the proper height. For rear-facing seats, straps should be at or below the child’s shoulders. For forward-facing seats, straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders.

Buckle and tighten the harness straps. Place the chest clip at armpit level.

Do the “pinch test” by pinching the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, the car seat is safely buckled.

After your child is safely fastened, place a blanket or their winter coat over the car seat harness to keep them warm.

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hand washing and the flu

The power to fight the flu is in your hands

Flu season has arrived late this year, but it’s now in full swing in Kentucky.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a vaccine. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, it’s not too late! Make plans to get a flu vaccine soon.

In addition to getting vaccinated, an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of the flu is to wash your hands correctly. Hand hygiene is the single most important thing we can do to prevent the spread of infections, but unfortunately, many people don’t wash their hands correctly, or for long enough.

Here’s how to do it the right way:

How to wash

  1. Wet your hands with warm or cold water and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands, including the backs, between your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. You can sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or the “Happy Birthday” song twice to make sure that you or your children are washing for long enough.
  4. Rinse your hands well under running water.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.

When to wash

Washing your hands with soap and water at key times throughout the day is one of the most important things you can do to get rid of germs. Most of us know the basics of when to wash our hands, but there are some times when it’s is most important.

  • Before and after both preparing and eating food.
  • Before and after giving medical care of any kind.
  • After using the bathroom, changing diapers, or cleaning up after a child or pet who has used the bathroom.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • After touching garbage, or when your hands are visibly dirty.

Other tips

  • If you don’t have water or soap, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make sure that it’s at least 60 percent alcohol, and only let children use it under adult supervision.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched areas at home, work or school.
  • If possible, use a paper towel to open doors, turn faucets or even touch elevator buttons.

Next steps:

quitting smoking

11 strategies for quitting tobacco – and staying quit

It’s clear: The best possible thing you can do for your health if you’re a smoker is quit. If you’re ready to become a former smoker, these tips can help you succeed.

Set a date. Try to pick a time when temptations to smoke will be relatively low.

Make a plan. Tobacco is a serious addiction and hard to quit. But there are cessation aids available. Talk to you doctor or other healthcare providers about what might be right for you. There’s no glory in going cold turkey and making it harder on yourself.

Consider your triggers, and plan alternative responses ahead of time. Do you smoke when you’re stressed? Try meditation or start an exercise plan. If you tend to smoke after dinner, have some gum handy.

Make a list of the reasons WHY you’re quitting and reread it often. Constantly remind yourself of what’s good about not smoking. When it’s 0 degrees outside, isn’t it nice not have to stand out there to smoke?

Enjoy the benefits of quitting. Your senses of smell and taste will begin to return after you’ve quit – plan to buy yourself flowers or a lovely smelling essential oil. Or occasionally treat yourself to a small square of heart-healthy dark chocolate – just be careful not to go overboard and substitute food for smoking.

Tell someone. Ask a friend to help keep you accountable and to be there to listen when you struggle.

Prepare your environment. Go through your home, your desk and your car and remove all traces of cigarettes, lighters, matches and ashtrays. Consider cleaning the interior of your car and washing curtains, bed linens and your clothes to remove traces of smoke and make everything smell fresh.

Create new routines that don’t involve cigarettes. If you always take an afternoon break with the smoking crowd, plan for a break 30 minutes earlier and go for a walk instead. If you always smoke after dinner, plan another way to spend your time.

Likewise, get some distance from other smokers. Let your smoking friends and family know that your routine is changing and that you’d rather they not smoke around you. Anyone who tries to tempt you back into smoking doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Use the money you don’t spend on cigarettes to save up for something you want. Cigarettes are expensive; give yourself added incentive to quit by planning to use that money for something great.

If you fall down, pick yourself up and keep going. You’re not a failure if you succumb to one temptation; you’re only a failure if you stop trying. Think about what caused you to smoke and how you might avoid or handle that temptation better next time.

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6 ways to help prevent birth defects

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness of the causes and impacts of birth defects.

In the U.S., a baby is born with a birth defect every 4 ½ minutes. Birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality, and babies with birth defects have an increased risk for developing life-long physical, cognitive or social challenges.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but the chances of having a healthy baby can be increased by adopting healthy behaviors before and during pregnancy.

Here are a few things both men and women can do to prevent birth defects:

  1. Get vaccinated. Women should get both the flu shot and the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy, and become up-to-date with other vaccines before getting pregnant.
  2. Prevent insect bites. Use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside and consider avoiding travel to areas with Zika virus.
  3. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, and avoid putting a young child’s cup or pacifier in your mouth.
  4. Choose a healthy lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
  5. Avoid harmful substances. Quit smoking, avoid alcohol and do not use “street” drugs. Men also shouldn’t drink excessively.
  6. Talk to your healthcare provider. Discuss any medication you’re taking and what you can do to prevent infections and sexually transmitted diseases that might increase risk of birth defects.

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New Year's resolution exercise

How to get active and stay active this year

Resolving to exercise more or increase your fitness level is a great goal. Being active – for as little as 30 minutes five times a week – can do wonders for your overall health. In fact, exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight, and it can also help reduce high blood pressure, high blood sugar and cholesterol.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some tips to get you going:

Talk with your doctor

If you haven’t been active in a while, schedule a visit to your doctor to gauge on your overall health. Discuss any aches, pains or limitations that might impact your plans to get active. Your doctor can also assess your cardiovascular health and help you understand how and when to increase your exercise intensity.

Warm up and cool down

Aerobic exercise, such as walking or biking, is recommended for those getting started with a new routine. Your exercise session should start with a warm-up period of slow walking or low-resistance bicycling and end with a cool-down segment at similar intensity.

At the end of exercise, stretch the major muscle groups used by holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds. This can minimize injury and fatigue and increase flexibility.

Make it manageable

Begin your exercise routine with an amount of time that is manageable, something as short as a five-minute walk around the neighborhood. Once you’re comfortable exercising for that long, slowly increase the duration of your sessions.

Don’t push yourself too hard, either. You should be able to maintain a conversation at all times of exercise without experiencing breathlessness.

Embrace the cold

Starting a new exercise routine is challenging, especially when it’s cold. But if you can manage to get outside, exercising in the cold has been shown to have numerous health benefits.

Outdoor exercise is a great way take in some sunshine, which is in short supply during short winter days. Sunlight exposure in small amounts helps with vitamin D intake and can improve your mood.

The cold weather can also give you a boost of energy, allowing you to exercise longer and burn even more calories. Exercise also boosts your immunity and can help prevent bacterial and viral infections during cold and flu season.

Of course, be sure to wear proper clothing if you plan to exercise outside. Wear a base layer made from moisture-wicking fabric, add a layer of fleece and finish with a wind-proof outer layer.

Have some fun

Exercise shouldn’t be a slog, so make sure you’re doing something that you enjoy and makes you feel good. A successful start of a new routine will keep you motivated to continue and progress.

Fitness trackers and fitness apps are additional options to stay engaged and monitor progress. Enlisting a companion for exercise will add an element of support and keep the activity enjoyable.

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detox diet

Thinking of trying a detox diet to start the new year? Think again.

Written by Kira Litras, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at UK HealthCare. 

Losing weight and eating healthier are some of the most common New Year’s resolutions.

Unfortunately, these seemingly good goals can cause many people to fall prey to dieting scams touting quick fixes that involve restarting the metabolism. These are known as detox diets.

There is not one definition of a detox diet, but the most popular ones include a few days to a week of consuming only fruit juice, specialty drinks or over-the-counter supplements that claim to cleanse the body of harmful toxins ingested in the food we eat.

Why detox diets are unnecessary

Detox diets are often created and marketed by professionals without nutrition credentials. Frequently, the contents of detox supplements have either not been extensively researched or have not been approved by the FDA.

Aside from that, detox diets are unnecessary thanks to our livers. The liver is designed to withstand the toxins we ingest and excrete them in order to promote a healthy metabolism. Harmful toxins are continuously being removed from our bodies with the help of the liver.

What you can do instead

Instead of trying out a detox diet, here are some thing you can do to promote a healthy metabolism fully capable of detoxifying your body:

  • Keep a water bottle close by and drink plenty of water throughout the day to continuously cleanse the body.
  • Eat more than five different fruits and vegetables per day in order to increase antioxidant intake and combat the toxins within the body.
  • Increase fiber intake by eating whole grains, beans, lentils, avocados, and other fruits and vegetables. These will all help with bowel regularity and help the liver in eliminating toxic waste from the body.
  • Limit processed and convenience foods, which add toxins to the body.
  • Consider trying fermented foods like kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or probiotics, all of which can support gastrointestinal health by promoting good bacteria within the gut.

If you want more help developing a healthy nutrition and eating plan, contact a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are credentialed nutrition professionals who can address your nutrition-related questions and concerns.

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Try these simple tips to lower your diabetes risk for a healthier 2018

Resolving to live healthier in 2018? If you’re among the 84.1 million people in the U.S. at high risk for diabetes, resolving to lower that risk may be the best health move you could make.

Diabetes, which affects the way that our bodies process blood sugar, is a dangerous disease in itself, but it can also lead to other serious health issues – like heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in people over age 45, but more and more children and teens are affected by the disease.

While some risk factors for diabetes – like genetics or family history – can’t be changed, there is good news. Many cases of Type 2 diabetes, generally caused by being overweight or inactive, can be prevented through a few healthy changes.

Here are five tips that can reduce your diabetes risk and help you kick-start a healthy 2018:

  1. Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 minutes a day, five times a week. If that seems overwhelming, start slowly and build up to your goal.
  2. Eat a healthy diet. This should include fiber and whole grains – foods that will help you feel more full and maintain a healthy weight. Read more about how to eat here.
  3. Drink water, not soft drinks. The excess sugar found in soft drinks and other sugary drinks has been linked not only to diabetes, but also heart disease and obesity.
  4. If you smoke, try to quit. Smokers are much more likely than nonsmokers to develop diabetes. Get help quitting.
  5. Have regular health checkups. Warning signs for Type 2 diabetes can be hard to notice, so keep your appointments and talk to your doctor about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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healthy eating

Your 5-step guide for eating healthier this year

Looking to improve your health this new year? Start in the kitchen.

Adopting sustainable healthy eating habits – not short-term fad diets or unrealistic restrictions on food – can help you shed unwanted weight, reduce your risk for disease and improve your overall well-being.

The good news is you don’t have to change everything about your diet to find success.

Here are a few easy ways to start eating better today:

1. Embrace fruits and veggies.

Your mom was right: eating your fruits and vegetables is important! Plant-based diets can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Don’t know where to start? Dr. Gretchen Wells, director the UK Women’s Heart Health Program, suggests adjusting your favorite recipes to be more plant-based. They’ll still taste great, and they’ll be even healthier.

For example, trying making your chili with all beans, or prepare a stir-fry with tofu or edamame instead of chicken. Check out the rest of Dr. Wells’ tips for eating more fruits and vegetables.

2. Enjoy breakfast.

Start every day with a protein-packed healthy breakfast, such as low-fat yogurt and fruit or whole-grain cereal. Eating breakfast speeds up your metabolism and helps prevent unnecessary snacking later in the day.

3. Snack smarter.

Not all snacking is bad, however. Eating a healthy snack, such as an apple, low-fat yogurt, or pita and hummus, can help you feel full between meals and keep you from munching on unhealthy options.

4. Say so long to sugar and sodium.

Consuming too much sugar and sodium each day can increase your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.

Sodium comes from items such as breads and rolls, deli meats, pizza, cheese, pasta dishes, and condiments (like ketchup and mustard). Limit your daily sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams, which is equal to about one teaspoon.

Added sugar is found in items such as regular soft drinks and fruit drinks, candy and grain-based desserts like cakes, cookies and pies. Women should aim for no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories of added sugar each day, while men should limit themselves to no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories. Here are some simple ways to cut back on added sugar.

5. Don’t deprive yourself of the things you enjoy.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the foods and activities you love. The key is enjoying them in moderation.

For example, instead of vowing to no longer eat out, focus on choosing healthier options (such as fish or chicken instead of red meat) when you do decide to go to a restaurant.

And use the 80-20 rule when it comes to enjoying foods that might not be considered healthy. Make 80 percent of your calories healthy and leave the remaining 20 percent for your favorite treats.

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Bundle up and know the warning signs of hypothermia

It’s cold outside. Really cold. Temperatures this week have hit record lows, and there’s not much relief in the forecast.

This extreme cold causes our bodies to lose heat much faster and can even cause hypothermia, which happens when our body temperature gets below 95 degrees. Hypothermia is a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention. If untreated, it can lead to pneumonia, cardiac arrest or even death.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • The “umbles”: grumbling, mumbling, stumbling or fumbling.
  • Shivering, though shivering also means that a person’s heat regulation systems are still working.
  • Exhaustion, confusion or memory loss. These symptoms will begin gradually.
  • For infants, look for bright red, cold skin and very low energy levels.

What to wear – and do – to stay safe in cold weather:

  • Cover your face and mouth with a warm hat, scarf or mask.
  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing, with a water-resistant coat.
  • Keep your hands and feet warm with mittens or and water-resistant boots.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a big cause of hypothermia.
  • Always monitor your children. Talk to them about the dangers of cold weather and make sure they’re dressed appropriately.
  • Check on elderly or sick loved ones – it’s often harder for them to stay warm.

How to treat hypothermia:

  • Seek shelter inside immediately. Hypothermia can happen indoors, so pay attention to inside temperatures as well.
  • Remove the person’s wet clothing and cover them with dry, warm clothes or blankets.
  • Monitor the person’s temperature, and offer warm liquids that don’t contain alcohol or caffeine.
  • If a person’s temperature falls below 95 degrees, call 911 and get medical help immediately. If there’s no sign of breathing or a pulse, begin CPR.

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