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Spotting spoiled food: beyond the best-by date



Is it safe to eat? While best-by dates are useful indicators, your senses are a much better way to gauge freshness. Here’s how to determine whether food is safe to eat.

• Dairy. Milk, yogurt, sour cream and other high-humidity dairy products should be chucked if they’ve separated, smell sour, have curdled or are showing even a hint of mold.

• Cheese. Hard and semi-soft cheeses like Parmesan and cheddar are fairly resistant to mold. If there’s only a little bit on the surface, you can cut off one inch around the affected area and eat the rest. Moldy soft cheeses should be discarded.

• Bread. Since mold spores can penetrate the porous surface of bread, a moldy loaf should be thrown out.

• Potatoes. Throw out any potato with green flesh. This is due to an accumulation of solanine, a toxic chemical naturally produced by potatoes. If the green coloration doesn’t extend below the skin, the potato is safe to eat once peeled. Make sure to remove eyes and sprouts and to throw out soft, moldy potatoes.

• Fruits and vegetables. Some fruits and veggies, like carrots and bell peppers, are too dense for mold to penetrate past the surface, so these are safe to eat once the affected spot is removed. Slimy, discolored and thoroughly moldy fruits and veggies should be thrown out.

• Eggs. Conduct a water test to determine freshness. If the egg sinks, it’s good. If it floats, toss it.

• Canned food. Throw out rusted or bulging cans, as well as those that have been punctured.

• Meat and fish. Minor discoloration is nothing to worry about. However, a slimy texture or an unusual smell are indicators of spoilage. The same is true of fresh fish, which should never smell fishy. Deli meats with a slimy coating should also be discarded.

Remember, best-by dates are indicators of freshness, not safety. However, if in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

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How to live a long and healthy life



If you want to increase your lifespan, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help prevent illness and injury. Here’s what you should do to live a long life.

Eat well
An abundance of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish packed with omega-3 fatty acids are vital components of a healthy, balanced diet. You should also limit your consumption of trans fat, salt, and refined sugar.

Stay hydrated

Drink at least half a gallon of water every day to help your body absorb nutrients, regulate your temperature, and eliminate waste. You can supplement your liquid intake with broth, milk, and juice that’s low in sugar.

Watch your weight
If you’re overweight, you risk developing a range of health problems such as cancer, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. You’re also more likely to experience joint pain and reduced mobility.

Get enough sleep
Adults should sleep between seven and nine hours every night. To optimize your rest, establish a consistent sleep schedule, and invest in a quality mattress and pillow. You should also avoid eating and limit your use of electronic devices before bed.

Remain active
Health experts recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week. In addition to providing physical benefits, an active lifestyle helps boost your mood, improve your memory, and reduce stress. Choose an activity you enjoy ensuring you stay motivated.

Exercise your mind
To delay or prevent cognitive decline, you should challenge your brain on a regular basis. Reading, learning new skills, solving puzzles and playing games are all great ways to stimulate your brain.

Maintain your social circle
Regularly visiting friends and family helps decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. Social connections can also strengthen your immune system and lower your risk of developing dementia. Plus, group activities are often a great source of entertainment and laughter.

Learn to manage stress
From ulcers and irritability to migraines and high blood pressure, stress can have serious consequences on your health. Explore various ways to relax and reduce stress such as breathing deeply, listening to music, and practicing yoga.

Consult health professionals
Depending on your age and health, you should visit your doctor, dentist, optometrist, and other health-care specialists every few months or years. If you experience any concerning or persistent symptoms, schedule a consultation right away.

In addition to adopting these healthy habits, you should avoid smoking and limit your alcohol consumption to the recommended amount.

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Swollen legs? Move often in hot weather



If you get some puffiness around the ankles or an unpleasant tautness in your calves, you have swollen legs. It’s a condition everyone experiences at one time or another, like during a spell of hot weather, a whole day standing on your feet, or after a long car trip.

Normally, your body maintains the right amount of fluid in tissues by performing a delicate balancing act. You drink fluid and get rid of it when you breathe, sweat, or urinate. But sometimes not enough fluid leaves your tissues, and the result can range from a little puffiness to swelling.

These are the most common causes:

* Immobility. When you walk, run, or move about, leg muscles contract, promoting blood flow. If you stand still, or sit still as you do on a long airline flight, blood can pool in your veins. This makes it difficult for fluid to move from body tissue back into vessels.

* When your work keeps you standing or sitting in one spot during the day, use your legs whenever possible. Shift your weight from one foot to another. Change positions in your chair. Take opportunities to walkabout.

* Heat. Hot weather can cause your blood vessels to expand, making it easier for fluid to leave them and enter tissues. During hot weather, it’s even more important to move about as much as possible while working.

* Salty foods. When you take in more salt than your body needs, the body dilutes it by retaining fluids and making you thirstier.

* Medications. Some commonly used drugs such as steroids, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, hormone replacement medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs can affect how fast fluid leaves your vessels.

* Menstruation and pregnancy. Changing levels of hormones can affect the rate at which fluid enters and leaves the tissues.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say you should see your doctor promptly if your leg swelling is sudden, painful, persistent, in one leg, or accompanied by shortness of breath, weight gain, or redness.

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One virus was the scourge of humans



As bad as Covid-19 has been, it is not even close to the worst viral disease that has swept humanity.

That honor probably goes to smallpox, a disease so toxic that it wiped out entire populations, killing up to 500 million people in the 20th century alone. It was especially deadly for children, killing up to 80 percent. Survivors of any age were left disfigured, blind, or both. After exposure, symptoms began within a week to 19 days. High fever, fatigue, aches, and vomiting appeared first, followed by red sores on the face, hands, arms, and, finally, the trunk of the body. These sores left deep, pitted scars on survivors.

According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control, the COVID-19 virus kills between 0.26 percent and 0.4 percent of infected people. Smallpox killed no less than 20 percent and up to 60 percent in some populations.

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, the earliest written accounts were from China in about 400 BC, but possibly earlier.

The good news
Today smallpox is gone. The last case in the U.S. was in 1949 and the last case in the world was in 1978. Today the only remnants of smallpox are the light scars left by vaccinations on people born before the 1980s. In 1979, it was declared eradicated after massive inoculation campaigns on every continent. It is thought to live only as a sample in three labs in the world.

First vaccinations
For more than a thousand years, people knew that once a person contracted smallpox, they would ever after be immune. This knowledge led to the first genuine vaccinations.

In China, as early as 400 BC, smallpox scabs were ground up and injected into the noses of healthy people.

The first western experimentation was in 1789 by English doctor Edward Jenner, who found that a similar virus, cowpox, could protect humans. The technique, which used fluid from an active smallpox sore, was scratched into the skin or vein.

The technique was not perfect. People contracted a fever and perhaps some sores, but recovered. However, there was a risk of contracting active disease.

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3 educational apps that teach kids about their health



Help your children learn more about their health. Here are three great apps for curious kids.

1. Caillou Check Up
This app lets your kids enact a visit to the doctor, which can sometimes be scary or stressful. It covers routine procedures like taking a temperature, checking blood pressure, and administering a shot. Every interaction is presented in a stress-free, positive light and the app helps children learn what to expect when visiting the doctor. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.

2. Wash Your Hands Ben The Koala

This app teaches children how to wash their hands by encouraging them to imitate a fun character. It has a timer accompanied by a musical theme. This helps kids scrub their hands long enough to wash away germs. When the allotted time is up, the app signals them to stop. This makes the activity enjoyable and helps kids become more independent. The app is available for both iOS and Android.

3. GlucoZor World
With this app, your child can adopt a diabetic dinosaur. They can play with him in various ways, but they also need to take care of him by feeding him a balanced diet and giving him the correct dose of insulin. In addition, the quizzes in the app will help kids learn more about diabetes. The app is available for both iOS and Android.

These apps are all free and will encourage your kids to learn more about their health.

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Vaccine technologies: Why a COVID vaccine will take months, not centuries



The smallpox virus raged among humans for 10,000 years before a leap of insight led to the vaccine that killed it forever. The insight took about 300 years to develop.

Today, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, drug companies throughout the world are experimenting with vaccines. One company, Moderna, took 42 days to create an experimental vaccine.

Why so fast?

The most obvious reason is the research infrastructure: Laboratories, drug companies, medical systems — systems we take for granted — have never before been available on such a wide scale. Humans are in the era of science and technology.

Still, of the seven known coronaviruses, there are no known human vaccines.

According to Johns Hopkins Senior Scholar Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, the key to the newly rapid development of vaccines is new vaccine platform technologies. Writing in, Adalja says these platforms use the same building blocks to make more than one vaccine. Using the basic platform, researchers are able to, in effect, switch out one targeted virus (or bacteria or other organisms) like a person switches out a video game cartridge. One example of that is the Ebola vaccine, which uses another virus as a platform with the Ebola protein inserted.

A variety of different approaches are being used to create a COVID vaccine. Moderna is using an RNA approach. Inovio is using a DNA model in which genetic material is injected into the platform and human cells translate it into a viral protein. At that point the immune system makes antibodies.

Other approaches include nanoparticles (by Novavax), while other companies try to adapt an avian coronavirus vaccine.

According to Adalja, a coronavirus vaccine could possibly confer protection against other human coronaviruses, eliminating their use as a biological threat in the future.

And, even curing a common cold.

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Be careful out there this summer



Beautiful grass and long stretches of parkland offer an open invitation for summer activity. But it can be an invitation for aches and pains if your body isn’t prepared for vigorous exercise.
The long quarantine period means that people might not be as ready for summer exercise as they have been.

Orthopedists at Northwestern Memorial Caremark Physical Therapy Center in Chicago say these are the most common summer sports injuries and how to prevent and treat them.

Running: Knee cap pain. To prevent it, build up miles gradually. Warm-up slowly. Stretch before running. Treatment includes rest, strengthening thigh muscles.

Tennis: Tennis elbow (tendinitis). Improve your technique. Gradually build up time of play, which should be no more than two hours a day. Rackets should have properly fitted grip and string tension. Treatment includes rest, strengthening the forearm with exercises.

Golf: Low back pain. Practice proper swing mechanics. Condition for strength and flexibility. Do stretching exercises before playing. Treatment includes rest, stretching, strengthening exercises, adjusting your swing.

Cycling: Neck and backache. To prevent aches, raise the handlebars and change positions often. Treatment includes rest, strengthening.

Volleyball: Condition for strength during the season. Stretch and warm up gradually. Treatment includes rest, stretching, strengthening the rotator cuff with exercise.

Basketball: Ankle sprain. Condition and stretch. Tape ankles before playing if you are prone to sprains. Treatment includes Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE).

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