Six Tips for Starting a Backyard Garden

Six Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden

June is National Fruit and Vegetable Month

One of the best steps you can make for improving your diet is to increase your regular consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables. Not only are fruits and veggies loaded with the kinds of healthy nutrients and minerals that aren’t as readily available from pre-packaged, overly processed alternatives, but they can be low on calories and high on taste. Whether you don’t have easy access to a local farmer’s market, organic grocery options, or you simply want to indulge your green thumb, in recognition of National Fruit and Vegetable Month, we’re providing six tips for starting a backyard garden.

  • Start Small. Walk before you run. Resist the urge to start growing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs by starting with just one or two plants to get some experience under your (green) belt. Tomato plants, for examples, are forgiving, making them an excellent choice for beginners and offering versatile culinary options. If space is an option for your garden, consider vining plants, such as green beans and peas, to make use of your available vertical space.
  • Choose a Location for Your Garden. You may be tempted to place your garden where you feel it will add the most significant aesthetic to your backyard, but set your fruits and veggies up for success by choosing the best location for their needs. Most vegetable and fruit plants require at least five hours of direct sunlight daily, while herbs and root vegetables will grow in partial shade. If you need help understanding the different light and water needs of individual plants, talk to an expert at your local nursery.
  • Build Raised Beds. Depending on the size available to you in your backyard or patio, build raised beds for your plants. Raised beds create a physical barrier that protects your plants from weeds and keeps food and moisture dedicated to your crops. Click here to watch an instructional video on how to build a raised garden bed.
  • Feed Your Organic Garden with Organic Matter. Keep your garden and yourself healthy by avoiding harsh chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and growth agents. While mineral nutrients such as agricultural lime, rock phosphate, and greensand can be added to your garden more safely the chemicals, the best fertilizer is organic matter, such as compost, manure, coffee grounds, and shredded leaves.
  • Water Wisely. If you start with seeds, know that they should never be dried out, so make time to water your plants daily. As your plants grow, they will need less water, but don’t think you can rely on Mother Nature alone. The amount of water your fruits and vegetables need will depend on rainfall, humidity, and soil. Clay soil, for example, dries out more quickly than sandy soil and will require more regular watering. Make sure you understand the unique needs of the plants you selected and accommodate them accordingly.
  • Rotate Your Crops. If you’re successful (and you will be!), you’ll find plants you enjoy cultivating and that you are confident growing year after year. Once you are committed to a seasonal cyclicality, plan to rotate your crops. Only plant the same crop in the same soil (or box) once every three years for best results.

Regularly eating healthy fruits and vegetables has been linked to improved health, while gardening has been proven to be a healthy, mood-boosting hobby. By embracing National Fruits and Vegetable Month this June and embracing the challenge and rewards of a backyard garden, you’ll be investing in a project you can be proud of that will help improve your health—mind, body, and spirit—all year long.

Treatment Options for Hip Pain

Treatment Options for Hip Pain

It hurts to stand. It hurts to sit. It hurts so badly you can’t sleep at night. It hurts so badly you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Twenty-five percent of all adults will develop hip osteoarthritis in their lifetime, according to The Arthritis Foundation. If you’re one of the millions who live with chronic hip joint pain, know that you don’t have to accept discomfort or adapt your lifestyle in a way that isolates you or leaves you unable to participate in your favorite pastimes. Read on to learn more about the spectrum of available treatment options for hip pain. Then talk to your primary care physician to determine what treatment option may be right for you.

What Causes Hip Pain?

One of the most common causes of chronic hip pain is hip osteoarthritis, a condition that causes a reduction and deterioration in the cartilage that cushions your joints, resulting in pain and mobility limitation. Other causes may include a hip fracture; bursitis, an inflammation of the fluid sacs between tissues such as bone, muscles, and tendons; or tendonitis, an inflammation or irritation of the tendons often caused by repetitive overuse.

Treatment Options for Hip Pain

Depending on the severity of your discomfort, your doctor may prescribe one of the following treatment plans:

  • Medication for pain management. If your pain is mild, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, such as naproxen, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may ease your discomfort. If your pain is severe, you may require a combination of a prescription pain reliever and an anti-arthritis medication, which may come in the form of a hyaluronic acid injection or a corticosteroid injection.
  • Heat. Ice. Other treatment options for cases of mild discomfort include rest and a daily application of ice to the afflicted area for 15 minutes a few times per day. For some, heat provides more significant relief, especially in the form of a warm shower or bath that precedes stretching exercises.
  • Physical Therapy. This treatment option can help to improve mobility and help you manage pain by strengthening the nearly 30 muscles that surround the hip joint. Your physical therapist will work with you to strengthen your hip muscles, increase your flexibility and range of motion, and decrease inflammation in and around the joint.
  • Minimally invasive surgery techniques. Advanced arthroscopy procedures have successfully improved mobility and reduced pain for many without requiring invasive surgery. In this procedure, a surgeon makes one or two small incisions in the hip area to create access points for arthroscopic needles, scalpels, or other special surgical tools to enter and treat the affected area.
  • Hip Surgery. In the most severe cases, your doctor may recommend hip replacement surgery. In this procedure, an irreparable hip joint is removed and replaced with a prosthesis, typically made of metal, ceramic or plastic components.

 If you are living with mild to severe hip joint pain, talk to your doctor. He or she will work with you to explore the possibility of first attempting non-invasive treatment options, and will collaborate with you on a long-term solution to long-term pain management and healing.

Arthritis Awareness Month: Providing Education and Hope

Arthritis Awarness tips

More than 50 million Americans live with the pain and discomfort of arthritis, making it the number one cause of disability in the United States. People living with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis alone miss a combined total of 172 million workdays every year. Not just a disease that impacts older adults, 300,000 children are affected by this often debilitating condition. Every May, we recognize National Arthritis Awareness Month in the hope of continually drawing attention and awareness to this chronic condition, and one day finding a cure to joint pain and arthritic suffering. If you are living with Arthritis, we’re here to offer care, support, and hope in the form of education and treatment options that can ease your daily discomfort.

The Search for a Cure

The Arthritis Foundation is committed to increasing education, state and federal advocacy efforts, and funding sources to help support clinical research. Its supporters aim to one day find a cure to this condition that impacts one in every five adults. Click here to get involved and help support the Arthritis Foundation’s efforts to find a cure.

Diagnosing Arthritis

If you are currently living with chronic pain, and believe what you are experiencing could be a form of arthritis, make an appointment to meet with one of our specialists. A doctor may use a variety of tests to determine if you have arthritis. Diagnostic procedures may include a physical exam of your joints, a mobility assessment, laboratory tests that analyze blood, urine, and joint fluid, or imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds.

Treatment and Hope

Until doctors and scientists find a cure or prevention for arthritis, know that hope exists in the form of successful treatment options. If diagnosed with arthritis, your doctor may prescribe a combination of the following treatment methods:

  • Prescription medications – Common options include:
    • Analgesics to reduce pain.
    • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs
    • (DMARD) which slow or stop the immune system from attacking joints and are most commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Biologic response modifiers that target protein molecules involved in the immune response and often used in conjunction with DMARDs.
    • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
    • Topical counterirritant creams and ointments that can interrupt the transmission of pain signals between your brain and joints.
  • Physical Therapy – Hand therapy may help relieve pain for those with aggressive pain in finger joints and wrists. Broader physical therapy efforts can help alleviate joint pain throughout the body.
  • Joint Repair – In cases where less invasive treatments are unsuccessful, surgical joint repair can smooth surfaces or realign joints to improve mobility and reduce pain.
  • Joint Replacement – If your natural joints cannot be repaired, a specialist may recommend a joint replacement surgery.

No matter the treatment plan recommended by your doctor, you can manage your symptoms and help alleviate chronic pain by staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and using heat or cold packs during painful flare-ups. If you’re ready to get help for your joint pain, contact us today to make an appointment with one of our clinical care specialists.

Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention

osteoporosis awareness

A broken bone may be perceived as a common consequence of childhood or a symbol of mettle for athletes, but for older adults living with osteoporosis, it can be a devastating and unexpected injury that is painful and requires a lengthy recovery. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and an additional 44 million live with low bone density, placing them at an increased risk of bone damage or breakage. No matter your age, by understanding the causes, signs, and symptoms of osteoporosis, you can make the diet and lifestyle choices needed to mitigate your risk of developing this dangerous condition.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones, making them more susceptible to an accidental break. It is often called a silent disease because one can’t feel bones weakening, and if undiagnosed it can progress quickly until the patient is at a high risk of a sudden, painful break. Observed under a microscope, the cells of a healthy bone appear in a honeycomb shape. In cases of osteoporosis, the holes in the “honeycomb” are more substantial, making the overall bone composition weaker and less dense.

For those with a mild case of osteoporosis, a slip and fall could result in a painful break, notably a break of the hip, wrist, or spine. In more severe cases, all it takes to suffer a painful break is a sudden sneeze. The disease often affects bones in the spine, and can also result in chronic pain, reduced height, a stooped posture, and mobility issues.

Causes of Osteoporosis

An individual can develop osteoporosis when their body loses too much bone or makes too little. It can develop with age or lack of proper nutrition; however, it can also be a side effect of a variety of other health complications, such as:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Stroke
  •  Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Hyperparathyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer, particularly of the prostate and breast, multiple myeloma, leukemia, or Lymphoma
  • Hematologic/blood disorders
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Digestive and gastrointestinal disorders
  • Lupus
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Weight loss surgery, gastrectomy or gastrointestinal bypass procedures
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Neurological or nervous system disorders
  • Spinal cord injuries or scoliosis
  • Blood and bone marrow disorders
  • Thalassemia
  • Mental Illness, including depression and eating disorders
  • Endocrine or hormonal disorders
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Thyrotoxicosis
  • Irregular periods or premature menopause
  • Low levels of testosterone and estrogen in men
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or emphysema
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Liver disease, including biliary cirrhosis
  • Organ transplants
  • Certain medications

Who is at Risk of Osteoporosis?

Bones can weaken and lose density with age. Even those not living with the risk factors mentioned above, adults age 50 or older are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, with women being slightly more at risk than men.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Osteoporosis

You can reduce your risk of osteoporosis by taking the following preventive measures:

  • If you are a current smoker, get help quitting as soon as possible
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
  • Take precautions to prevent slips and falls

How to Diagnose Osteoporosis

A bone density test uses low-level X-rays to determine the proportion of minerals in your bones.

Obtaining a bone density test as recommended by your doctor is the best way to monitor your bone health and benefit from early detection.

Treatment for Osteoporosis

If diagnosed with Osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend a variety of age-appropriate therapies to help strengthen your bones and mitigate your chance of a break. Your doctor’s treatment plan may include dietary and lifestyle changes or medication such as bisphosphonates or hormone-related therapy.

When to Talk to A Doctor

If you’re 50 years old or older and have ever broken a bone, talk to your doctor about obtaining a bone density test. Such screenings can identify your risk so you can take steps to reduce the possibility of bone loss further and lower your chances of an unexpected, painful osteoporotic bone break.

Five Healthy Hacks for Maintaining Optimal Health

Family eating healthy food together
Achieving your health goals—be they weight loss, stress reduction, or kicking a nicotine habit—is only the beginning of what it means to have a wellness strategy. Wellness is not a short-term goal. It is a lifestyle and a long-term commitment, which is why once you achieve your goal, you need a strategy to maintain that optimal health. Don’t be so afraid to take a step back that you don’t put the time and effort into making the lifestyle changes needed to remain healthy. We’ve outlined five healthy hacks that everyone should follow to maintain optimal health.
  1. Stop Dieting. You read that right. The problem with dieting is that when you reach your goal or the end of your 40-day meal plan subscription, it can be tempting to consider the diet “off” and revert to the meal choices that led to weight gain over time. Rather than going into the mindset of dieting and taking a temporary break from high-fat, high-calorie, and low-nutrient foods while you seek a specific number on the scale, think of it as a lifestyle choice. That means not just taking a few months off from fast food and your habit of relying on a candy bar from the vending machine as an afternoon snack. It means a permanent split from your vices. That may feel like sacrificing an indulgence you love, but it’s necessary for long-term health.
  1. Be Active Regularly. Note that we said That means you don’t necessarily need a gym membership or a CrossFit class. It involves fitting in at least 30-minutes of cardio into your schedule at least three times per week. That activity could come in the form of walking your dog, a yoga class, participating in the office softball league, jogging around your neighborhood, or going to the gym. What matters is that you choose one—or a variety—of activities that you can make lasting parts of your routine.
  1. Understand your Risk Factors. Make an appointment with your primary care provider and talk about your potential risk for such chronic and complex health conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Then, work with your doctor to put a plan in place to reduce your risks. Remember, a healthy diet and regular games of three-on-three basketball with your buddies won’t protect you from a catastrophic event brought on by stress or smoking—and you can’t eliminate your risks if you don’t know what they are, so talk to your doctor.
  1. Reduce Stress. Eliminating all stress from your life may be impossible; after all, you can’t predict or avoid that inevitable traffic jam that always manifests when you are already running rate. However, if you have known, daily stresses in your life, talk to a wellness expert, life coach, physician, or friend about how to better cope or reduce the factors that lead to your stress, whether they be financial, family, or work-related. Stress can cause significant mental and physical health complications, which is why it must be a component of a long-term wellness strategy.
  1. Kick Your Nicotine Habit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. If you are struggling to break your addiction to cigarettes, talk to your doctor. He or she can provide you with a list of resources, including nicotine addiction solutions, so you can begin the process of becoming a non-smoker—permanently.
Remember, optimal health is not a diet, a single fitness class, or a week off from smoking. It is a lifestyle choice that requires permanent changes. While change can be hard, remember your end goal is a long and healthy life with your loved ones. Now that’s something to work for.