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Stay cool pool without chlorine 

HEA-Stay-cool-pool

Saltwater pool is a healthy alternative

(BPT) – As summer temperatures rise, backyard and neighborhood pools become more attractive for old and young alike. The one thing most folks don’t like, however, is the smell of the chlorine or how it burns your eyes or feels on your skin once you get out of the water. The chlorine is there to help keep the water clean and clear, and most pools require a lot of regular maintenance to maintain the proper levels.

Saltwater pools, however, offer a better way to enjoy a dip without the smell or feeling of chlorine. They work by converting salt to chlorine using an electrolytic converter. This produces the same type of bacteria-killing chlorine found in a traditional pool, but in a radically different fashion.

How saltwater pools work

Instead of dumping a bunch of chemical chlorine all at one time and letting it dissipate until more is needed, a saltwater pool adds chlorine to the water at a constant rate. This displaces the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine, while maintaining the right amount at all times.

As the water exits the converter and enters the pool, the sanitizing chlorine eventually reverts back to salt, and the process repeats itself, conserving salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced. However new salt does need to be added occasionally as salt levels can drop due to splash-out, rain, and filter back-washing. Pool owners still should test weekly for pH and chlorine, and monthly for other water balance factors.

Lower maintenance, less expensive

The other good news for home owners and pool managers is that saltwater pools require far less maintenance than traditional pools and are much less expensive to maintain as pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United States have already made the switch. The initial construction and installation of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater can pay off quickly.

The technology for a saltwater pool was first developed in Australia in the 1960s, and today, more than 80 percent of all pools Down Under use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are salt water, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.

Some may be concerned about the effect of salt on pool equipment, construction materials, decks and surrounding structures. However, the actual amount of salt used is very low, less than .01 as salty as sea water. You may be able to barely taste the salt in the pool, but much less so than you can taste and feel the chlorine in a standard pool. When pools are properly constructed and normal maintenance is followed, saltwater has no effect on pool finishes, equipment and decks.

To learn more about saltwater pools and other uses for salt, visit saltinstitute.org.

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Eight human cases of Influenza A H3N2 variant confirmed in Michigan 

 

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and Rural Development today announced that there have been eight human cases of influenza A variant viruses reported in Michigan. They have tested positive for influenza A H3N2 variant (H3N2v) and one person has been hospitalized and since released. All of the confirmed cases had exposure to swine at county fairs in Muskegon, Cass, and Ingham counties during July and August where sick pigs had also been identified.

MDHHS and MDARD are working closely with local health departments, the healthcare community, and fairs to protect swine exhibitors and the public and identify any additional cases.

Fair exhibitors and animal caretakers should be following proper biosecurity processes such as regular hand-washing with soap and water, disinfecting wash areas at least once each day and making sure it has time to dry thoroughly after being disinfected. Additionally, weight scales and sorting boards should also be disinfected. Use a 10 percent bleach/water mixture in combination with a detergent (dish or laundry soap) to increase effectiveness.

In 2012, there were six H3N2v cases in Michigan and in 2013 two cases were confirmed. Human infection is thought to happen when an infected pig coughs or sneezes and droplets with influenza virus land in someone’s nose or mouth, or are inhaled. There also is some evidence that the virus might spread by someone touching something that has virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Symptoms of H3N2v infection in people are usually mild and similar to those of seasonal flu viruses, but as with seasonal flu, complications can lead to hospitalization and death. Symptoms include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, as well as body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Some populations are at higher risk of developing complications if they get influenza, including children younger than five years of age, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions.

The incubation period (the time it takes from exposure to illness) for this influenza is typically similar to seasonal influenza at about two days, but may be up to 10 days. Currently, there is no vaccine for H3N2v and the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against H3N2v. Antiviral drugs are effective in treating H3N2v virus infections. Early treatment works best and may be especially important for people with a high-risk condition.

Below are some steps that you can take to protect yourself and prevent the spread of any illness:

• Anyone who is at high risk of serious flu complications and planning to attend a fair should avoid pigs and swine barns.

• Do not eat or drink in livestock barns or show rings

• Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items into pig areas.

• Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu-like symptoms. Wait seven days after your illness started or until you have been without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.

• Avoid close contact with sick people.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

• If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over.

While it does not protect against H3N2v, MDHHS recommends annual season influenza vaccination for everyone six months of age and older to reduce the risk of infection from other influenza viruses.

For more information about H3N2v, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-basics.htm.

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Blood donors help save lives of baby girl’s parents

 

When they needed it most, blood transfusions were readily available

N-Blood-donors-Grace-Brunett-Family-OutdoorsGrace Brunett is not only a regular blood donor, but helps host a blood drive in her hometown. And as if that weren’t enough, this tireless cheerleader works for Michigan Blood as a phlebotomist.

Grace can trace her commitment to her days as a student at Cedar Springs High School, where she learned in anatomy class the power of O-negative blood—her type and a universal option for anyone in need.

Just nine percent of the Michigan population has O-negative blood, which puts Grace in a class by herself. But her story is even more compelling since the day nearly six years ago when, while pregnant with her firstborn, she developed chorioamnioitis.

She eventually underwent an emergency Caesarian section. During her ordeal, which lasted nearly five hours and included an emergency hysterectomy at the age of 21, she required a blood transfusion.

“I almost died,” she says, noting that she was conscious during the entire trying episode. What she took away from that traumatic experience, however, were two rewards: One, a daughter Charlotte, now going on six years old. And two, a personal story to share about the importance of stepping up to donate blood and blood products.

Grace actually began donating blood as a student at Cedar Springs, where, coincidentally, she met Cory Brown, the father of their child. “I was a sophomore and he was a senior,” she relates. Both were members at the time of Business Professionals of America, which was sponsoring a blood drive at the high school.

Little did they know then that not only would Grace lean on blood donors for her own vital needs, but that Cory, too, would come to require multiple transfusions. “He was in a car accident before we had Charlotte, back in 2007, and then in 2011, he was hit by a drunk driver,” says Grace. In both instances, her common-law husband needed donor blood.

Today, the happy trio makes its home in Cedar Springs, where Charlotte – described by mom as being “bubbly, fun and smart” — is a whiz at jigsaw puzzles and is set to start kindergarten this comi.ng fall. Grace is diligent about giving blood for obvious personal reasons, and also because it’s just the right thing to do. She enjoys tracking her progress, pint by pint, acknowledging that she just passed the 6-gallon mark this past March.

It’s fun for her to travel back in her mind to those days in anatomy class, when the instructor mapped out how “With O-negative blood, you can basically save anybody,” she says. “It’s kind of awesome, that the whole world is basically eligible for my blood, and so that has spurred me to action.”

“It’s one hour out of one day just every two months of your life,” says Grace. “You can be selfless in that single hour and make a huge difference.”

Michigan Blood is the sole provider of blood and blood products for more than 60 hospitals in Michigan, including Spectrum Health, Metro Health, and Mercy Health St. Mary’s. Donations given outside of Michigan Blood do not have direct local impact. Donating blood with Michigan Blood helps save the lives of patients in Michigan hospitals. Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate. Blood donors should bring photo ID. We are currently in urgent need of O-Negative blood donations.

The next blood donor drive in Cedar Springs will be on August 23, at Cedar Springs United Methodist Church, Gym, 140 S Main St., Cedar Springs, 12:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. For more locations, visit www.miblood.org.

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Racing to bed for better performance

 

World-class triathletes incorporate sleep in daily training regime

Stockwell with her Purple Star and her Sleep Number bed.

Stockwell with her Purple Star and her Sleep Number bed.

(NAPS)—Swim…bike…run… sleep? Yes, that’s right. World-class triathletes Gwen Jorgensen and Melissa Stockwell say that sleep is as important as their training and nutrition routines.

Jorgensen and Stockwell represent the U.S. while competing against the world’s best athletes. Both agree that sleep is integral to their athletic performance and rely on Sleep Number® beds to ensure individualized comfort.

They’ve had very busy competitive seasons and both athletes will represent the United States at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio this summer. Jorgensen, a two-time world champion, has secured multiple World Triathlon Series wins, while Stockwell is a U.S. veteran, mom, Paralympian and three-time world champion. Given the pressure and the travel, you’d think they may want to skimp on sleep to get the most out of every training opportunity…but you’d be wrong.

Jorgensen training for her 2016 race season.

Jorgensen training for her 2016 race season.

The latest sleep science is clear: sleep optimizes performance. A study by Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, published in SLEEP, showed that Stanford University basketball players were able to improve performance by increasing the amount of sleep they got each night. After an initial two- to four-week period of normal sleep, players were asked to increase sleep to 10 hours each night for five to seven weeks. The additional sleep resulted in faster timed sprints, improved shooting accuracy and decreased reaction times. With the additional sleep, subjects reported improved physical and mental well-being during practices and games.

“Sleep is often overlooked in training. I take my sleep very seriously when I’m preparing for a triathlon, it’s another discipline of my training,” said Jorgensen. In addition to prioritizing eight hours of shut-eye at night, Jorgensen schedules naps into her triathlon training plan to ensure her body is recovering properly. “I nap 30 minutes or less, six times a week,” she explained.

Jorgensen also loves the biometric sleep data provided by SleepIQ® technology, which is integrated into her Sleep Number bed. “I am so intrigued that my bed can track my sleep; not only do I know my biometrics—like heart rate and breathing rate—it also offers tips to help me sleep better; like a personal sleep coach!” she said. “Knowing how I slept helps me listen to my body and adjust when I need to rest or push myself in training.”

Stockwell also relies on her bed to deliver the sleep she needs in order to maximize her performance in the water, on the bike and on the road. “Our Sleep Number bed lets my husband and I individualize our comfort—to set separate Sleep Number settings. It has been wonderful to adjust the comfort of my bed as my training intensifies, and we can both sleep comfortably,” said Stockwell.

As these athletes gear up for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, they rest assured knowing that their individualized, comfortable sleep is contributing to their training routine.

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West Nile Virus found in mosquitoes in Kent County 

 

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) Environmental Health division found the first positive specimens of West Nile virus this summer in the mosquito population. The infected mosquitoes were discovered in zip code 49506, which includes parts of southeast Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids. This is not a human case; no human cases have been reported to KCHD.

This year in June, KCHD started capturing and testing mosquitoes in ten traps strategically placed throughout the County. These devices called “Gravid traps” collect mosquitoes that are then tested for the virus. The surveillance is possible thanks to a grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Kent County has received the State grant three years in a row. This surveillance allows the County to alert residents to step up prevention measures.

“Finding West Nile virus in one zip code does not mean that it is confined to that area,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer with KCHD. “The virus will likely be present in other neighboring zip codes to some degree, and the risk remains until at least the first frost of the season. We want people to be aware that they can greatly reduce their own risks by taking some simple precautions.”

The City of Grand Rapids said that it is beginning aggressive treatment to reduce the possibility of a widespread West Nile outbreak. Monday the City began treating identified areas with larvicide pellets into catch basins and areas of pooled still water.

Prevention is critical in the fight against West Nile, an illness that can be deadly in some people, especially those with weakened immune systems and the elderly. KCHD recommends wearing a mosquito repellant that contains 10-35 percent DEET, wearing light colored clothing and staying indoors during dusk. You can help stop mosquitoes from breeding by removing any standing water in your yard and keeping lawns and shrubs cut. Following these tips can be helpful in fighting other mosquito-borne illnesses as well.

 

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Critical blood shortage: Red Cross urges blood and platelet donors to give now 

 

LANSING, Mich.—While thousands of people from across the country responded to the emergency request for blood and platelet donations issued by the American Red Cross in early July, a critical blood shortage remains. The Red Cross urges eligible donors to give now to help ensure blood is available throughout the rest of the summer to meet patient needs.

At times, blood and platelets are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, which impacts the ability to rebuild the blood supply. Right now, the Red Cross has less than a five-day blood supply on hand. The Red Cross strives to have a five-day supply at all times to meet the needs of patients every day and be prepared for emergencies that may require significant volumes of donated blood products.

“The Red Cross continues to have an emergency need for blood and platelet donors to give now and help save patient lives,” said Todd Kulman, External Communications Manager of the Great Lakes Blood Services Region. “We are grateful for those who have already stepped up this summer to give and want to remind those who are eligible that hospital patients are still counting on them to roll up a sleeve.”

Every two seconds

In the U.S., every two seconds someone like Ray Poulin needs blood or platelets. Poulin’s liver and kidneys failed following a serious blood infection. The situation became urgent when his liver hemorrhaged. He was given a 10 percent chance of survival. After receiving 77 units of blood, Poulin defied the odds.

“There was a lot that went into saving my life, but if the blood wasn’t available when I needed it, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Poulin.

Blood and platelets are needed for many different reasons. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may all need blood.

All blood types urgently needed

Donors of all blood types are urgently needed to help restock the shelves. The Red Cross is thanking those who come in to donate blood or platelets between July 25 and Aug. 31 by emailing them a $5 Amazon.com gift card claim code.

To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Blood donor app (redcross.org/bloodapp), visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of an online health history questionnaire (redcrossblood.org/rapidpass) are encouraged to help reduce wait times.

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Loss of spouse event

 

Registration is now open for a free Loss of a Spouse event, presented by Hospice of Michigan, for anyone experiencing the loss of a spouse or life partner in the Grand Rapids area. The event will be held 2-3:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 at the Hospice of Michigan office located at 989 Spaulding SE, Ada. Guest speaker Ron Gries will share excerpts from his book Through Death to Life and lead a discussion. By sharing the challenges of his journey of grief, Gries offers hope and encouragement to others.

All members of the community are welcome to attend the Loss of a Spouse event free of charge, regardless of whether their loved one received services through Hospice of Michigan. To register, contact Sue Glover at 616.356.5255. For information on the event and other services Hospice of Michigan offers to the community, visit http://www.hom.org/for-patients-and-loved-ones/grief-support-groups.

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First human case of West Nile virus for 2016 confirmed in MI

HEA-WestNile-mosquito

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) confirmed on July 22 the state’s first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) for 2016. The resident is an older adult from Livingston County and is currently recovering.

“Hot, dry summers are ideal for the mosquito that transmits West Nile virus, and this case is an important reminder to stay vigilant against mosquito bites throughout the summer,” said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “All residents older than six months of age should use repellent and take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours between dusk and dawn.”

To date, 13 birds have tested positive for WNV so far this season, and 3 WNV positive mosquito pools have been detected in Oakland and Saginaw counties. Infected birds and mosquitoes can provide an early warning of WNV activity in a community. For the most current information on mosquito-borne virus activity in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus.

Residents can stay healthy by using simple, effective strategies to protect themselves and their families by reading and following all repellant label directions. The following steps are recommended to avoid WNV:

  • Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
  • Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
  • Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, or other EPA approved product to exposed skin or clothing, and always following the manufacturer’s directions for use.
  • Wear light colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.

Most people who become infected with West Nile virus will not develop any symptoms of illness. However, some become sick three to 15 days after exposure. About one-in-five infected persons will have mild illness with fever, and about one in 150 infected people will become severely ill.

Mild illness may include headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting diarrhea, or rash. Severe symptoms of WNV are associated with encephalitis or meningitis, and may include: include stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, convulsions and paralysis. People 50 and older are more susceptible to severe WNV disease symptoms.

For more information and surveillance activity about WNV, visit www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus.

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Tell your kids: go out and play

Kids need a well-rounded diet of play to develop into well-rounded adults.

Kids need a well-rounded diet of play to develop into well-rounded adults.

(NAPS)—The next time you tell your children to stop playing and hit the books, you may want to think again. The Genius of Play, a movement to bring more play into kids’ lives, wants you to know that playtime is critical to healthy child development. Through play, kids build physical skills, improve cognitive abilities, learn communication and social skills, process and express emotions, and increase creativity.

Parenting expert and author Meredith Sinclair, M.Ed., offers four fun tips to help parents encourage more playtime every day.

  • Look for opportunities to make chores or activities you already do with your kids more playful. For example, grocery shopping can be a great chance to play “I Spy,” or you can make flash card drawings of items you want your child to help you find. When you’re doing the laundry, have your child roll the socks and make it a basketball -challenge.
  • Create a simple “Pops of Playfulness” jar for those moments when there’s “nothing to do.” Fill a mason jar with slips of paper that say such things as “tell us your best joke,” “pillow fight!” or “five-minute puppet show.” Whenever you need a spontaneous spark of playfulness, simply pull one from the jar and jump in.
  • Make a time for a playdate. Whether it’s playing with friends or family, playdates are an important part of childhood—a time when your children can learn to resolve problems and hone their social skills.
  • Check out nearby parks and playgrounds. They can be great places for your kids to make new friends and learn about other cultures. Don’t worry about language barriers. The language of play is universal.

Research shows that play is essential for kids to reach developmental milestones and learn. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children spend 60 minutes daily engaged in open-ended, unstructured play.

Here are three amazing facts about play:

  1. Play enhances the progress of early development from 33 percent to 67 percent by improving language and reducing social and emotional problems.
  2. Children with access to a variety of toys were found to reach higher levels of intellectual achievement, regardless of the children’s sex, race or social class.
  3. Research points to a direct correlation between play and stress reduction.

It’s Child’s Play: Great Ideas and Resources for Parents

Parents and other caretakers can get expert advice, play tips and ideas based on their children’s ages and developmental stages from www.thegeniusofplay.org. Created with the mission to help raise happier, healthier and more successful generations through the power of play, the Genius of Play website and social media channels show how to help kids build confidence, creativity, critical thinking and other skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

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Gym-free fitness ideas anyone can do

HEA-Gym-free-fitness

(BPT) – Visiting a gym to lift weights or take a class is great for your health. However, busy schedules, tight budgets and simply not feeling like the gym environment is for you are reasons that frequently cause people to stop going. Fortunately, being fit doesn’t require the gym!

Tavis Piattoly, a sports dietitian, expert nutritionist and co-founder of My Sports Dietitian, offers some no-fuss ideas for staying healthy without the gym.

Inside the home
Stuck inside? No problem. Try some squats or, if mobility is an issue, squat to a chair. Push-ups are another classic, highly effective option. If regular push-ups aren’t an option, do them from your knees or against the wall. Other amazing exercises: lunges around the house, shoulder presses with dumbbells, jumping rope, jumping jacks, running in place, planks and sit-ups.

Outside in nature
Being out in the fresh air is a great escape that offers loads of fitness possibilities. Try hiking, paddle boarding, kayaking, skiing, fishing, mountain biking or whatever else peaks your curiosity. Simply taking a walk around the yard or block is beneficial, too.

At the office
Overcome the sedentary office lifestyle by making time for fitness. Try taking the stairs every day and park far away so you walk to the door. Then, use a 5-minute break every hour to do something active such as chair squats or seated leg raises. Set an automated alert so you don’t forget.

Group fitness
Fitness can be more fun when you do it with friends or family. Play tag, organize relay races or create an obstacle course outside. Other enjoyable group fitness activities include hiking, swimming, basketball, soccer, Frisbee and bike rides.

When out and about
A busy schedule packed with errands still presents the opportunity for fitness. For example, walk or run the parking lot while kids are taking dance or music classes rather than passing the time on your smartphone.

Nutrients
A healthy balance of nutrients keeps blood sugar levels from crashing and gives you a steady source of energy. Piattoly especially recommends taking a Nordic Naturals supplement daily to get the omega-3s you need for optimal health. Extensive research has documented the health benefits of the two main omega-3s (EPA and DHA), which include not only support for a healthy heart, but also brain and cognitive function, joint mobility, eye health, pregnancy and lactation, healthy skin and hair, and a normally functioning immune response.

Balanced meals

To support fitness efforts, it’s important to eat well and regularly. The best foods for sustained energy are balanced meals of complex fiber carbohydrates, healthy fats and lean protein. Piattoly suggests eating every three to four hours. Some ideas to include in balanced meals: whole grain breads and crackers, chicken breast, legumes and fresh fruit and vegetables.

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