Spring Into An Organized Home

Winter has ended, making the way for another spring. Have you thought about your spring cleaning? It’s a perfect time to get organized!

Your magazines are spilling out of the rack and onto the floor beside your sofa. Haphazard piles of paper cover your countertops, coffee table, and dining room table. You can’t see your closet floor for the collection of shoes, wire hangers, and purses. These are the telltale signs that you are due for a home organization overhaul.

“There is usually a precipitating event,” said professional organizer Sandy Wright of Memphis, Tenn. It may be as simple as ‘I have lost my keys for the last time’ or it could be a more significant event such as downsizing or a spouse saying ‘I can’t live this way anymore’.”

But many procrastinate because home organization seems like such a daunting task, Wright said.

“People see it as a looming, huge project. It’s like how do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time, but when you see the elephant it’s overwhelming,” said Wright, who has been a professional organizer since 1991.

But your life will improve once you make the commitment to getting organized. You will have more time, because you will spend less time looking for lost items, such as car keys. You will save money because you won’t waste money buying items you already had but couldn’t find. “It’s like healthy eating; this is healthy living,” Wright said. “Once you get a system the system will take care of you.”

The best – and probably the only — way to accomplish this goal is to create a written plan. Start with small jobs such as cleaning off the top of the refrigerator and work up to bigger jobs. Write down what you want to accomplish and then how you plan to do it. Break down each job into small, doable steps. Some steps may take five minutes; others may take 15 minutes; a few may take an hour. Then set aside small pockets of time to complete each part of your plan. Tackle each step and go on to the next one. Before you know it, you will have accomplished your task.

Each person’s plan will vary depending on goals and lifestyles. But there are common themes everyone should keep in mind.

One guiding theme is the saying “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Another guiding thought is the acronym SPACE, which was coined by professional organizer Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out.

S – Sort
P – Purge
A – Assign a home
C – Containerize
E – Equalize

“You ask yourself a lot of questions,” Wright said. With each item, you must ask yourself is this something I use all the time, sometimes, rarely, or never?

“If clothing doesn’t fit, it needs to be discarded rather than kept to gather dust, occupy space and possibly rot. Before an item is no longer useful, let someone else benefit from it. A good rule of thumb in maintaining clothes is ‘buy one, discard one’.” Wright said.

If it is something you never use you must decide what to do with it – throw it away, give it to charity, give to a family member or friend, or sell it in a garage sale. For things you do still use, you must decide the best place to store it. Then assign a place and, if needed, obtain proper containers for the items. Then sit back and enjoy your clutter-free environment.

A professional organizer can help you map out a plan for home organization. You may hire someone for a few hours or for several days if you want someone to help you with an “attic-to-basement” overhaul. In the Mid-South professional organizers charge anywhere from $40-$85/ hour. Most require a two-hour minimum and will usually price a flat rate for large projects.

Ask for references and interview prospective organizers. Remember this person is going to be in your house. You want to feel comfortable and have a rapport with the person you hire. The National Association of Professional Organizers Web site (www.napo.net) has an automated referral system. Sandy Wright may be reached at spwright@midsouth.rr.com or 901.647.3343.
Published: May 4, 2004
Source: Sandy Wright, National Association of Professional Organizers
Writer: Elizabeth Todd Bartholomew, MA, APR

Raising Healthy Children

Heart disease prevention should start early

Starting heart-healthy habits in children is the one of the most effective ways to help them become healthy adults.

Statistics show that more and more children are overweight, which can lead to a number of serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, the single largest cause of death in the United States.

Parents can wield enormous influence over their children’s health habits. The most important step they can take is to model a healthy lifestyle. Children learn much more by what you do rather than what you say. The American Heart Association has developed a list of recommendations to help parents. They focus on small but permanent changes rather than sudden, drastic changes. It is believed this approach is more effective than a series of short-term changes that cannot be sustained.

Get off that couch!
People must exercise regularly to lose weight and maintain weight loss. The AHA recommends that children and adolescents participate in 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

Tips for an active family:

  • Limit television viewing and computer time. These sedentary habits burn few calories and many children tend to snack during these times.
  • Go for frequent nature walks or walks around the neighborhood.
  • Ride bikes together.
  • Consider joining a community, church or school sports program. Soccer is a great sport because it is a team sport and children are constantly in motion. You don’t have to join a competitive league. Some programs focus more on skill-building.

Say no to junk food!
Eating patterns and genetics affect blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Children age 2 years and older should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily as well as a wide variety of other foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Stick with lowfat dairy products and meats, including chicken, fish and lowfat cuts of beef (round and sirloin are best).
But getting children to eat healthy foods can be easier said than done. Parents cannot force their children to eat certain foods. They should first consider their children’s likes, dislikes and eating patterns. Studies at Duke University have shown that the more parents controlled and restricted their children’s eating, the more overweight children were. Experts believe that over-management takes away from children’s ability to manage themselves. Give your children a variety of healthy food choices and remember that it’s OK to eat some foods just for pleasure every once in a while.
Parents should also give their children structure and clear expectations. Set specific meal and snack times. A child who is not allowed to eat all day long will have a better chance of growing up slimmer than a child allowed to eat constantly. A set schedule also gives a child a sense of stability.

Set some specific goals for the next couple of weeks:

  • Take a 30-minute walk with your children each day.
  • Make a grocery list that includes healthy snack foods (fruits, vegetables, cheese, yogurt). Ask your children to provide input.
  • Limit television viewing to one hour or less a day. Within that set time limit, allow your child to choose what programs to watch (as long as the content is acceptable to you).

Showing your children how to follow a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important lessons you can teach them.

Published: April 13, 2006
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Exercise Can Help Depression

Getting active may help improve your mental health

We all know regular exercise has great physical benefits, but it can have tremendous positive effects on our mental well-being, too.
Many researchers have studied exercise’s effect on the brain. Scientists hypothesize that it can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, namely beta-endorphins and serotonin. Beta-endorphins are part of the mood regulating chemicals that reduce pain and can induce a state of euphoria known as “runner’s high.” Serotonin helps the brain maintain a stabilized mood and supports good sleep patterns.

Benefits of exercise
There are three basic theories as to other reasons why exercise may alleviate depression symptoms, said Ty Tims, CSCS, MES, medical exercise specialist, Baptist Memorial Health Care.

  • Self-efficacy: “Just motivating yourself to exercise improves your self-esteem,” Tims said.
  • Mastery: If you can master a part of your life and make positive changes, that accomplishment gives you a sense of control. You can choose when, where, how and why you exercise.
  • Distraction: When you exercise, it distracts your body and mind from pain. You are doing something positive for your body. It can help you put problems in perspective.

Exercise also has other wonderful benefits. It:

  • Decreases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Reduces the effects of aging.
  • Increases energy level.
  • Improves sleep.

Before beginning any exercise program you should get a checkup with your physician and talk to your doctor about your planned exercise program, Tims said. Your doctor will consider your physical condition, medications, and other issues that may affect your exercise routine.

Then you should talk to an exercise expert to help you create an exercise plan. Ask for references from friends. Check the credentials of professionals. The American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association and the National Academy of Sports Medicine all have certification programs for health and fitness professionals. You can locate certified exercise professionals in your area by visiting these sites. (Tims’ certifications are from the NSCA and the American Academy of Health, Fitness, and Rehabilitation Professionals.)

How much do I need to exercise?

Guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • Exercise 3-5 days a week.
  • Warm up 5-10 minutes before aerobic activity.
  • Maintain your exercise intensity for 30-45 minutes.
  • Gradually decrease the intensity of your workout, then stretch to cool down during the last 5-10 minutes.

If you suffer from depression, exercise may alleviate some symptoms. However, it will not cure your condition particularly if you have more serious form of depression. Depression is an illness that requires treatment. Please seek medical help from your physician or a licensed counselor.

Published: Feb. 11, 2005
Source: Ty Tims, medical exercise specialist, Baptist Memorial Health Care; American Academy of Sports Medicine; Vanderbilt University
Writer: Beth Bartholomew, MA, APR

Time to Spring Forward: How Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Health

Not looking forward to losing an hour of sleep this weekend? Join the club. According to a recent survey by Sleepy’s, one-third of Americans say they “dread” having to turn the clock forward for Daylight Saving Time.

“The effect of DST on the brain can affect people differently,” says Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D. professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “Some people are able to take it in stride, and in today’s busy world, an hour of sleep loss can be absorbed, once our biological clock adapts to the new rhythm. But for some people who have insomnia or are otherwise sensitive to changes in their sleep regimen, the effects of DST can be profound and extend for weeks.”

We talked to experts to find out the health pros and cons of DST — and what you can do to wake up feeling fresh on Monday morning.

* According to Godwin, studies have shown that DST causes shifts in daily patterns of activity, with a tendency for activity to be extended to later in the day, when there’s more available light. This means we’re more active and generally more likely to exercise — which is obviously a very good thing.
* Some studies on the prevalence of depression have suggested reduced incidence of the blues in communities with a later sunrise, according to Godwin. “But it’s not clear whether it’s just the extra sunshine, or the things we do under the sun when we have more of it.” Either way, it’s a plus!
* Getting up for work is a bit easier. According to Tracey Marks, MD, author of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified, when we see light, we stop producing melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our sleep.
* Changing the clocks can serve as a twice-yearly reminder to check the safety equipment in your house — including changing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and updating or making a home disaster kit, according to Aaron Kalinowski, MD, a primary care physician at Wishard Health Services in Indianapolis.
* Sleep deprivation is most likely the cause of a 17 percent increase in accidents after the spring change, according to Select Comfort, makers of the Sleep Number bed. Be careful –especially if you spend a lot of time on the road or have a job that puts you in physically precarious situations.
* There is a 5 percent increase in heart attacks the first week after the time change — it’s unclear why, exactly. But messed-up sleep patterns could play a part.
* Our exposure to sunlight later in the day (and the resulting urge to engage in physical activity close to bedtime) can delay the production of the sleepy-time hormone melatonin, making it more difficult to chill out and get in snooze-mode at night.
To ease into DST, follow these tips from Nidhi Undevia, medical director of the Sleep Program at Loyola University Health System:
1. In the days before the time change, go to bed and wake up 15 minutes earlier each day.
2. Don’t nap on the Saturday before the time change
3. To help reset your internal body clock, expose yourself to sunlight in the morning as early as you can.
Happy weekend — even if it is an hour shorter!
Source: Self Magazine online, March 2011

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Nearly six million Americans suffer from heart failure and this condition kills about 300 thousand people each year.

Classified as a syndrome rather than a specific clinical diagnosis, heart failure can be thought of as several different things: either systolic dysfunction or diastolic function of the heart. With systolic dysfunction, the pumping action of the heart is not normal. Diastolic function occurs when the heart is stiffer than normal. Some cases of heart failure includes a combination of both.

Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue, sweating in your feet, and increased abdominal girth. Heart failure can be classified in terms of severity: Class I would be no symptoms at all, Class II would be symptoms with moderate exertion, Class III would be symptoms with mild exertion, and Class IV would be heart failure with symptoms at rest.

This heart syndrome can be prevented by trying to avoid the common causes of hypertension and arterial vascular disease. Treatment of these major contributors decreases the risk of heart failure.

Those who have had heart attacks are 8 to 10 times more likely to develop heart failure than the average population. Other factors that contribute to the risk of heart disease include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and sedentary lifestyles.

The Risks and Signs of Heart Disease

Talk with your physician about your risk for heart disease and learn the warning signs of a heart attack.

The best steps a woman can take to recognize the signs of a heart attack are to pay attention to her body and know the signs and symptoms. They may differ from the symptoms typically experienced by men.

“The big message is that it is not true that the only way a heart attack presents is crushing chest pain,” said Molly Dyer, manager of cardiac rehabilitation at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis.

While many people do experience the stereotypical chest pain, women may experience back pain, arm pain or extreme fatigue. “For example, if you’re used to walking your dog three times around the park and all of a sudden you can’t get halfway around, that may be a sign something is wrong,” Dyer said.

Symptoms of a heart attack for men and women may include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest
  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Other symptoms, such as shortness of breath (feeling like you can’t get enough air), breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), or feeling faint or woozy

Some women have more vague symptoms such as:

  • Unusual tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems breathing
  • Indigestion (upset stomach)
  • Anxiety (feeling uneasy or worried)

Since these symptoms are vague, how can a woman know if they are indeed signs of a heart attack? The answer: stay in tune with your body, educate yourself about the symptoms of a heart attack and visit your doctor regularly. “Regular medical follow-up and having routine physicals is important,” Dyer said.

Women who think they may be at risk for heart disease should schedule an appointment with their physician, take this information and ask these questions.

  • What are the signs of heart disease for women?
  • How can I tell if I’m having a heart attack?
  • What is my risk for heart disease?
  • What can I do to lower my risk?
  • What are my cholesterol and trigylceride levels and what should they be?
  • What is my blood pressure and what should it be?
  • What is my blood sugar level? Am I at risk for diabetes?
  • Do I need screening tests for heart disease? If so, what tests? How do I get the results?
  • What is a healthy weight for me?
  • What should I eat to keep my heart healthy?
  • What activity level is right for me?
  • How can you help me quit smoking?
  • Do I need to come back and see you?

If medication is prescribed:

  • Why was it prescribed?
  • When do I take it?
  • How much do I take?
  • Should I avoid any medications, food, or activities while taking it?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Is there a generic version of this medication? If so, should I get the brand name or the generic?
Published: January 29, 2008
Source: Molly Dyer, manager of cardiac rehabilitation at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis; and The National Women’s Health Information Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health.
Writer: Elizabeth Todd Bartholomew, MA, APR

Prevent Heart Disease

These ten lifestyle changes might save your life.

  • Don’t smoke! If you smoke and take oral contraceptives, your risk increases nearly 40 percent!
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly, and take your medication, if necessary, if prescribed by your physician.
  • Be physically active. This doesn’t mean running marathons or even 5K races. Just incorporate some moderate activity into your life.
  • Control your cholesterol levels. Studies show that women’s total cholesterol levels exceed those for men after about the age of 55, and the HDL “healthy” component lowers, making the relative risk increase.
  • Make sure saturated fat is less than 10 percent of your diet. Seek help from a dietitian if necessary.
  • Eat a variety of foods – mainly fiber-filled fruits, vegetables and grains, green leafy vegetables for folic acid. Seek foods rich in antioxidant vitamins A,C, and E.
  • Maintain near an ideal weight. The Framingham Heart Study showed that in women, being overweight increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure and death from all heart-related causes.
  • Learn to manage or reduce stress in you life. Seek stress management workshops if necessary.
  • Speak with your physician about the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy if you are past menopause.
  • Take charge of your health and create a plan to get or remain healthy.
Published: January 29, 2008
Source: VHA, a national health care provider alliance not-for-profit hospitals and non-acute health care organizations
Writer: Elizabeth Todd Bartholomew, MA, APR