Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Humpday Hint: How Sharp is Your Hearing? As Sharp as Your Mind?

Contributing Author: Alice Krueger

Maybe you think that hearing loss is inevitable with aging. Did you know that maintaining your hearing as you age can protect your brain health?

Older adults with good hearing were found to be more mentally fit than older adults with hearing loss in research conducted around the world 1. However, the causal link between hearing loss and dementia is not yet understood 2.

In terms of quality of life, older adults who sought treatment for hearing loss had a higher level of satisfaction than those who did not 3. This may be due to improved social and emotional functioning and communication capabilities 4.

There is little to be risked by getting assessed for age-related hearing loss, and treating it has definite health benefits 5.

What are you waiting for?


  1. Davies, H. R., Cadar, D., Herbert, A., Orwell, M. & Steptoe, A. (2017). Hearing impairment and incident dementia: Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, prepub; Deal, J. A., Betz, J., Yaffe, K., Harris, T., Purchase-Helzner, E., Satterfield, S., et al. (2017). Hearing impairment and incident dementia and cognitive decline in older adults: The Health ABC Study. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 72(5), 703-709; Heywood, R., Gao, Q., Nyunt, M. S. Z., Feng, L., Chong, M. S., Lim, W. S., et al. (2017). Hearing loss and risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia: Findings from the Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Study. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 43(5-6), 259-268.
  2. Lin, V. Y. W. & Black, S. E. (2017). Linking deafness and dementia: Challenges and opportunities. Otology & Neurotology, 38(8), e237-e239.
  3. Manrique-Huarte, R., Calavia, D., Huarte Irujo, A., Giron, L. & Manrique-Rodriguez, M. (2016). Treatment for hearing loss among the elderly: Auditory outcomes and impact on Quality of Life. Audiology & Neuro-otology, 21 Suppl 1, 29-35; Yamada, Y., Svejdikova, B. & Kisvetrova, H. (2017). Improvement of older-person-specific QOL after hearing aid fitting and its relation to social interaction. Journal of communication disorders, 67, 14-21.
  4. Fortunate, S., Forli, F., Guglielmo, V., De Corso, E., Paludetti, G., Berrettini, S., et al. (2016). A review of new insights on the association between hearing loss and cognitive decline in ageing (in Italian). Acta Otorhinolaryngologica Italica, 36(3), 155-166.
  5. Golub, J. S. (2017). Brain changes associated with age-related hearing loss. Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head & Neck Surgery, prepub.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, August 28, 2017

Psoriasis: More Than Skin Deep

Contributing Author: Alice Krueger

Visibly, psoriasis is an itchy skin condition with sore red patches of thickened dry skin, called plaques. These plaques occur most often on the scalp, face, elbows, palms, back, knees and feet. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which the patient’s body attacks healthy skin cells, causing inflammation that leads to changes in skin structure and function.

Psoriasis is an unpredictable condition. Some people have remissions lasting several months without symptoms. Flares of increased symptoms seem to happen without warning and can be any severity level. Flares can be caused by stress, cold weather, dry skin, colds and respiratory infections, and smoking.

There is no known cure for psoriasis; treatment is symptomatic, striving to slow down the growth of skin cells. Topical treatments are the first intervention to be prescribed. These can be over-the-counter items (lotions containing salicylic acid or coal tar to cause skin shedding, or lotions containing aloe vera or jojoba to moisturize the skin) or by prescription. Nonsteroidal topical prescriptions containing synthetic vitamin A or D3 slow the production of skin cells. Corticosteroid prescriptions can thin the skin.

Biologic drugs for psoriasis are derived from live cell cultures and are administered by injection or IV. They block the action of the immune system that is overactive and misdirected in psoriasis. Phototherapy focuses UV or laser light on affected skin areas. Systemic medications, usually reserved for people with moderate or severe psoriasis, are taken in pill form or by injection. They work throughout the body, not just at the site of the psoriasis.

Psoriasis is associated with common symptoms of emotional distress, including sleep disorders and general anxiety 1. This indicates a lowered quality of life. The National Psoriasis Foundation states that 24% of people with psoriasis also have depression 2, which can lead to numerous other health and wellness issues. Young adults with psoriasis are at increased risk for suicide 3, especially if it causes them significant emotional distress, impairs their daily activities, causes them to have a negative body image or creates difficulty in establishing or maintaining close relationships.

Other serious health issues may be related to psoriasis. Although it is not clear which is cause and which is effect, metabolic syndrome is found in 40% of persons with psoriasis 4 while only 21% of the general population has this set of health problems. Metabolic syndrome is indicated by high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high blood sugar, and too much fat around the waist. The increased risk of persons with psoriasis having metabolic syndrome may explain their increased risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer.

The link between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease seems to lie in the inflammatory response 5. Inflammation can damage blood vessels, resulting in the formation of plaques (not the same kind as psoriasis plaques) in arteries leading to the heart. This can result in heart attacks or strokes.

People with psoriasis whose treatment included biological agents or methotrexate had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than did those with other treatment regimens 6. This might be due to systemic treatments reducing proteins that signal inflammation.

The direction of the relationship between obesity and psoriasis is unclear, and there is little evidence that diet affects psoriasis. However, a study showed that obesity increases both the risk of getting cardiovascular disease and of having psoriasis 7. Therefore it is doubly important to eat a healthy diet if you have psoriasis.

A study in the UK found an increased risk for psoriasis patients to get lymphoma, non-melanoma skin cancer and other cancers 8. The cancer risk seemed highest for those who received systemic treatments (e.g., phototherapy or methotrexate). It is important for persons with psoriasis to avoid risk behaviors that can lead to cancers, including smoking, excessive sun exposure, and alcohol abuse.

If you have psoriasis, it is wise to keep up with regular screenings for other health conditions, including depression. Ask your dermatologist to help you create a preventive program based on your medical history and additional risk factors.

To learn more about psoriasis during the month of August, visit the exhibit on Healthinfo Island in Second Life (SLURL: ).


  1. Pärna, E., Aluoja, A. & Kingo, K. (2015). Quality of life and emotional state in chronic skin disease. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 95(3), 312-316.
  2. Kimball, A. B., Gladman, D., Gelfand, J. M., Gordon, K., Horn, E. J., Korman, N. J., et al. (2008). National Psoriasis Foundation clinical consensus on psoriasis co-morbidities and recommendations for screening. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 58(6), 1031-1042.
  3. Picardi, A., Lega, I. & Tarolla, E. (2013). Suicide risk in skin disorders. Clinics in Dermatology, 31(1), 47-56.
  4. Love, T. J., Qureshi, A. A., Karlson, E. W., et al. (2011). Prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in psoriasis: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2006. JAMA Dermatology, 147(4), 419-424.
  5. Gu, W.-J., Weng, C.-L., Zhao, Y.-T., Liu, Q.-H. & Yin, R.-X. (2013). Psoriasis and risk of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis of cohort studies. International Journal of Cardiology, 168(5), 4992–4996.
  6. Aheloff, O., Skov, L., Gislason, G., Lindhardsen, J., Kristensen, S. L., Iversen, L., et al. (2012). Cardiovascular disease event rates in patients with severe psoriasis treated with systemic anti-inflammatory drugs: A Danish real-world cohort study. Journal of Internal Medicine, 273(2), 197-204.
  7. Carrascosa, J. M., Rocamora, V., Fernandez-Torres, R. M., Jimenez-Puya, R., Moreno, J. C., Coll-Puigserver, N., et al. (2014). Obesity and psoriasis: Inflammatory nature of obesity, relationship between psoriasis and obesity, and therapeutic implications (in Spanish). Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas, 105(1), 31-44.
  8. Fuxench, Z. C. C., Shin, D. B., Beatty, A. O. & Gelfand, J. M. (2016). The risk of cancer in patients with psoriasis: A population-based cohort study in the Health Improvement Network. JAMA Dermatology, 152(3), 282-290.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Friday, August 25, 2017

Virtual Ability Works With Other Nonprofits in Virtual Worlds

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Virtual Ability, Inc.® was the first organization that began as a Second Life® community and then became a legally chartered nonprofit corporation. At the time the Virtual Ability community was forming in Second Life, a wide variety of nonprofit corporations from the physical world were coming into Second Life to do awareness, outreach, and fundraising. They formed a group called NonProfit Commons, sponsored at that time by TechSoup®. Virtual Ability became an early active corporate member of the NonProfit Commons (NPC) group in Second Life.

In addition to attending weekly meetings (Friday mornings at 8:30am Pacific), Virtual Ability members have given presentations, greeted newcomers to the NPC, mentored about virtual worlds and nonprofit functioning, and assisted several Second Life groups to apply for nonprofit tax status.

The mission of the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life is to create a community of practice for nonprofits and those doing social-good, cause-based work to explore and learn about virtual worlds, foster connections, and discover the many ways in which nonprofits might utilize these unique environments to achieve their missions. NonProfit Commons is now peer governed and funded.

This Friday, August 25, NonProfit Commons is celebrating its tenth anniversary in Second Life. Find out more about NPC's history at or join the parties at 8:30am or 5pm Pacific in the NPC Amphitheater on Plush* (SLURL: ) in Second Life.

Please email any questions about NonProfit Commons to

Editor's Note: Plush is a virtual location in Second Life with a special kind of link to get there. You will need to create an account and an avatar to use in the environment. If you are entering Second Life for the first time, visit this page to get started.

Image Credit: Rhiannon Chatnoir

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Humpday Hint: Sweets? On a DIET??

Yes, you can eat sweets when you are dieting. You can either limit yourself to a 75-calorie sweet every day, or save up the calories to splurge on one large sweet on the weekend.

What sweet treat contains fewer than 75 calories?
  • A medium apple or peach
  • Half a banana
  • A cup of raspberries
  • Half a grapefruit
  • Root beer float (diet soda over ¼ cup light ice cream)
  • About 1 ½ Tbsp of many types of granola
  • 30 sugar-free jellybeans
  • 5 flavored mini rice cakes
  • 1 cup fat-free hot cocoa
  • 1 block (3 squares) dark chocolate

Here are some other sources of ideas for low-calorie snacks:

88 Unexpected Snacks Under 100 Calories
20 Sweet Snacks for 50 Calories or Less/
30 Healthy Snacks with 75 Calories or Less (With Recipes)
Healthy Snacks Under 75 Calories
7 Bedtime Treats Under 75 Calories

YES! (Dark) Chocolate is allowed!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Four Things to Do to Keep Your Skin Healthy

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Summer is not the only time of year we should be mindful of taking good care of the vessels of our intellects and personalities. Without further ado...

1. Avoid sun overexposure.
The sun is the leading cause of all kinds of skin damage, from sunburn to wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer. It’s the ultraviolet radiation emitted by our sun that damages the skin. UV rays break down the collagen and elastin in skin; these chemicals keep your skin plump and smooth. When collagen and elastin decrease in skin, the skin becomes wrinkled.

Sunlight also enlarges melanocytes, pigment-containing cells. A smaller dose of sun may make your skin tan, but larger amounts can lead to patches of brown spots called age spots.

Another thing the sun does to your skin is release free radicals. These are harmful chemicals, unstable atoms, often oxygen, that have an unpaired electron. This imbalance in electric charge makes the free radicals highly chemically reactive. Free radicals can damage DNA, and this can lead to aging of body systems and development of skin cancers. (NOTE: Free radicals are also created by smoking and other environmental factors.)

The best way to avoid sun damage to skin is to avoid overexposure. Stay out of the sun during mid-day when the radiation is strongest. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB and has an SPF (sun protective factor) 30 or greater. Apply sunscreen every two hours; more frequently if you are sweating heavily or in water. You should also wear protective clothing and a hat to protect your scalp and face.

While some skin care products contain antioxidant ingredients to help fight the effects of free radicals, the best defense is to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables containing vitamins C and E. Good dietary sources of antioxidants include berries, carrots, spinach and broccoli.

2. Stop making faces.

Did your mother say, “Stop making the face or it will grow like that!” when you scowled? Mine did. Maybe our Moms were right. While smiling and frowning are ways we communicate, these movements stretch the skin. As we age, our skin becomes less elastic and does not snap back into shape as readily as when we were younger. Compounded with the loss of elasticity produced by sun damage to skin, facial movements can lead to the formation of wrinkles.

3. Don’t smoke, or quit smoking.

Did you know that smoking damages skin as well as lungs? Smoker’s skin doesn’t heal from small injuries such as nicks and pimples as well as non-smoker’s skin does. This is because smoking causes blood vessels to narrow, restricting the availability of oxygen and nutrients that the skin needs to nourish and repair itself.

Smoker’s skin wrinkles more easily that non-smoker’s skin. Smoking causes elastic skin fibers to thicken, which will increase sagging. The more you smoke, the worse the damage to your skin.

Please consider not smoking, or quitting if you do smoke. It will not only benefit your lungs, it will help your skin stay healthier.

4. Avoid skin irritants.

Your skin can be sensitive or allergic to any number of chemicals, including ammonia, bleach, laundry detergent, and cleaning products. Contact dermatitis is reddening and scaling of the skin. But some people experience burns from contact with these chemicals.

The best way to protect your skin from irritants is to avoid them, for instance by wearing gloves to clean house or wash dishes. If you have mild contact dermatitis, moisturizing your skin will make it feel better. If you have more problematic irritations, try using an antihistamine or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen). If the problem is severe, please contact your healthcare professional.

It is always a good idea to take care of the skin you're in!

Image Credits: Pixabay

Friday, August 18, 2017

Get a Home Energy Audit

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

With autumn approaching soon, it is not too early to start thinking about ways to improve your home's heating efficiency as outside temperatures begin to drop - or rise, depending on in which hemisphere of the planet you live.

Often your local utility company will come out to your home and perform an energy audit. This is probably the most accurate way to learn how to use energy efficiently. However, it will mean scheduling the visit for several hours during the workday, and this may not be feasible for your schedule.

An alternative is the online energy audit. You will spend a few minutes inputting data, and in return will receive valuable information about your energy usage.

Several sites offer these audits. Many local utilities will add in local weather and housing data, making them quite accurate.

You can also check out the US Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver site at: This site helps you calculate your energy usage based on your ZIP code. It also includes several videos of energy saving projects such as insulating your water heater and hot water pipes, as well as interesting blog posts.

Another online energy audit option from is found here: Not only will you learn how to look for areas in your home where you are losing energy, but you will be offered methods for improving the building’s energy efficiency.

Beware, though, of advertising sites that want to collect your personal information. If an offer related to energy audits or energy savings seems too good to be true, it probably is. Use only sites from your local utility companies, universities, or government agencies.

Editor's Note: While the above links are for US consumers, many countries have corresponding services available to their citizens. Be sure to seek them out.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Humpday Hint: Staying Safe on Social Media

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Why should you think about social media safety? Two main reasons are the potential for identity theft and the large number of existing social media scams.

Probably the most important advice on how to stay safe on social media is to set your profiles to “Private” and restrict contacts to people you know personally. Don’t accept random friend requests.

Be especially careful of people you meet through social media sites who offer you something you want or need, such as romance or a cure for your incurable disease or easy money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Avoid clicking links unless you know the person sending the link and the reason they are sending it to you. Otherwise you may end up downloading malware onto your computer.

It’s best not to respond to “limited time offers.” That’s a common sales technique to get you to spend money you might not have spent if you had more time to consider the offer

Don’t overshare personal information. You don’t have to fill out all the blanks on your social media profile. Nobody needs to know your home address or phone number. Also, don’t give out account information. Ever!

Editor's Note: You only need to fill in those fields that are required in your social profile (they are usually marked with a red asterisk, like this: *)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Budgets, Money and (Maybe) Peace of Mind

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Although everyone ought to work from a budget, how their budget is made is up to each individual. Some people keep a paper budget, others use a spreadsh
eet or app. Below are six different types of budgets, who they work best for, how they work, and a resource to start from.

Envelope Budget
This works best for people who need to control their spending, people who are very visual, or people who deal mainly in cash.

What you do is create sturdy envelopes labeled with spending categories (e.g., rent, utilities, groceries, medicine, transportation, eating out, entertainment). Put the amount you will spend for the coming month into the envelope at the beginning of the month. When the envelope is empty, you have to stop spending in that category.

This budget type also works with other budget types. If you know you tend to overspend in certain areas (such as fast food or movie rentals), you may only need an envelope for particular categories.

This budget type also works virtually. Check out the app Goodbudget which is available on the web or for Android or iPhone.

For simple record keeping based on receipts, try Wally for iPhone or Wally+ for Android:

50/30/20 Budget
This budget method may be the best for you if you are just beginning to use a budget.

It’s simple. You divide your monthly income into three pieces: half (50%) should go to meet your needs. That means rent, utilities, groceries, medicine, and transportation. About a third (30%) will be for “wants” which includes eating out and entertainment, but also things like your cell phone and cable plans and new clothes. The remainder (20%) should be used to pay off debts and add to your savings. Think of this smallest portion as how you’re going to eventually get ahead financially.

For more information about this budget type, and information about its flexibility, please see this article:

Need help figuring out how much for each category? Look half way down this page:

Bottom-Up Budget
This is the budget type most useful for people with large fixed expenses, and anyone trying to understand their spending pattern better.

When you have large medical or child care expenses, or a mortgage, you can’t really cut back on that area of spending. Your budget should begin by acknowledging the actual costs of your daily expenses in these categories. The remaining categories are where you can economize, and that amount can go toward savings.

Personal Capital offers a free mobile app that may help with bottom-up budgeting.

Top-Down Budget
The opposite of bottom-up budgeting, this budget style works best for people with a strong savings ethic and specific saving goal, who are able to look at the future as a “big picture.”

This type of budgeting is like the 50/30/20 budget, but you set your own categories and percentages, based on your financial goals and future plans. It takes personal discipline to make this budget plan work.

Zero-Sum Budget
This budgeting style requires frequent oversight. It’s best for very detail-oriented people.

The idea is to “pay yourself first,” by setting money aside for your saving goals or to pay down your debt. After that, you allocate the remainder of your monthly income to your expenses, until nothing remains. Some people say this is like “giving every dollar a job.”

Consider using a mobile app like You Need A Budget to achieve your goals using this style of budgeting.

Reverse Budget
This budget is not for everyone; it works best for people who already have a financial safety cushion, who are experienced at using a budget, and who have specific savings goals.

Reverse budgeting is similar to zero-sum budgeting because you pay yourself first toward your saving goals. After that, you do away with categorical spending and just pay for everything else as it comes along, knowing that the amount needed for each category will change month to month.

An app like Qapital can help with this advanced type of budgeting.

What happens when you don’t keep a budget?
A study by Bankrate found that about 20% of Americans says they budget “in their heads,” which often means “not at all.” This might partly explain why the majority of Americans can’t dip into savings to cover a small ($1000) unexpected expense, let alone a catastrophic financial need.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Friday, August 11, 2017

Displays on Healthinfo Island for August 2017

Healthinfo Island Exhibits and Displays for August 2017
Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

The Virtual Ability community learn and share information. The displays listed below are themed to provide timely information and resources to all interested.
All locations are given as links, but are found in the Second Life® virtual environment. If you are entering Second Life for the first time, visit this page to get started.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

August is Eye Health & Amblyopia Month

Other exhibits and displays on Healthinfo Island during August:

Mental Health Awareness

August is Immunization Awareness Month

August is Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month

Celebrating Nurses (remaining from May)



Click the title poster of the exhibit or display to get a full text notecard. Click each poster for live links and text chat.

Thanks to Mook Wheeler for creating new exhibit and display materials for Healthinfo Island.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Humpday Hint: Summertime Allergies

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Many people cope with various allergies throughout the year. In summer, as in spring, allergies seem to

Grasses produce pollen several times throughout the summer. Levels of grass pollen are highest during the warmest weather. If you go outside during the summer, you will likely have grass pollen clinging to your hair, skin, clothing and shoes when you come inside. Therefore, if you are allergic to grass pollen, take off your shoes at the door to avoid tracking pollen all over the carpet. Take a shower and put your clothing in the wash as soon as possible.

The best allergy strategy for summertime: Protect yourself as you would from the effects of the sun. When outside, wear a hat, sunglasses, shirt with long sleeves, and long pants.

Read more about summer allergy triggers here:

Image Credit: Pixabay

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tips for Staying Hydrated

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

This post is especially timely given the very high temperatures seen in much of Europe lately and in other parts of the world this year.

Water makes up 60% of your body weight. You lose water through sweating, breathing, urination and bowel movements. In warm weather or cool, getting adequate hydration is critical to maintaining your body’s store of this essential fluid. Here are some tips for improving your hydration:

• Start the day right. Drink a glass of water first thing each morning.
• Nutritionists recommend adults drink 7-9 cups of fluids daily. In addition to plain water, unsweetened coffee or tea, skim milk, broth-based soups and 100% fruit or vegetable juices count. Do you know how many cups you drink? Keep a diary!
• Another way to keep track of your intake is to measure out 8 cups (2 quarts, or 1/2 gallon) of water in the morning, and drink it throughout the day.
• Improve plain water. Don’t be boring. Add sliced fresh fruit to your glass (or to a cup of hot tea). Freeze fruit slices and use instead of ice cubes.
• Water-filled low-calorie snacks are good. Try celery sticks, sliced cucumbers, and strips of colorful bell peppers.
• Read the labels of beverages you purchase. Even clear-colored specialty waters may contain artificial ingredients, added calories, or caffeine that you do not want in your diet.
• Don’t confuse hunger with thirst. If you feel hungry, especially if you have eaten in the previous couple of hours, drink a glass of water, then wait 10 minutes. You probably weren’t hungry after all, just confusing the signals for thirst and hunger.
• You will need more water if you are overheated, working hard or exercising heavily.
• You will also need more water if you are older, because your ability to detect thirst decreases as you age.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Friday, August 4, 2017

Power Strips and Surge Protectors

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Sometimes it feels as if our plug-in electronic devices have taken over our lives. There just don’t seem to be enough outlets in most homes to accommodate them all. We use power strips and surge protectors as outlet expanders. Both plug into a wall socket and then offer multiple outlets for a variety of your electronic devices.

For both power strips and surge protectors, you should know the amperage rating of the outlet you are plugging them into. This will keep you from overloading your home’s electric circuits.

When purchasing either a power strip or a surge protector, look carefully at the orientation of the outlets on it. Usually you will want the outlets to be perpendicular to the length of the strip.

Power strips are the simpler of these two tools, and generally are less expensive. Be sure the one you use has a circuit breaker built in. If you connect too many electric devices to the power strip, it will kick the built-in circuit breaker rather than the one in the electric panel.

Surge protectors are the more expensive of these two tools, because they have additional protections built in. These protections are particularly important for home entertainment equipment and computers. Your more expensive electronics should be protected from sudden spikes of electric current that can come through any wired connection, such as from a lightning strike. Be sure that the surge protector you use offers both cable and internet protection. Check that it can handle digital television; if the surge protector is designed for analog signals, this could result in pixelation.

Check that your surge protector has a significant joule rating. Joules are a measure of how much energy the surge protector can withstand. It should also have an indicator light to show when the protection has burned out.

For both power strips and surge protectors, remember the old maxim: “You get what you pay for.” The most inexpensive products will not give your electronic devices the protection they need.

For more information on surge protectors:

Image Credit: Pixabay

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Humpday Hint: Use Your Microwave Oven Safely

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

To understand how to safely cook food (and even heat water) in a microwave oven, it helps to understand a little about how they work. Microwaves are a form of radio waves that easily penetrate most materials, including food. These waves vibrate at a specific set of frequencies designed to agitate water molecules. All food contains water, to lesser or greater extent. When the water molecules in food are agitated, they vibrate, creating heat.

One of the advantages you’ll hear about microwave cooking is that it heats food faster than it can heat up in a conventional oven. This is true. The heat radiation in a regular oven must penetrate foods from the outside toward the center. This can sometimes leave the outside of food overheated or burnt while the center is undercooked or raw. Not so in a microwave, where the radiation penetrates immediately to the very center. This means all portions of the food, exterior and interior, cook at the same rate.

Another advantage of microwave cooking is that it does not heat the container. That’s because ceramics, glass and plastic do not contain water. Therefore there’s nothing in them to heat up in a microwave. In a regular oven, the food container also has to be heated up, making for a longer cooking time.

Then why do the dishes microwave food is cooked in sometimes feel hot? That’s heat warming them up from the hot food they contain. Always use oven mitts when handling containers of food that has been microwaved.

OK, if microwaves are so good at penetrating materials, why doesn’t the radiation escape from the microwave box and heat you up as you stand next to it? That’s because this type of radiation does not penetrate metal; it is reflected by it. The body of the microwave oven and its door is designed to contain the microwaves so none escape into the kitchen. If the door does not close and seal properly, or the body of the microwave is damaged in any way, do not use it. Replace or repair it.

You also will not want to use metal containers in the microwave. Also, be sure to check that any plastic, glass or ceramic container you intend to cook in is rated for microwave use.

Something you may not know: plain water can get overheated and explode in the microwave, or worse, in your face when you retrieve the cup. The easy way to avoid this is to either add the instant coffee or teabag or sugar before heating the water in the microwave, or if you’re not heating the water for a beverage, put a wooden spoon or stir stick in the container with the water. These simple steps will totally eliminate the small chance of overheating the water.

As with an electrical device, be sure you read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions and cautions before you use your microwave.

For an explanation of how microwave ovens work:

For an explanation of “superheated water” in a microwave:

Image credit: La_Petite_Femme, Pixabay