Are Junk Food and Cancer Linked?

Are Junk Food and Cancer Linked?

A recent study linking diets heavy in junk food and cancer likely gave nurses everywhere pause. Although nurses see the health problems brought on by poor diet choices every day, educating patients and changing their habits is tough.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed PLOS journal found that a diet heavy in junk food was linked with increased cancer rates. Using Nutri-Score, a food labeling system used in parts of Britain and Europe, researchers were able to identify that diets with an overall lower score for nutritional value was associated with increased cancer and other health problems.

Nutri-Score uses different scores and color labels depending on the nutritional quality of foods. At a glance, consumers can identify how nutritious a food is. According to the study, those who consumed the most junk food had “higher risks of cancers of the colon-rectum, upper aerodigestive tract and stomach, lung for men, and liver and postmenopausal breast for women.”

How can nurses use this study to help their patients? While many patients know the risks of a poor diet, they don’t often identify certain foods as less nutritious as others. What’s the difference between stopping for a fast-food burger than making one at home? The difference can be significant based on the choices, but sometimes it has to be explained.

Nurses are in an excellent position to help patients understand that even small tweaks to their food choices and preparation can make a significant difference in their health. Just on the most basic level, meals made at home tend to have less fat and sodium. A burger at home can be made with a leaner ground beef and accompanied by a salad (bagged salads are easy), a piece of fruit, and oven baked fries. It takes some preparation and planning, but even if the swap is made a couple of times a month, the health benefits will add up.

The study was able to adjust for other factors such as family history, lower physical activity, and higher BMI that can also influence cancer rates. Food choices are such an important part of health and one that can be adapted in small doses. Nurses can help patients assess their food intake and show them where small swaps like popcorn for chips, flavored seltzer and juice for soda, or salsa for onion dip can add up.

Patients might also benefit from hearing about fitting more nutritional foods into their diets. Junk food and cancer might be associated, but intake of junk food is controllable. No one has to give up pizza night, but adding vegetables (either on the pizza or as a side salad) will boost the overall nutrition for the meal. A breakfast of cereal gets a boost from a handful of berries. Even using a store-bought prepared chicken as the basis for an at-home meal will give you more control over the total portion, calories, and flavors.

And as a busy nurse, it can help to take some of the ideas to heart. Consider your eating habits and how you might be able to add and subtract to get more bang for your buck. Bring foods to work that are easy and fast to eat, but offer as much nutrition as possible. You’ll find doing so gives you more energy, keeps you feeling full longer, and might even help regulate your fatigue levels, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, or stress.

If you’re able to notice a few positive changes, you’ll be the best champion of making nutritional changes for your patients. And if they are trying to eat better to gain control over their health now and in the future, each small boost in nutritional food is worthwhile.

9 Health Tips to Curb Calories At Work

9 Health Tips to Curb Calories At Work

Losing weight can be challenging for busy nurses. Long days, tons of stress, and sugary temptations—from goodies kept in bowls on desks to carb-loaded snacks coworkers bring for celebrations—can make it difficult to lose unwanted inches and pounds. A healthy weight can help you prevent or manage diseases and other conditions, boost your body image, and give you more energy. Here are 9 habits to make part of your daily routine to curb calories:

1. Eat a healthy breakfast. 

Protein and healthy fats such as avocado and eggs are more filling than sugary food. Breakfast will help you think and perform better at work.

2. Bring lunch. 

Grab-and go-meals may taste good, but do you know what’s in them? Make your own meals (organic if possible) to allow you to control ingredients, cut calories, and save money. Add protein and nuts to your salads to make them tastier.

3. Get a work partner.

An accountability partner on the job can provide that extra motivation to stay on track. Set a weekly weigh-in goal and check in with each other.

4. Add healthy snacks. 

Raw almonds, seeds, a boiled egg, and fruit can easily be stashed in your bag, drawer, or the office fridge. Stay prepared to avoid vending machine snacks.

5. Take the stairs. 

Increase your heart rate by climbing up the steps. Research shows taking the stairs can help keep your brain young. Make the elevator a rare option.

6. Practice portion control.

Eat a sensible amount of food to stave off hunger. Even if you slip, instead of a slice of a coworker’s birthday cake, stop at a couple of bites or split it. Chances are someone in the office is trying to cut calories, too.

7. Keep a food journal. 

Writing down daily meals and drinks provides an honest look at food habits. It’s a tool to keep track of calories and make changes to achieve your goals.

8. Do a daily walk.

Get outside for fresh air. Aim for at least 30 minutes or 5,000 steps. Even if it’s just 10 minutes at a time, walking will provide a break and boost your energy while reducing stress. Use part of your lunch to get some steps in.

9. Drink water.

Often, overeating stems from thirst and not hunger. Set your cell phone alarm to remind yourself to drink throughout the day. The extra trips to the restroom mean more steps. Dehydration can also make you feel drowsy and sluggish.

Losing weight won’t happen overnight. But practicing these healthy habits will move you closer to your goal, which will improve your overall health.

The Honor of Taking Care of Nurses as Extended Family at Work

The Honor of Taking Care of Nurses as Extended Family at Work

Every day, nurses come to work providing care for patients requiring multiple levels of skilled nursing care ranging from basic to complex. Some patients may require vasoactive or vasopressor drugs to reduce or increase a patient’s blood pressure and other devices, such as a ventilator, intra-aortic balloon pump, or continuous renal replacement therapy, just to name a few, in order to preserve a patient’s life. In addition to caring for patients, nurses also have to make sure the patients’ family members understand the different aspects of the patient’s plan of care, such as the medications’ indication, side effects, and expected outcomes, as well as blood tests and diagnostic tests.

On a daily basis, nurses deal with the various level of stress caring for their patients and family members. These stressors could be the workload, time management, difficult patients and/or family members, discharges, admissions, and cardiac or respiratory arrest events. While nurses set goals to provide quality care that leads to better patient outcomes, nurses have the tendency to neglect themselves while working for the welfare of their patients by occasionally taking shorter meal breaks.

The big question is: who cares for nurses so they can continue to provide quality care every day to achieve positive outcomes? I see myself as a guardian angel for nurses whom I work with every day. Driving to work, I talk to God and ask him to help me make a positive difference, whether it is a soft touch of my hands, my soft-spoken voice, or my tight hugs. I believe that nurses should be cared for similarly to the way we take care of our patients and their families. Therefore, I look for a bible verse that would facilitate me making a difference in the lives of others. The bible verse I read is Proverb 3:6, which reads: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” The reason for this particular verse is that I need God’s guidance so I can be a blessing to others. The way I believe that I am a blessing to others is demonstrated by monthly birthday cards and luncheons for coworkers who are born in a particular month as well as greeting cards and gift cards for expecting mothers and fathers or weddings. I also recognize coworkers if they have achieved any type of certification or graduated from college.

Sometimes, I make and bring in desserts and have food delivered for lunch. On our unit, we are a melting pot of people. Every year in August, we celebrate International Culture Day where the staff brings an entrée from their culture and shares a little bit of history and its meaning. Additionally, I show concern about them as a whole and will ask them how they are feeling, what is going on with their children, dogs and/or cats, and their commute to work. The admiration of taking care of nurses and others as extended family members at work gives me great joy and pleasure that leaves my heart full of exhilaration every day.

Nurses Offer Excellent Brain Health Information

Nurses Offer Excellent Brain Health Information

So many people know of someone touched by brain disease that this month’s designation as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month is especially relevant.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s, a severe form of dementia, are devastating brain diseases that impact families across the world. As people live longer, the prevalence of brain diseases increases because the risk of developing dementia and similar diseases rises with advancing age.

Your career as a nurse means you can have a direct impact in your personal and professional life on the ravages of this disease. As a nurse, you can learn more about how patients with Alzheimer’s might react in unfamiliar situations (like a health care facility or hospital) so you can offer them even more effective care. You can also learn more about the signs and symptoms to help people who might be concerned about loved ones’ behavior or lapses in their own memory. You can also ease fear by debunking some of the common myths of Alzheimer’s (like that Alzheimer’s is only something elderly people get).

In your personal life, your authority as a nurse can help others in your life who might come to you privately with concerns. You can offer the reassurance and guidance that comes from learning more about brain diseases.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these are a few warning signs to notice:

  1. Memory lapses that disrupt daily life

    Lots of people forget where they put the car keys. It’s troublesome if they can’t remember what the keys are for.

  2. Trouble completing normal tasks

    It’s normal to forget how to get to the restaurant you only go to once a year. Getting lost while heading to the regular supermarket should be a red flag.

  3. Distinct mood changes

    Getting a little grouchy at the end of a long day with family is okay. A sharp, noticeable change in normal mood is something to pay attention to.

  4. Confusion about time and place

    In your office, a patient might not remember they are due for a tetanus shot. A patient who can’t tell you why they are in your office is showing warning signs.

As a medical professional, you always focus on prevention, but there is no proven treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s. However, it’s never too late to encourage activities that are good for overall brain health including a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, exercise, social interaction, and remaining interested in many activities whether that’s an interest in a certain historical period, trail walking, kickboxing, building model airplanes, or learning the intricacies of the stock market. Keeping your brain busy is good for your brain health.

The Nutrition Pitfalls of Break Room Munchies

The Nutrition Pitfalls of Break Room Munchies

One of the toughest things nurses face is caring for themselves, and eating for optimal nutrition at work is especially problematic. Filling up on whatever is around can actually zap your energy and lead to longer-term health problems. And a recent study proves the grab-and-go in the break room is challenging for everyone.

A recently published study by the American Society for Nutrition shows that relying on food in the workplace might actually hurt your health. In a time crunch, buying quick take out in the cafeteria, granola bars or candy bars at a vending machine in the hall, or a juice or soda for a pick-me-up can wreak havoc on everything from your blood pressure to your weight.

Even if you resolve to spend nothing on food at work, you aren’t out of the woods. The candy dish that remains filled with tiny pieces of chocolate, the birthday cake for a coworker’s big day, and the party leftovers that appear in the kitchen or break room all add unexpected calories to your daily or weekly total.

The study’s author, Stephen Onufrak noted in his presentation abstract the dietary quality of foods obtained in the average work setting of the study provided less nutrition and a higher ratio of sodium and fats than healthy guidelines recommend.

Even worse, you often aren’t even aware of what you’re eating. A few small cookies barely make a dent in your hunger, but easily pack a lot of fat and calories to your day with little nutritional value. And because nurses work a physically demanding job, eating on the run is pretty common. Sometimes you think it must be better to grab a slice of coffee cake than nothing, and sometimes it is better to do that. But planning ahead and having a yogurt that’s just as fast to eat, string cheese, whole-grain crackers, or a handful of dried fruit and nuts that provides fiber, protein, and a few vitamins to boot is a better choice and provides longer lasting energy.

If it’s the social aspect of workplace eating that appeals to you, just be aware of your intake. Allocate what you are willing to splurge on and what you won’t really miss. Advocate for healthier choices when food is supplied for meetings, lunches, or celebrations. Also be your own cheering section. Take the time to stash your favorite snacks in your bag so you can feel social, but still fuel your body with healthy foods. As with any behavior change, it helps to enlist support. Find a buddy who can help you resist the urge to nosh on whatever is closest at hand.

With healthier eating comes many benefits, but feeling better is one of the biggest benefits of all.

Enhancing Happiness Through Your Work

Enhancing Happiness Through Your Work

Stress in nursing is most likely attributed to the physical and emotional demands of patients and families, work hours, shift work, interpersonal relationships, and other pressures that are central to the work nurses do. Stress adversely affects the health, safety, and well-being of nurses, patients, and health care organizations alike; therefore, it is essential for nurses to reduce job stress and increase their happiness through their work.

Studies show that loving your job has less to do with your job and more to do with you. That’s right, there are simple ways you can ensure your own happiness at work every single day. Because happiness is the sum of love, optimism, purpose, courage, productivity, health, perspective, humor, and fulfillment, you must manage to achieve. Happiness won’t come to you if you do nothing.

Here are six simple actions you can employ to reduce stress and enhance your happiness.

1. Find out what makes you happy.

When you know the answer, you can add it to your life. If you are not sure, you should start taking detailed notes whenever you feel happy.

2. Create and write down a daily goal of joy each day.

Creating a goal allows you to focus on who you are in the moment, recognize and live your values, and achieve your emotional energy and happiness. Try to create one thing that you can look forward to each day at work, whether it’s seeing a specific coworker or your special lunch break. Whatever it is, the simple act of looking forward to it will increase the happiness you associate with work.

3. Make yourself familiar and comfortable with each of your coworkers and patients.

Studies show that working with unfamiliar coworkers and in different settings negatively impacts you at work. Make sure that you take time to introduce yourself to your coworkers and get to know your patients. Being familiar with your coworkers and patients increases your confidence and happiness at work.

4. Be optimistic.

Research shows that positive people are less likely to become ill. Optimism has been linked to an improved sense of well-being so try to look on the bright side whenever you can.

5. Love yourself and take care of your health.

Caring for yourself must be a priority. Eating well, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep can make you feel good. And when you feel good, you have the physical and mental energy to work through daily challenges and focus on what’s good about the day. Make time to do the things that make you happy in the moment as well, such as listening to your favorite song during a lunch break.

6. Last but not least, put a smile on your face, act happy, and laugh every day.

Acting happy and keeping a pleasant expression on your face puts your mind in a positive state. Try to let go of negative feelings and learn to forgive because forgiveness will help give you inner peace.