Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Can Face Masks Protect You From Flu Viruses?

Man in green mask delivering large box
Man in green mask delivering large box

As is often the case with this type of question, the correct answer is, “It depends.”

Viruses are spread in many ways. Some are airborne pathogens spread by droplets or particles, as from a sneeze, while others are transmitted through skin contact with infected surfaces. Obviously a face mask is not effective against viruses you pick up from touching doorknobs or water faucets after a flu patient has touched them. That is where proper hand washing comes in.

Face masks are commonly used to prevent infection by airborne droplets. They seem to be effective if worn by the infected person to prevent spreading the germs to others. But different types of masks have different levels of effectiveness in protecting non-infected individuals from becoming infected.

Reusable washable cloth masks have very low effectiveness and may actually become a source of infection. These are not recommended.

Disposable “surgical face masks” made of synthetic fibers, often colored blue or green, protect the wearer from large droplets. However, they do not fit tightly to the face, so smaller particles can be breathed in despite wearing the mask. Additionally, droplets from the mask wearer have been shown to escape around the edges of the mask. Taping the surgical face mask to a form-fitting molded facial moulage (personalized mask) is effective in limiting passage of airborne particles, so it is the loose fit of these masks that prevents their full effectiveness.

Single use N95 particulate filtering respirators are recommended for healthcare workers by the Centers for Disease Control to prevent exposure to droplet viral infection. The numeral 95 indicates that this type of mask removes 95% of small airborne particles. These masks fit tightly around the nose and mouth and users are required to have an annual fitting test to ensure their masks are being properly positioned for full protection. Although these masks are the most effective protection, they can be difficult to breathe through while worn. These products can be purchased by the general public, but are not recommended for ordinary use, especially by persons with respiratory or cardiac conditions. They do not work for children or persons with facial hair.

Research has also shown that in households with a child with influenza-like illness, adults were likely to wear any type of face mask less than half the time, even though adherence to mask use was shown to reduce the risk of developing the same disease. If obtained and not worn properly, face masks are ineffective in stopping the spread of flu viruses. People are more likely to wear face masks if they perceive they are highly susceptible to severe life-threatening infections.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

What motivates you to maintain your resolutions?

Notebook, New Year on one page, Goal/Plan/Action on the other
What's your goal?

The most critical element in achieving any lifestyle change is your personal reason for wanting to make that change. One of the most common reasons for dropping resolutions and quitting work toward healthy lifestyle goals is not having found the necessary motivation.

Let’s say your resolution is to lose weight. You already know that the “magic equation” for weight loss has two factors: eating less and exercising more. How are you going to stick with both those strategies? The doctor may have told you that you need to lose weight to get your blood pressure under control and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. You may have browsed the internet for online exercise programs and noticed magazine articles about lower calorie meal plans. But the best motivation to succeed at any enterprise is internal. How do you find your inner motivation?

The first step is to ask yourself why you want to achieve that goal. There are probably several reasons you can identify. Write these all down.

Then for each reason you listed, write down specific reasons why that matters.

To follow with the weight loss example you may have listed as a reason “to lower my risk of cardiovascular disease.” Why might that be important to you? Perhaps you want to outlive others in your family who have tended to die young of heart attacks. Perhaps you look forward to playing with grandchildren. Or maybe you want to avoid the additional expense to your children of paying for your rehabilitation in a nursing facility.

Once you have created the list of reasons to maintain your healthy lifestyle resolution, and why they are important, you can use it as a motivation tool. Make a small copy of the list to keep in your wallet. You will be reminded of your personal reasons for sticking with your resolutions every time you open it to show ID or reach for cash. Create a colorful collage of words and images to remind you of your list. Put that on a bulletin board or poster at eye level by your computer or television so you notice it every time you browse the internet or sit down to watch a favorite show. Type the list in large font and print it to hang on the refrigerator door.

Seeing your list of personal motivations to succeed at your resolutions during moments of decisions and choices will help you find the strength to get past challenges to your success.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Eggs - Cold, Room Temperature, or in a Warm Water Bath?

Separating the albumen (white) of the egg cleanly from the yolks is best done when the egg is cold out of the refrigerator.

On the other hand, the whites will whip up better (to a larger, more stable volume) at room temperature. So let your separated egg whites sit out for 20-30 minutes before proceeding to that step of the recipe.

Many recipes containing eggs that are not integrated fully into the batter ask for cooking in a bain-marie, which is just a fancy name for a warm water bath. The cooking vessel is set into a pan with a shallow amount of very hot tap water inside the oven as it cooks. The warm water surrounding the uncooked material promotes a more even cooking so that the edges near the container do not overcook before the material in the center is done.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Heart Health Month on Healthinfo Island

As February contains Valentine’s Day, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has declared February as Heart Month, Virtual Ability has created a number of displays and exhibits on our Healthinfo Island in Second Life related to heart health topics.

These topics include:
  • February is Heart Health Awareness Month
  • Alcohol and Your Heart 
  • Signs of Heart Disease You May Not Recognize
  • February 14 is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day 
  • Exercise and Your Heart
  • Things You Didn't Know About Cholesterol
  • Lower Your Cholesterol Through Diet
  • Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Healthinfo Island lies directly west of the main Virtual Ability island. The two islands are connected by a drawbridge over the intervening waterway. Three large standing poster displays are directly past the bridge. Five pavilions, each containing a poster exhibit, wind along a path up a rocky cliff below which lies a quiet lake.

The mission of Healthinfo Island is to provide timely, accurate and evidence-based health and wellness information to the Virtual Ability community and all residents of Second Life. The information is provided in interactive posters so that it is available at any time. Persons viewing a poster set are encouraged to click each poster to gain additional information and related live links. The poster displays and exhibits are accessible to blind users who can click the entrance poster to receive a note card (which can be read with a screen reader) containing all the text and descriptions of the images on each poster.

Everyone should be interested in maintaining the health of their heart, the hardest working muscle in the entire body. While these displays and exhibits do not take the place of consulting with your personal medical care team, they will give you some good pointers. Come on over and check them out any time.

Picture of ECG emphasizing different kinds of alcohol February 14 is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day
Picture of a stylized heart exercising Different dates in February for American Heart Month

Picture of "Lower Your Cholesterol Through Diet" Picture of male legs with deep vein thrombosis

Picture saying "Signs of Heart Disease That You May Not Recognize" Picture of various body fats with caption "Things You Didn't Know About Cholesterol"

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The smart way to turn resolutions into achievable goals

Woman achieving success
Woman achieving success

Most resolutions are intended outcomes. “I am going to drink less caffeine in 2020.” “I’m going to quit smoking.” “I want to lose weight before my daughter’s wedding.” Whatever your resolution, you need to set goals to help you achieve it.

Goals are based on the step by step process for achieving an outcome. What is necessary to drink less caffeine? Perhaps the first step is to identify what you drink with caffeine, when, and even why. A journal may help with this step. Do you need to drink three cups of caffeinated coffee before work in order to feel alert? Do you drink a caffeinated soda in the afternoon because that is what is available in the vending machine?

Why do you need so much caffeine in the morning? Perhaps you are not getting enough sleep. Then your goal might be “I will turn off my phone and computer a half hour before bedtime,” or “In January, I will get in bed a half hour earlier than I usually do, to see how that feels in the morning,” or even “I will call my physician and ask for a referral for a sleep study” if you suspect there is a medical cause for your morning tiredness.

To curb the afternoon caffeine-consumption break, try goals such as “I will bring a full water bottle to work and drink that in the afternoon,” or “I will pack snack-sized fruit juice bottles in my lunch in January,” or even “I will ask HR if they could request some healthier drinks in the vending machine.”

Remember, goals are short term objectives that build up to accomplishing your 2020 healthier lifestyle resolutions.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

TIP: Sometimes you want a fresh egg, sometimes you don’t

Brown egg resting on two forks
Brown egg resting on two forks

What do you know about egg freshness?
Most eggs are on the store shelves within a day of being laid. That’s fresh! Want to know more about how eggs get from farm to store? (Here’s that story.)
As eggs age, the consistency of the albumen or white becomes thinner. The yolk flattens out as its membrane weakens. So if you want to fry an egg and create a thicker white with a yolk that stands up, use the freshest eggs. On the other hand, hard-cooked eggs are easier to peel if they are aged, not fresh.