Ways to avoid the flu

If you have to cough or sneeze, make sure you do it into the crook of your elbow or a facial tissue, and not into your hands. Dispose of the tissue in a wastebasket immediately.

When you wash your hands, it’s important to scrub them for 20 seconds, the mechanical action and time spent scrubbing will help reduce the number of bacterial and viral particles on your hands.
The flu virus is spread by droplets associated with coughing. It’s also spread by direct contact with sick people and surfaces that have been contaminated by sick people.

The flu is a hardy virus, and can survive on hard surfaces and doorknobs up to 24 hours. One of the most common ways to catch the flu is to touch your face after you touch an infected surface such as a desktop, doorknob, computer keyboard or smart phone.

So, pay attention and focus on not touching the inner part of your eyes, nose or mouth as a primary way to reduce your risk of contracting the flu.

Healthy Holiday Eating

Try these tips to make meals healthier without sacrificing taste or fun:

Swap ingredients for healthier options. Cutting calories and saturated fat won’t make your meal less flavorful. In fact, it’s likely no one will taste the difference. In baked goods, instead of butter, stick margarine, or shortening, use softer tub options. Cut sugar in side dishes by leaving off sweet toppings like marshmallows or whipped cream. Replace white bread with whole grain or wheat bread or white rice with brown rice.

Keep portion sizes healthy. Heaping platters of food can make people want to eat large portions or take seconds. To decrease overeating, use smaller plates, serving utensils, or bowls. Serve a buffet-style dinner on a separate table, so guests have to get up for seconds. Offer take-home containers, so guests don’t feel they have to eat everything “now.”

Create active after-dinner traditions. Instead of taking a nap, do something to burn off extra calories and promote family fun. Play a family game of touch football, or take an after-dinner walk.

Healthier Eating Helps You Live Longer

No surprise here: people who follow healthy diets tend to lead longer, healthier lives. But most of the studies backing this assertion compared people who ate well to people who didn’t. Does changing your own diet over many years make much of a difference?

In a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that it did. People who added in some wholesome foods over time—even if they didn’t necessarily commit to making over their entire way of eating—improved their chances of living longer.

Researchers looked at data from the same group of people over 12 years to see if those who changed their diet for better or for worse—either by eating more healthy foods or more unhealthy foods—lived longer or died earlier than those who didn’t change what they ate.

The study involved more than 73,700 men and women enrolled in two long-term health studies. People were asked to record their typical diet at the start of the study, then to fill out food questionnaires every four years for 12 years after that. The researchers then scored the diets by ranking the healthfulness of food components including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, red meat, fish and dairy, as well as things like sugar-sweetened beverages. Using the reports, researchers were able to gauge how much of a person’s eating habits changed over time.

People who said they ate more healthy foods over time had a lower risk of dying during the study period. The more healthy foods people added to their diet, the lower their risk. It worked the other way, too. Those who ate more unhealthy foods over time saw their risk of dying during the study go up.

The good news is that adding in any amount of healthy foods may help lower the risk of early death. Improving diet by just 20% was linked to a 8-17% lower risk of premature death. (Eating 20% more of unhealthy foods, in contrast, contributed to a 6-12% increased risk in death.)

Even cleaning up one meal a day seems to help. Swapping out one serving of red or processed meat a day with healthier nuts or legumes was linked to any where from an 8% to 17% drop in the risk of premature death.

Is Sleep Important?

Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.

Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Whether you’re learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.

Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.

Daytime Performance and Safety

Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.

After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.

Lack of sleep also may lead to microsleep. Microsleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake.

You can’t control microsleep, and you might not be aware of it. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and then not remembered part of the trip? If so, you may have experienced microsleep.

Even if you’re not driving, microsleep can affect how you function. If you’re listening to a lecture, for example, you might miss some of the information or feel like you don’t understand the point. In reality, though, you may have slept through part of the lecture and not been aware of it.

Some people aren’t aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. In fact, they may not even realize that they’re sleep deficient. Even with limited or poor-quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well.

For example, drowsy drivers may feel capable of driving. Yet, studies show that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability as much as, or more than, being drunk. It’s estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.

Drivers aren’t the only ones affected by sleep deficiency. It can affect people in all lines of work, including health care workers, pilots, students, lawyers, mechanics, and assembly line workers.

As a result, sleep deficiency is not only harmful on a personal level, but it also can cause large-scale damage. For example, sleep deficiency has played a role in human errors linked to tragic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships, and aviation accidents.

Knowing Your Blood Sugar Numbers

Why do I need to know my blood sugar numbers?

Your blood sugar numbers show how well your diabetes is managed. And managing your diabetes means that you have less chance of having serious health problems, such as kidney disease and vision loss.

As you check your blood sugar, you can see what makes your numbers go up and down. For example, you may see that when you are stressed or eat certain foods, your numbers go up. And, you may see that when you take your medicine and are active, your numbers go down. This information lets you know what is working for you and what needs to change.

How is blood sugar measured?

There are two ways to measure blood sugar.

  • Blood sugar checks that you do yourself. These tell you what your blood sugar level is at the time you test.
  • The A1C (A-one-C) is a test done in a lab or at your provider’s office. This test tells you your average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months.

How do I check my blood sugar?

You use a blood glucose meter to check your blood sugar. This device uses a small drop of blood from your finger to measure your blood sugar level. You can get the meter and supplies in a drug store or by mail.

Read the directions that come with your meter to learn how to check your blood sugar. Your health care team also can show you how to use your meter. Write the date, time, and result of the test in your blood sugar record. Take your blood sugar record and meter to each visit and talk about your results with your health care team.

What are target blood sugar levels for people with diabetes?

A target is something that you aim for or try to reach. Your health care team may also use the term goal. People with diabetes have blood sugar targets that they try to reach at different times of the day. These targets are:

  • Right before your meal: 80 to 130
  • Two hours after the start of the meal: Below 180

Talk with your health care team about what blood sugar numbers are right for you.