Amelia Harnish

What You Need to Know About West Nile

August 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm , by

You may have already heard the scary news about West Nile: More than 1,000 people have reported symptoms of the virus and 41 have died, more cases than any year since the virus was first detected in 1999, according to the CDC. Enough to up the ante on your anti-mosquito efforts? I think so. But don’t panic. Most people won’t get sick, even if they get bit by a mosquito carrying the virus.

Aside from bug bites, there are a couple of other things to watch out for as you celebrate summer’s end this weekend. We’ve put together a little checklist to remind you about all three.

1. Buy some bug spray
This map shows the severity of the West Nile outbreak–every state save Vermont has seen some activity. Again, no reason to freak out, but you should know that people over 50 or those who have chronic conditions like kidney disease or diabetes are especially at risk. West Nile doesn’t spread via human contact. You can only get it from a mosquito bite, so a bottle of bug repellent can go a long way. Learn more about the best bug sprays and how to apply them here. It’s also a good idea to get rid of any standing water around your home and check your window screens for holes.

2. Wear sunscreen
It may not be all over the news, but the risk of sunburn (which can lead to skin cancers later on) is as real as ever. Dermatologists recommend sunscreens that have broad-spectrum protection and an SPF of 30. And to really get protection, you’ve got to slather it on thick like vanilla icing and re-apply every two hours. If you’re going to be outside all day, don’t forget to seek shade when you can and pack a wide-brimmed hat for extra protection.

3. Drink lots of water
This has been one of the hottest summers on record since 1950. Thankfully, things are cooling off a bit, but dehydration and other heat-related illnesses are still important to watch out for, especially in children and the elderly.  On a normal day, a 150-pound woman has to drink 65 ounces of water to replace what’s lost through sweating, peeing and breathing. So if you’re sweating even a little, you should drink throughout the day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty! And remember, regular old water is your best bet.

Have a safe and fun Labor Day from the LHJHealthLadies!

Challenge Yourself to Shape Up

August 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm , by

The past two weeks we’ve watched in awe as thousands of athletes competed in everything from track & field to judo in London. But why just sit back and watch? The Olympics can be a great motivator to help you get in shape, too.

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to push yourself to new heights of better health. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish. That’s what happened to Terri Gerrard, pictured above (yes, both of those are her). We met her while we were working on our August issue story on sensible weight-loss secrets from LHJ readers.

My jaw dropped when Terri sent us her before and after pictures. But what really impressed me was why she chose to compete (in a bikini, on stage) in a figure competition. It’s a lot like bodybuilding, she says, except the judges focus on muscle tone rather than muscle size. Read on for how she made changes and how you can get started.

Read more

How Olympic Mom Christie Rampone Juggles It All

July 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm , by

Every four years the summer Olympics return, giving us a chance to bask in stories of inspiring triumph. I remember when Kerri Strug stuck the landing on her injured ankle to win gymnastics gold for the “Magnificent Seven.” When Michael Phelps brought home 16 medals in swimming. And when Greg Louganis came out on top in diving despite a concussion. With the state of the world today, I’m looking forward to watching stories like those more than ever.

And this year, while we’re also marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX, women outnumber men on the U.S. Olympic team for the first time. How cool is that?

The U.S. women’s soccer team is opening the games with its first match against France today. While you may already be familiar with Hope Solo, the team’s charismatic goalkeeper, allow me to introduce you to defender Christie Rampone, team captain and mom to daughters Rylie and Reece (ages 6 and 2, with Rampone, right). As one of the fastest defenders in the world, she’s definitely one to watch. I chatted with Rampone to learn more about how she’s balancing being a mom and an elite athlete.

LHJ: You’re the only mom on the soccer team. Is it tough to fit in all your training and traveling while caring for young children?

CR: I’m on the road 200 days out of the year. I’m lucky because my husband Chris is a stay-at-home dad who helps manage my career. He takes care of Rylie when I’m on the road with Reece. Our rule is that we’re not going to be separated for more than two weeks, so Chris and Rylie will come to wherever we are if we’re going to be gone longer. It is stressful, but somehow we make it work. Read more

5 “Healthy” Foods That Aren’t So Good For You

July 11, 2012 at 9:23 am , by

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a budding health writer, it’s that foods marketed as “healthy” need a very, very close look. Usually, things that are actually good don’t need an elaborate marketing plan to convince you. (This is why there’s no packaging in the fresh produce section.) Even some things that we all assume are perfectly healthy aren’t so good after all. That’s why we’ve put together this  list of sneaky foods with the help of Marjorie Nolan, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

1. Coconut Water
We’ve been seeing coconut water everywhere recently, possibly because this summer’s record heat wave is ramping up everyone’s thirst. “Coconut water does have potassium and extra electrolytes in it, so it can be very hydrating. But it also comes with lots of sugar, which adds up fast, especially if you buy a big bottle with multiple servings,” says Nolan. The verdict: Fine for right after a sweaty workout, but most of the time your best bet is good old-fashioned water.

2. Flavored Fat-Free or Low-Fat Yogurt
Those creamy, fruity flavors must be good diet food, right? But the missing fat is often replaced with tons of sugar or else artificial sweeteners that can trick your body and set you up for more cravings later on. “If you save these as an after-dinner treat, they can work. But a lot of people think these are a great healthy snack or diet breakfast item, but they’re not going to make you feel full or help you lose weight in the long run,” Nolan says.

3. Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranates are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods. But the juice? Not so much. “Most of the antioxidants are in the skin,” Nolan says. “The problem is that once you process the fruit, press it, bottle it and sell it, the benefits of the natural fruit are pretty much null and void.” The same goes for açai berry juice, which is being touted as a cure-all for arthritis, weight loss and more all over the Internet.

4. Granola bars
“Some granola bars are no different than candy bars,” Nolan says. While you may think you’ve found a perfectly delicious guilt-free snack, many are loaded with so much sugar or chocolate that it outweighs any benefits granola has on its own. She recommends looking for brands that have less than 12 grams of sugar per bar with at least 3 grams of fiber.

 5. Bananas
We almost had a mutiny at the LHJ office over this one. But for some people, bananas can aggravate symptoms of acid reflux and seem to stir up major gas and bloating, too. “Bananas are also really dense. They’re binding, so they can cause constipation,” Nolan adds.

Hot And Healthy Fourth Of July

July 3, 2012 at 11:07 am , by

Looks like there are only two possibilities for this year’s Fourth of July forecast: hot or hotter. The record heat wave continues, with many states under a heat advisory and temperatures in the 90s and up across the country, according to the National Weather Service. Yikes.

But all sweat aside, a day off is a day off, and I’ll bet you’re forging ahead with your barbecue, beach day or other fun-in-the-sun plans. I know I am! So we’ve put together a few safety reminders for you—before you head outside.

Keep the Water Flowing
Sweat much? On a normal day, a 150-pound woman has to drink around 65 ounces of water to replace what’s lost through sweating, peeing and breathing. In heat like this, you need even more. Water is your best bet. Sugary liquid calories in sodas or sweet tea add up fast. Most people don’t need sports drinks, but if it’s really hot and the danger of dehydration is high, it wouldn’t hurt to pack some Gatorade in your cooler. Alcohol and caffeine can act as a diuretic and make you even more dehydrated, so limit those in the heat. Kids and the elderly are especially prone to dehydration, so if you’re heading to the beach or fireworks, pack plenty of bottled water for the whole family—and remind them to drink it.

Shield Yourself From the Sun
If you don’t wear sunscreen, you’re probably going to get burned, and that can lead to scary skin cancers. Dermatologists recommend sunscreens that have broad-spectrum protection with at least an SPF 30. No matter how high the SPF, you’ve got to really slather it on and re-apply every two hours—even if it’s cloudy. Make sure the kids do, too.  And no sunscreen can protect you all day, so plan ahead and bring a tent or sun umbrellas and a wide-brimmed hat.

Watch Out For Heat Exhaustion
If it’s too hot and humid out, your body’s natural cooling system may have trouble keeping up. One way to stave off heat-related illnesses like heat rash, heat exhaustion and the more-serious heat stroke is to stay well hydrated. If you’re feeling overheated, stay in the shade whenever possible, and lay off the beach volleyball. Look out for symptoms like a racing heart rate, muscle cramps, confusion, weakness or headaches.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Photo via Shutterstock

Healthiest Frozen Treats

June 6, 2012 at 11:37 am , by

Here at the LHJ office, all it takes to get the entire staff assembled immediately in our mini-kitchen is an e-mail with a one-word subject line. Even the Health Ladies can’t resist one of those “TREATS!” messages. And why should we? There’s really no reason to resist, as long as you don’t go overboard. That’s why we would never, ever recommend you skip some of the best things about summer and possibly, the world: ice pops, frozen yogurt and ice cream!

Instead, we put together a list of delicious choices for healthier frozen desserts with the help of Rachel Berman, R.D., the director of nutrition at In general, you want to look for a product that has fewer than 250 calories, 20 grams of sugar and 5 grams of saturated fat per ½ cup serving, she says. Here are some that fit the bill.

Edy's Whole Fruit Bars

Picture 1 of 8

"Having a frozen fruit bar is the closest thing to guilt-free you can get," Berman says. These are only 80 calories a bar, and because they're made with real fruit, there's some nutrients in there, too.

Everything You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am , by

I hate to admit it, but I have a lot more in common with Tanning Bed Mom and Snooki than you might guess. They say confession is good for the soul, so I’ll just be honest: I am a recovering tanning addict.

When I was a teenager in Tampa, Florida, my friends and I tanned pretty much year round. We’d “lay out” at the first hint of summer, usually in March or earlier, and we devoted way too much time to tanning well into October and November. The Florida heat and humidity were stifling, but we would sweat through it—all in the pursuit of the perfect shade of golden brown. Of course, we got burned a lot, too.

Then tanning salons started popping up everywhere, promising the deepest tan in a lot less time, and we were hooked. Everyone did it. There weren’t any age restrictions yet, and it was a lot harder to burn in 20 minutes under the bulbs than it was in a few hours in the sun. We had no idea that those fake UVA rays from the beds were putting us at serious risk for skin cancer.

All these tan-obsessed memories came rushing back when I heard the news that melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—is on the rise, with women under 40 being the hardest hit. Between 1979 and 2009, melanoma incidence increased eightfold among young women. Many experts are attributing the increase to the popularity of tanning salons.

Thankfully, I’ve let go of my need to tan—the risks just aren’t worth it. Plus, summer is a lot more fun now that a) I don’t waste it just frying on a towel (boring!) and b) I don’t get awful burns anymore. As the long, sunny days of summer loom, here’s your essential guide to sun safety:

The Base Tan Myth
There is no such thing as a healthy tan, even for people who never burn. Besides causing wrinkles and age spots, about 65 percent of melanomas and 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with sun exposure, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.

What Happens During a Skin Check
If you’re like me, you’ve probably already done a little damage to your skin. Almost all of us have, which is why skin checks are so important. Check out the video of our health director Julie Bain getting a skin check with her dermatologist to see what it’s like, then schedule your own appointment every year.

Get the Most Out of Your Sunscreen
Grabbing a bottle of SPF 30 isn’t enough. To really protect yourself from sun damage, you need to know what’s in a product and how to apply it.

What It’s Like to Have Skin Cancer
Our health director Julie Bain knows a thing or two about skin cancer—she got her first one in her 20s and she’s had seven more removed since then. Yes, seven! Read her story here.

What Really Happens During Mohs Surgery
I used to think that if I ever got skin cancer, it’d be easy to just have it lopped off like a mole. Find out what really goes on during skin cancer surgery in our slideshow. It’s no piece of cake.

Great Sunless Tanning Products
Still craving a sun-kissed glow? Check out our roundup of the best sunless tanners.