Monday, July 27, 2015


Sharing some secrets to better health

One of my favorite pastimes is visiting bookstores, especially used bookstores. All sorts of literary gems are just waiting to be discovered. One treasure I found recently was entitled, "100 Simple Secrets of Healthy People." Author David Niven, Ph.D. is a psychologist and social scientist. He has amassed 100 essential ways that we can become healthier and happier, gleaned from research conducted on average Americans.

A few of the secrets really caught my eye. For example, No. 2 is "The quest for a perfect body is doomed." I couldn't agree more. Seeking a healthier lifestyle is inherently good, but trying to achieve the perfect body only sets us up for failure. Niven advises, "Seek a healthy body that functions, not a perfect body fit for a display case."

"Hostility hurts you" is No. 71. It seems obvious that positive connections between people contribute to mental and physical well-being, while negative feelings are a source of mental and physical strain. Philosophy professor Sam Keen suggests, “Maybe real men should eat quiche — they might live longer.” He argues for a male makeover that replaces violence, materialism, and power with peace, spirituality and cooperation. Brown Medical School researchers found that people with high levels of hostility were 6 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease. When I told my husband that statistic, he said, "Only 6 percent? I'll just stay hostile."

No. 98 is interesting: “Vegetables Will Taste Better in the Future.” Plants protect themselves from being eaten by secreting bitter-tasting toxins like phenols, flavonoids and isoflavones, which are good for us in small amounts. According to a University of Washington study, our taste buds change with age, including a declining sensitivity to bitterness, making many healthy foods more appealing as we get older. Eight in ten older people reported an increased preference for green vegetables, whole-grains, and bitter fruits like grapefruits and lemons.

That’s good news about aging as we all head in that direction.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, July 20, 2015


How to lose weight — and celebrate your success

It’s very hard work to lose weight, as many of us are well aware. Between Jazzercise and Thin’s In, in the past 6 months I have lost 35 pounds, with six more to lose to reach my goal weight.

This morning I found a pair of pants in the back of my closet that I have not been able to squeeze into until now. When I reached into the pocket, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a folded up and forgotten $20 bill. Bonanza! I took that as a reward for the hard work of weight loss.

That reminded me of Dianne Rubin, owner of Thin’s In weight loss program. Dianne has a few rules that everyone on the program must abide by for successful weight loss. One of them is not to reward yourself with food each time you reach a milestone. Celebrating with a big bowl of double chocolate ice cream is not the appropriate reward, no matter how delicious it would be. To some, buying a new pair of shoes would be a reward for reaching a milestone. Perhaps tickets to the latest movie or concert is a good reward for others.

Another rule is never to eat in front of the TV — all meals and snacks must be consumed sitting at the table — and not in front of the computer, either. This would result in mindless eating and subsequent over-eating. Sitting at the table encourages one to focus on the food, conversation with others, and making the dining experience more mindful and pleasant.

The key to good nutrition is balance and portion control. On June 2, 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack released the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate. It’s an easy to understand icon — a dinner plate — that emphasizes the balance of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy groups we all need to eat every day. My dietitian friends all agree: diets that eliminate an entire food group are foolish, like the current fad that eliminates all dairy and carbohydrates for 30 days. For a wealth of information about MyPlate, healthy eating on a budget, and more, visit

Exercise is a crucial component for good health, regardless of weight. I enjoy the camaraderie of Jazzercise, where we all move and dance and sweat together for an hour. The fun we have is a bonus, and it keeps us coming back. Friends who do Zumba or attend Yoga classes say the same thing.

One tip I have learned is the value of teaming up with a friend or family member. Joining forces with a buddy is similar to a support group dynamic. More importantly, when your enthusiasm lags, you will summon the energy to honor your commitment to meet and exercise together because you won’t want to disappoint your buddy.

When I reach my next milestone I will have to check all of the pants in my closet to see if there are any more forgotten $20 bills in the pockets.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Summer is the time to get schooled on sun safety

School may be out, but it’s time to brush up on your skin ABC's in sun safety summer school!

The American Academy of Dermatology reports that 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetimes. They recommend using the ABCDE's of melanoma to monitor for problems and catch skin cancer in the early stages when it can be more easily treated. If you have a mole or other skin lesion it is important to keep an eye on it over the summer.

A for Asymmetry: Is the mole the same on one side as it is on the other or is it uneven? Asymmetry can be a sign of a cancerous lesion.

B for Border: Does is have a well defined border or is the border fuzzy or unclear? Lack of a defined border can be indicative of a malignant condition.

C for Color: Is the mole or spot all one color or does it have numerous shades of brown, black, tan, red, or white? Cancerous lesions can be many different shades.

D for Diameter: How big is the mole or lesion? Malignant lesions are often 6 mm or bigger although they can also be smaller when diagnosed.

E for Evolving: Most importantly do you notice any changes in the lesion? This can include size, shape, color, bleeding, itching, and any other differences you may notice. Moles or lesions that change over time can be a sign of a problem.

If you do notice one or more of the signs above, or if you have concerns, it is important to make an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible. Many malignant skin conditions can be treated. However, treatment is typically easier the earlier the problem is detected.

Visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s website to print a user friendly body mole map that allows you to keep track of lesions and moles over time.

Prevention is key. The easiest way to prevent skin cancer is to practice smart sun safety. This means wearing sunscreen everyday and reapplying frequently, especially after swimming or sweating. Do not forget easy to miss places such as the top of your ears and your hands and feet. Bald men need to protect the scalp. In addition, wear a hat and sunglasses for added protection for your face and eyes.

Sun safety summer school is officially out of session —— you now have your homework to help you have a happy and healthy summer in the sunshine!

Katelyn Cusmano is a Backus Hospital Volunteer and a UConn Medical School MD Candidate for the class of 2018. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Cusmano or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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