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Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

The Oshkosh Community YMCA wants families in Oshkosh to understand how adopting healthy habits can help reduce childhood obesity. September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well chronicled, many families need support changing their families’ habits with the ultimate goal of being a healthy weight. That’s why the Oshkosh YMCA—a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health—wants families to understand the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through improved eating habits and increased physical activity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity has remained stable at about 17 percent and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents. Today, obesity affects one in six children and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers. Here in Wisconsin, 31 percent of all children are considered overweight or obese, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“Successfully lowering obesity rates in children requires the whole family to change their eating and physical activity habits,” said Ben Wanezek, Oshkosh YMCA Downtown Health and Wellness Director. “Kids learn unhealthy habits at home, and many parents or caregivers don’t realize how the choices they make affects those who look up to them.”

“Additionally, if families don’t know how to get started, reaching out to your health care provider or organizations like the Y that provide support are great first steps.”

The following tips are some great ways to incorporate healthier eating habits and more physical activity and into your daily family routine:
  • Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together.  Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals, and allow children to pour their own water.
  • Play Every Day/Go Outside: Children should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving.
  • Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.
  • Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e. turn off screens during meals, go for a walk after a meal, set a timer to remind you to power down the screen).
  • Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.

In addition to being healthy at home, there is a need to maintain healthy habits while attending out-of-school programs. To create healthy environments for all children the Oshkosh YMCA is implementing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in our before and after school programs. Our goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice for your child while he or she is in our care.

To foster your child’s health, the Y strives to:   
  • Provide a fruit and/or vegetable at all meals and snacks.
  • Only provide low-fat milk and water as beverages.
  • Set limits on screen time.
  • Provide daily physical activity (outdoors when possible).
  • Adults model healthy food and beverage choices and active play.
  • Provide parent/caregiver education to encourage healthy behaviors at home.

To learn more about the Oshkosh Community YMCA, go to www.oshkoshymca.org.

Sleep Health

“Sleep hygiene” is a term used to describe practices that are sleep-friendly. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, review this checklist to see if any of these factors may be causing or worsening the problem. 

Is your bedroom a sleep-friendly area? Minimize noise, light and excessive room temperatures when preparing for sleep. If you’re having trouble with sleep, experts recommend eliminating activities in the bedroom that can distract you, such as watching TV, reading, eating, or working. Do those activities elsewhere in the home. If you can’t fall asleep in 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity in another room until you become sleepy.

Do you keep a regular pattern of bedtime and waking? Waking up at about the same time of day helps retiring at bedtime be more predictable.

Do you limit your intake of caffeine? Caffeine disrupts sleep because it’s a stimulant. Caffeine is not only in coffee and tea, but also in some soft drinks, medications, and foods. Avoid caffeine after lunch and cut down on your total daily use to help avoid being too stimulated at bedtime.

Do you smoke cigarettes near bedtime or during sleep hours?  Nicotine is a stimulant that may “trigger” your body to remain alert.

Do you drink alcoholic beverages late in the evening? While alcohol may help some people feel relaxed, it can actually disrupt sleep later in the night.

Do you eat heavy meals too close to bedtime? Heavy meals may make lying down feel uncomfortable. Try a light snack instead, which may help induce sleep.

Do you do vigorous exercise within three to four hours of bedtime? Regular exercise is essential for good health, but if done too late in the evening, it may interfere with sleep. Exercising in the late afternoon, however, can help deepen sleep.

Do you take naps frequently? Avoid napping during late afternoons or evenings. If you must nap, do so early in the afternoon and limit the nap to 30 minutes.

Are you feeling anxious about not getting enough sleep? Worrying about not being able to get enough sleep and spending too much time in bed attempting to “get more rest” can make insomnia worse.

Do you work shift work? Working the night shift often has the potential to seriously disrupt your “body clock”. Often, companies that schedule shift work offer training on how to adjust to sleeping when it is daylight, or when family activities and other interruptions can make sleep difficult.

Shape up your habits and practice good sleep hygiene. Your sleep health is an important part of your overall health.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a treatable condition. It’s hard to acknowledge that you or your loved one may have a problem. Often times people feel like it’s a character weakness or be too embarrassed to talk about it. Substance abuse is a serious health condition.

Substance abuse can be a life-threatening condition. People would seek care immediately for most life-threatening conditions, but unfortunately, substance abuse stigmas stop many people from seeking treatment, especially if you feel it could jeopardize your career or make you less of a role model for your family or kids. People can seek treatment for substance use too, and they can beat it, they might just need a little help.

There are many licensed experts to assist. Calling a helpline can put you in contact with a licensed care specialist who can listen to and understand your situation. They can arrange a face-to-face evaluation by an expert, who will create a personalized care strategy to help begin the journey to recovery. Experts in dealing with substance abuse can even assign family with a dedicated Care Advocate who will provide support for up to six months after treatment.

On Saturday, September 9, re:Th!nk of Winnebago County is hosting an Addiction Run/Walk to benefit the Solutions Recovery center, Nova Counseling Center, and the D.A.R.E. program. The event will take place at the Solutions Recovery Center in Oshkosh and includes a 7-mile run, 5K run/walk, and 1 miles walk. 

Facilities like Nova Counseling Center in Oshkosh provide support and encouragement for those needing help with substance abuse. Nova supports the Oshkosh community by providing a 50 bed residential facility for adult men and women with substance abuse problems. Ten of those beds are for a halfway house, the Terra House. Nova also has a mentoring program that is facilitated by staff for Drug Court participants and recovering people at Solutions Recovery Club.  Participants from the Terra halfway house and mentor program help out in the community by providing community service hours at many local businesses. 

Do you have a loved one struggling with substance abuse? It can be very hard to watch someone you care for on a path towards self-destruction. You may fear that expressing your concern will appear nagging and make things worse. You can make a difference by asking for advice on how to help from facilities like Solutions and Nova. Addiction is a brain disease that affects people spiritually, mentally, and physically. Facility treatment centers provide a safe place for people to heal from addiction at the beginning of their journey. Licensed care experts can help advise you on how to start talking to your loved one about getting help. It may be a tough call on when to step in, however tackling addiction is a team effort and your intervention could save someone’s life.

For more information on the Addiction Run/Walk, visit www.dutrirun.com or register for the event at www.active.com. For more information about Nova Counseling Center or Solutions Recovery Center, visit their websites at www.novaoshkosh.com and www.sri-wi.org.

YMCA Afterschool Care

A new school year is filled with potential—a chance to start new routines and habits, build new friendships and discover new possibilities and interests. It’s an exciting time for many kids, however—at the end of the school day, 11.3 million kids head to homes where they are unsupervised form 3 to 6 p.m. according to Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness organization. As children transition from summer to fall, the Oshkosh Community YMCA is offering programs to school-aged children throughout the Oshkosh Area School District to keep youth active, busy and engaged during out-of-school time. Through a well-rounded approach to youth development, the Y’s program offers activities in a caring and safe environment during the critical hours after school. Whether through sports, mentorship, or academic support, the Y nurture the potential of youth throughout the school year.

 “One in five children do not have someone to care for them after school, an essential time to help increase children’s success in school,” said Erin Baranek, School Age Director at the Oshkosh Community YMCA. “Afterschool at the Y is an opportunity for families to ensure their kids are receiving additional support, continued learning and a chance to participate in meaningful activities that can inspire children’s motivations and abilities to succeed.”

The Y is a leading nonprofit committed to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, supporting their social-emotional, cognitive and physical development from birth to career. In the Oshkosh YMCA’s  afterschool program youth receive help with homework and can also explore music, art, outside physical activity, group games, science and nature. Financial assistance is available to those in need, to ensure every child and teen has the opportunity to learn and grow at the Y.

The Oshkosh YMCA employs Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in our afterschool programs that help build a healthier future for our nation’s children by encouraging healthy eating habits, limiting screen time and providing physical activity to keep every child healthy.

For more information about the Oshkosh YMCA’s afterschool program, please contact Erin Baranek at erinbaranek@oshkoshymca.org or call 920-236-3380.

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 22 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Why do healthier foods always seem to cost more? Is it possible to maintain a nutritious diet on a reasonable budget? The short answer….it is! Here are a few tips to help you stay health conscious and on budget.

Buy and cook in bulk. At warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco, you can buy many items in bulk for much less. After buying in bulk, separate and freeze if needed. Spend a little time cooking dishes on the weekends that you can eat during the week, or freeze and use at a later date. A big bowl of bean soup or chili can be dinner as well as lunch for the next day or two. This saves on expensive frozen dinners, trips to the cafeteria, and last-minute detours to the drive-thru.

Manage meat options by looking for healthy meat, poultry and fish on sale and freeze for later use to reduce waste. Also, consider swapping more expensive meats for other sources of protein, like beans, tofu, or eggs.

Be season-savvy by using seasonal fruits and vegetables, as they taste the best and are often much less pricey than imported out-of-season varieties. You can also look for lower-priced produce in the supermarket. It is usually one a day or two old, but much less expensive. Try visiting local farmer’s markets, where produce is often cheap and fresh.

Don’t be afraid to go generic. Sometimes generic or private label store brands have the same ingredients that the big brand name products have, but because they aren’t paying the high advertising costs the big brands are, they can charge less. In some cases, the same manufacturers produce both the generic products and the brand name.

Menu planning can help reduce perishable product waste. Head to the store with a good idea of the meals you want to make for the week. Research shows that shoppers without a list tend to buy more food, especially snacks and impulse items.

Try to limit junk food. Junk food and prepared frozen foods can often add up to be the most expensive things in your cart. Trade the money you normally would spend on these items for fresh produce or healthy snacks. And try to avoid going to the store hungry, when it’s more difficult to resist temptation.

You can eat healthy without breaking the bank, it just takes a game plan and a little creativity.  

Breastfeeding Awareness Month

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. A mother’s breast milk has numerous health benefits for both mom and baby. To begin with, it’s naturally produced to be the perfect nutrition for your baby, with disease-fighting antibodies. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of life, and then combining breast milk with the introduction of complimentary foods until baby is at least 12 months. The World Health Organization recommends even longer – through at least the age of two. Rachel Juckem RN, IBCLC, Lactation Consultant at Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh states, “Breastfeeding has many benefits. It helps protect babies against asthma, childhood obesity, diarrhea, respiratory infections, ear infections, SIDS, and some childhood cancers.”

Here are just a few benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby:
  • Colostrum is like liquid gold. Colostrum is the thick yellow breast milk that is made during pregnancy and shortly after birth. It’s extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies to help protect your baby and build his or her immune system.
  • Breast milk provides the perfect nutrition.  A mother’s body naturally produces the perfect proportions of fat, carbohydrates, and protein every time your baby nurses. It even changes with your growing baby’s needs. Breast milk also provides crucial antibodies that can actually fight disease and lower the risk of your baby developing all kinds of diseases and chronic illnesses later in life.
  • Breast feeding satisfies a baby’s emotional needs.  The closeness of breastfeeding your baby promotes crucial bonding and skin-to-skin contact which is important for emotional and social development. Plus, it releases endorphins, which act as a natural soother and pain suppressant for baby.
  • Breastfeeding is associated with a higher IQ.  The latest study to support this was done in New Zealand, where an 18-year longitudinal study found that children who were breastfed had better intelligence and greater academic achievement.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of post-partum depression and stimulates healing.  It was reported in a study published in the journal Maternal and Child Health that breastfeeding can cut the risk of post-partum depression in half.  Breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin in the mother’s body. Often known as the “feel good” hormone, oxytocin also stimulates contractions, which cause the uterus to shrink more quickly to its pre-pregnancy size. This also shuts off the maternal blood-vessels that formerly fed the baby and discourages excessive bleeding.
  • Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower type of Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers. One of the reasons for the cancer-fighting effects of breastfeeding is that estrogen levels are lower during lactation – resulting in a lower risk of these tissues becoming cancerous. 
  • Breastfeeding costs less and is more convenient.  Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year, depending on how much your baby eats. Breastfed babies are also sick less often, resulting in fewer missed days at work and lower health care costs.
Unfortunately, America is the one of the few developed countries without a law ensuring new mothers receive paid maternity leave. For some women, returning to work is often cited as the reason why they choose not to breastfeed, or to only breastfeed for a short time.

Through the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), large employers (more than 50 employees) are now required to provide moms and babies younger than 12 months with a reasonable break time for pumping, and a private place to pump, other than a bathroom. Another result of the law was for most benefits plans to provide pregnant or post-partum women with comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider, during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period. 

Gone Golfing

It’s summer time in Wisconsin which means many of us will be enjoying the beautiful local golf courses. There are actually many health benefits to the game of golf. Playing golf regularly can help a person stay fit, improve muscle tone and endurance, and lose weight and body fat. But, the game of golf also has some additional health benefits. Playing a round of golf has been proven to release endorphins, a powerful, natural, mood enhancer from our brain. Studies also show that golf delays the onset of dementia by stimulating blood circulation in the brain along with improving connections between nerve cells. Golf also challenges the mind in terms of strategy, coordination and concentration. 

A Swedish study on the health benefits of golf found that people who play the game on a regular basis have a 40 percent lower mortality rate among their peers, which equals a five year increase in life expectancy. Getting regular daytime activity generally means a person will fall asleep faster and sleep better throughout the night. Golf is a great way of staying active during the day. 

A typical game of golf, if the course is walked, can average walking about six miles, which means a person can burn approximately 1400 calories during a round. Socialization is also a large health benefit to the game of golf. As they say, a bad day on the golf course is still better than a good day at work!  Research shows that people who maintain their social network and support systems do better under stress, and cholesterol levels decrease with human companionship. Golf provides opportunities to meet new people and helps develop a sense of community connectedness. 

Golf is typically a leisure sport, however, just like any other sport, common injuries can occur.  Causes of injury generally include overuse, incorrect technique and aggravation of a previous injury.  Here are some tips to avoid golf injuries:
  • Warm and stretch before playing. Pay particular attention to the back, shoulders and arms. 
  • Take lessons. Good technique is the best defense against injury.
  • Use good equipment. Wear appropriate clothing such as shoes, socks and gloves.
  • Consider having golf equipment professionally fitted before purchase.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your game.
  • Lift and carry clubs safely.
  • Stop playing if an injury occurs.
Like any other sport, a tailored exercise program that focuses on muscles most utilized by the golfer can be very beneficial. For golf, attention should be given to core strength and flexibility, and flexibility training for the hips and thoracic spine to increase range of motion. Examples of beneficial exercises include standing wood chop, lunges, front plank and side planks. Just like any other fitness program, consistency with the exercises is key. Begin to incorporate a regular-regimen of these sport specific exercises and flexibility exercises into your daily workout routine and you should begin to see performance improvements shortly.

Summer Safety

It’s important to stay healthy and safe during the summer months. It’s a great time to be enjoying outdoor activities, therefore, taking simple precautions will guarantee a safe and fun-filled summer. 

Protect your skin from too much sun exposure by applying sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher. Also limit midday sun exposure from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. when the sun is its strongest. Consider wearing loose fitting, light colored clothing when outside during peak sun times and a hat, wear sunglasses with a high UV rating as well.

Hiking, camping, and gardening are great ways to be outside and get exercise at the same time, however people must be aware of poisonous plants such as Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac, as well as ticks and other bugs.  People should learn how to identify these poisonous plants and bugs so they can avoid them. Risk of them touching the skin can be decreased by wearing protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeves, and gloves.

Biking can also be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get exercise during the summer months.  It is not only a very fun, family-friendly activity, but it is environmentally friendly as well. Be sure to always ride smart and obey basic rules such as always wearing a helmet, wear reflective clothing and use a headlight and rear reflector when riding in low light, children should always ride on sidewalks or paths until they are at least 10 years old, and bikers should always ride with traffic on the right side of the road while obeying all traffic signs and signals and using hand directionals to turn. To protect the brain and head for all summer activities, be sure to wear a helmet when participating in activities that involve wheels, concrete or asphalt. A helmet that fits properly will sit directly on the head above the eyebrows and will buckle tightly around the chin. 

Water activities can be a highlight to any family’s summer fun, but being safe around the water is extremely important. Many summer accidents and injuries occur in or around water. When swimming at a pool or lake, always obey all posted rules and regulations and never swim alone.  People of all ages should learn how to swim; learning simple, basic swimming skills can save your life. Never dive in shallow water or water that you can’t see the bottom. Be sure to have a pulse on the weather, never swim in bad weather. When visiting local water parks, be sure those you are with know how to swim. Always read all the signs before going on a water ride and beware of other riders. When boating or doing water sports like jet skiing, always wear a life jacket regardless of swimming ability and always obey the local and state boating rules. Stay alert to other boaters, know the weather forecast, and inform family and friends that you are out on the water and when you expect to return. A cell phone is a great thing to have on a boat. 

Summer can be a fun time for everyone as long as safety comes first. Enjoy the great outdoors and stay safe!

Keep Your Brain Healthy

Keeping your mind sharp is just as important as keeping your body in good shape. Your brain is vital to good health, and although we may not care for it specifically, there’s growing evidence that daily habits can help maintain its function. It’s never too late to start incorporating these habits for better health.

Eat food that is rich in nutrients such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and unsalted nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids also play a role in brain health. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, walnuts and flaxseed oil. 

Aerobic activity, that gets your heart pumping, send more nourishing blood throughout your body, including to your head. This has been proven to benefit brain cells and help preserve our thoughts as we age. Healthy conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugars may also raise risk of dementia. Know your numbers – talk with your doctor about what your numbers should be and a safe way to get there.

Quitting smoking is also one of the best things you can do for brain health. People who smoke more than two packs a day have twice the rate of dementia and even the lowest level of smoker has a thirty-seven percent greater chance of developing dementia than a non-smoker. However, studies show that people who used to smoke but stop, had no increased risk of dementia, and had normal brain functioning into old age. 

Regularly challenging your brain provides short and long-term benefits.Become a lifelong learner. Consider enrolling in classes at a community college, learn a new language, engage in a new art or craft skill, challenge your mind with crosswords or jigsaw puzzles. Social interaction also helps improve brain function and fight off cognitive decline. Volunteer and join groups such as a book club or walking group. New friends and old friends are beneficial to brain health.

Sleep gives your body and brain the time to repair and restore itself. Not getting enough sleep messes with your memory and thinking skills. You should always wake up feeling refreshed, if you are not, talk to your doctor about your sleep. 

Always protect your head.  A brain injury increases the risk of dementia.  Always buckle up, wear a helmet for cycling and contact sports, and take the necessary steps to prevent falls.

Avoid mental aging by making small changes to keep your brain healthy and happy.

Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

According to the Arthritis Foundation, Juvenile arthritis affects almost 300,000 children in the United States. July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. Juvenile arthritis, also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, is the term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children under the age of 16.

There are many types of Juvenile arthritis. 
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is considered the most common form of arthritis, and includes six subtypes: oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated.
  • Juvenile dermatomyositis is an inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
  • Juvenile lupus is an autoimmune disease and can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other areas of the body.
  • Juvenile scleroderma, which means “hard skin”, describes a group of conditions that causes the skin to tighten and harden.
  • Kawasaki disease causes blood-vessel inflammation that can lead to heart complications.
  • Mixed connective tissue disease is associated with very high levels of a particular antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.
  • Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome and causes stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep and other symptoms.
There is currently no known cause for most forms of juvenile arthritis. There is also no known evidence that suggests toxins, foods or allergens causes children to develop Juvenile arthritis. To properly treat Juvenile arthritis, an accurate diagnosis is necessary. The diagnostic process is typically very long and detailed. All children will receive a thorough physical exam and a detailed medical history. There is no cure for Juvenile arthritis at this time. Treatment goals are to relieve inflammation, control pain and improve the child’s quality of life and typically include a combination of medication, physical activity, eye care and healthy eating.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease suggests parents do the following to best care for their child with Juvenile arthritis:
  • Get the best care possible.
  • Learn as much as you can about your child’s disease and its treatment.
  • Consider joining a support group.
  • Treat your child as normally as possible.
  • Encourage exercise and physical therapy for your child.
  • Work closely with your child’s school.
  • Talk with your child.
  • Work with therapists or social workers.
An important part of any child’s treatment plan is teaching them how to follow a treatment plan and addressing the emotional and social effects of the disease. Self-care is valuable for children at any age and teaches them how to make good choices every day to live well and stay healthy and happy.  
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