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New technology, rehab helps stroke survivors

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Life after stroke probably won’t be the same, but rehabilitation programs and new technology can help survivors to regain skills.

Nearly 130,000 people die from strokes each year; the Centers for Disease Control report that there is one death related to stroke an average of every four minutes. Annually, nearly 800,000 U.S. residents have a stroke, and for the majority (about 610,000) it is the first stroke.

The goal of any stroke rehabilitation program is to give the survivor as much independence as possible, by helping them to re-learn what the stroke took away. Stroke rehabilitation programs are personalized, created with an individual’s stroke-related limitations and goals in mind.

Some programs focus on basic motor skills: Holding a fork or drinking from a cup. These programs include a variety of therapies; physical therapies focus on range of motion, motor skills, mobility, and forced-use activities meant to strengthen the muscles.

Technology is playing a big part in rehabilitation. To encourage upper extremity rehabilitation, patients often use a robotic device coupled with a video game that engages the mind, while encouraging hand and arm repetitions.

Another tech advance are devices such as Music Glove. This device improves brain-hand function. Patients wear a glove that plugs into a computer or tablet. Then they play a musical game that requires certain finger movements. In clinical trials, the device improved hand movement in two weeks.

The Mayo Clinic encourages survivors to begin rehabilitation activities as soon as they are medically stable, typically within 24-48 hours of the stroke event. The sooner these therapies start, the better chance the survivor has to recover skills and abilities, doctors say.
Depending on the severity of a stroke, rehabilitation treatment can be done in inpatient therapy.

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6 types of exercise for all ages

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Physical activity is a key component of healthy aging. It helps you maintain mobility and improve your balance, which reduces the risk of falls and injury. Adequate exercise can also slow or prevent the onset of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Here are six activities to keep you moving at any age.

1. Golf
In addition to relieving stress, golf can improve your concentration. Opt to walk the course rather than rent a cart to get even more exercise.

2. Walking

There are many physical and psychological benefits of walking. All you need is a sturdy pair of running shoes. Plus, you can do it almost anywhere.

3. Cycling
This low-impact aerobic exercise helps with blood circulation, endurance, and balance. It’s also a great way to get some fresh air and explore scenic trails.

4. Swimming
Since it’s a non-weight-bearing exercise, swimming gives you a full-body workout without putting pressure on your hips, knees, and back. For a change of pace, take a water aerobics class.

5. Stretching
Activities like Pilates, yoga, and tai chi enhance flexibility, balance, and muscle strength. They’re usually practiced in a group and can be adapted to accommodate reduced mobility.

6. Pickleball
A cross between tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, this sport is a great way to express your competitive spirit without straining your muscles and joints.

Keep in mind that all of these options have the potential to be great social activities as well.

If you have health or mobility issues, speak with your doctor before starting a new type of physical activity.

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Meal prep: the easy way to eat healthier

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If you’re looking for an easy way to adopt healthier eating habits, then meal prep is for you. This method consists of planning and preparing your meals a week in advance and is easy to integrate into your routine. Here’s how and why you should do it.

How to do it
Make a menu for the upcoming week that includes healthy, balanced meals that freeze well or can keep for a few days in the fridge. You can either make a few different meals or a large batch of a single dish that you enjoy. Once you decide what’s on the menu for the week, make a list of everything you need and hit the grocery store. Spend an afternoon cooking and you’ll have a week’s worth of food that you only need to warm up.

Benefits

If you plan out your weekly menu, the first thing you’re likely to notice is that you’ll eat well throughout the week and stress less at mealtimes. This is because you won’t have to cook or scramble to find something to eat every day. Plus, you’ll likely eat much healthier than you would if you had to improvise every day. You won’t have to settle for processed or fast food.

One of the main obstacles to developing healthy eating habits is that cooking balanced meals takes time. Meal prep solves this issue by making it quicker and easier to eat nutritious meals throughout the week.

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The impact of stress and how to manage it

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Stress can impact your health and well-being. Understanding where it comes from and how it can affect you are crucial to remaining mentally and physically fit. Here’s what you need to know.

Warning signs
It’s important to be able to recognize if stress has become a problem. The symptoms below are common and not a cause for alarm when they occur occasionally. However, if they get worse or become ongoing, this could indicate that something’s wrong. Watch out for:

• Increase or decrease in appetite

• General fatigue
• Mood swings
• Difficulty concentrating
• Headaches
• Irritability or aggressiveness
• Sleep problems

Possible sources
If you realize you’re living with too much stress, you need to identify its source. Think about your relationships, both personal and professional, your home life, your job, and how busy you are. You should also identify daily irritants such as a long commute, as these tend to add up and can impact your mental health.

What you can do
Once you have an idea of where your stress comes from, you’ll be in a position to take steps to improve your situation and health. In some cases, it’s a matter of adjusting an aspect of your life, such as how much work you’ve taken on, or working out a problem in a relationship. Importantly, things like meditation and therapy can help as well.

Whatever you do, don’t let stress take over your life. Over time, it can cause you to develop serious health issues and poor coping mechanisms like the consumption of fatty foods, alcohol, and drugs.

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How to maintain your independence as you age

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As you get older, you may lose the ability to accomplish certain tasks on your own. However, there are several things you can do to remain self-sufficient well into your golden years.

Keep active
Engaging in physical activity on a regular basis is the best way to maintain your muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, balance, and flexibility. From yoga and water aerobics to cycling and playing golf, an active lifestyle helps reduce the risk of falls and injury. You’ll also have more energy to accomplish daily tasks. However, be sure to speak with your doctor before taking on a new sport or workout regimen.

Use technology

A reminder application on your smartphone or tablet is a convenient tool that can help you remember to attend appointments and take your medications. Alternatively, you can use a voice assistant like Google Home, Alexa, or Cortana to set reminders, call your loved ones, and control other smart devices in your home. If you’re worried about falling, a medical alert system will ensure you’re able to contact emergency services if you have an accident.

Adapt your home
As your needs and limitations change, various modifications can be made to your home that will allow you to continue to go about your daily routine without the assistance of a caregiver. Hire a professional or ask a loved one to install handrails and grab bars, anti-slip mats, additional lighting, lever door handles, pull-out cabinet shelves, and a seat in the shower if needed.

Rely on services
If you have reduced mobility, various service providers can help you with day-to-day activities you struggle to complete on your own. An in-home nurse can administer medications, change bandages, assist with bathing, and more. You might also benefit from rehabilitation or psychosocial services or simply hiring someone to pick up your groceries and help prepare meals.

For advice on how to adapt your lifestyle and preserve your autonomy, schedule a consultation with an occupational therapist.

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Can VR headsets harm your eyes?

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There’s little evidence to suggest that using a virtual reality (VR) headset will harm your eyes any more than using a regular screen. However, they’re not recommended for children under the age of 13. This is because their eyes are still developing and VR use could lead to permanent issues. Unfortunately, there are other health concerns associated with using VR headsets.

Virtual reality sickness
Some people who navigate virtual environments experience what’s known as virtual reality sickness, a condition that resembles motion sickness. It can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea, which typically dissipate once headset use is discontinued. Virtual reality sickness occurs due to a mismatch between what the eye perceives and inner ear experiences (movement versus lack of movement).

Other health concerns

Using a VR headset can also affect hand-eye coordination. This is because, after a few minutes of use, the eyes and brain adapt to the simulation. When the headset is finally removed, some people experience poor hand-eye coordination. This lasts for a few minutes while they get accustomed to the real world again.

The benefits of VR
Some optometrists have begun to use specialized VR headsets to improve depth perception, visual acuity, and more. These devices can also help people get over motion sickness.

In sum, VR headsets are safe as long as they’re used in moderation. To protect your eyes, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In addition, don’t forget to blink. This will prevent you from getting dry eyes.

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The benefits of lavender

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Lavender is known for its aroma and distinct violet-gray flowers. It’s also believed to have a host of therapeutic uses. Here’s an overview.

Relaxation
Lavender oil is often used to reduce anxiety and agitation. Infusions of it have been recognized as effective for treating insomnia and improving sleep quality by the German Commission E. This advisory board published a series of monographs on the therapeutic uses of medicinal plants between 1984 and 1994.

Pain relief

Lavender has analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. Some people use it as a dietary supplement to help with digestion issues. As an essential oil, it’s used in topical applications and aromatherapy to treat various issues ranging from headaches to menstrual cramps and muscle pain.

It’s important to note that lavender oil can be toxic if swallowed. It can also cause skin irritation in some people and interact poorly with certain medications. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting any type of alternative treatment.

Lavender species
Not all lavender species have the same purported medicinal properties. True lavender, also known as English lavender, is thought to have a calming effect, while lavender aspic tends to be better at treating burns. Aromatherapy experts can help you determine which type is best for you.

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