Category Archives: Health

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Turn Down the Music!

headphones

-Marissa Tomko

If I had a nickel for every time I got a text that said, “I just screamed your name and you didn’t answer me,” I’d be very rich. As it stands though, I don’t have any nickels for the times that I am oblivious on account of the fact that I don’t have a nickel guy.

But that’s another story.

I can never hear anything happening around me when I’m on campus because I, like many other students, wander from class to class with my earbuds in and the volume up. Way up. I love my music loud no matter what I’m doing: working out, studying, lying on my bed pondering life; none of it seems right without blasting my ears out. I’ve always known it isn’t a good idea, but lately I’ve been wondering how not-good of an idea it is.

According to a study published in Time, around 16 percent of adults in the US have a hard time hearing people speak, and over 30 percent of people over twenty have lost some high-frequency hearing. Doctors believe that hearing loss is contributed to by an increased use of headphones.

But how loud is too loud? Time suggests that if you’re listening to your volume at 80 percent for an hour and a half during the day, you should be fine. They suggest that full volume should be listened to for only five minutes a day—that’s crazy!

Even though hearing loss is a concern for everyone, no two ears are the same. What is going to affect you one way is going to affect that woman on the treadmill next to you in a different way—some ears are just stronger than others. But it’s hard to know whose are weaker until after hearing loss has happened, according to Brian Fligor in Time.

I’m no audiologist, but if you ask me, being conservative is probably a safe bet here. So for those of you who like to pulse music into your ears (see what I did there?), let’s vow to take it down a notch! That way, when we’re 80-years-old (Unless you’re already 80, in which case shout out to you!) we will be able to hear the things our kids say about us behind our backs with full clarity!

Image by Brainsonic.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Spring Has Sprung – Contracting Spring Fever

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-Marissa Tomko

Someone just gave me a really weird look at a stoplight because I was screaming Luke Bryan at the top of my lungs in the car. Alone. It was the greatest moment of my life because it was sunny, warm, and beautiful, and I just wanted the whole world to share in that with me. I can’t help it though because I have come down with a severe case of spring fever!

Here in the rainy northwest, even the smallest bit of sunshine is a game changer. It takes over social media sites and brings students outdoors to bask in its rays. Classes are suddenly less full because everyone is out taking a “mental health day,” also known as a “lets go ride our bikes by the river” day. Fun in the sun takes priority, and no one seems to have an issue with their procrastinated assignments or unkempt houses. Everything is happy!

Even though the sun might be considered a novelty around here, there might be more to the fact that it makes us feel happy. According to the Huffington Post, a severe case of spring fever might be scientifically explicable. Unlike in the wintertime when we produce more melatonin and therefore sleep more, spring sunshine means less melatonin, causing you to feel more awake.

The rays don’t only mean less melatonin but also more serotonin, the chemical your body produces to put you in a better mood. I don’t know about you, but for me, being in a better mood means I’m more restless and more prone to celebrating the good weather as opposed to working in spite of it.

Word to all you fellow spring-fever-prone people out there though: just because the rain is gone does not mean that your responsibilities are too! Even though the memories you make on a beautiful day are important, so are your grades. Playing hard doesn’t come without working hard. Happy spring!

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Superfoods

-Marissa Tomko

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s superfood!

Alright, alright, that was a bad joke. But come on, you wouldn’t have been able to resist either! The Oxford English Dictionary defines superfood as “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being.” Basically, these foods are really high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols. These are all things that keep us feeling good in the short run, and reduce our risk of chronic disease in the long run.

I’ve already told you about five foods that aren’t so good for you, so in the spirit of keeping things balanced, here are five foods that you should be keeping around!

Blueberries

Blueberries have numerous health benefits, all of which blow my mind! I mean really, how can those tiny little morsels pack so much power? Blueberries are high in the antioxidants by the name of anthocyanidins. These help fight oxidation in your body that cause heart diseases, cancers, and macular degeneration.

Salmon

If you don’t like fish, then I don’t understand you. The best meal I ever had was this past summer, when my parents grilled the tastiest salmon I have ever laid my tongue on. Not only were they pleasing my taste buds by providing me with such a meal, but they were also helping me be healthy; sneaky move, mom and dad! In addition to providing your body with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can give you 58 percent of your daily protein intake. Salmon is heart healthy, and high in vitamins and minerals!

Avocado

Word on the street is that people avoid avocados because they think they are too high in fat. To the people on those streets, I urge you to turn down a different one! These fats are heart healthy, and come along with the benefits of antioxidants and vitamins (especially vitamin K). You know what I always say: an avocado a day provides you with your vitamin K!

Tea

Tea is great for when you’re sick or you want to appear classier. Especially of the green variety, this beverage is chock-full of antioxidants. Additionally, it boosts your metabolism with EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate), an antioxidant that reduces risk of cancer and other diseases. It can even benefit your bone density by way of your body absorbing catechins.

Oranges

In my research, this is the superfood that surprised me the most. Yes, I have always been aware that oranges are healthy; whenever I get sick, my mom blames it on low OJ intake. Oranges are most well known for having a lot of vitamin C, but they have also been credited with prevention of cancer, diabetes, and enhancing a healthy heart. By bringing some orange slices in a snack bag to school or work, you can revisit your grammar school days and enhance your health! One thing you won’t be able to do? Find a word that rhymes with this superfood. Sorry.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Cracked Out

 

-Marissa Tomko

There is some freaky stuff on the internet.

For instance, I think that most of you can relate to the moment in my early adolescence when I conducted an innocent Internet search, only to have something completely inappropriate come up. Yes, I may have become scarred for life. But since then, I’m not really surprised by all of the insane stuff the Internet has to offer. That is, until I found Jointcrackers, an online forum for people to tell the tales of their best joint cracks and to vent about their compulsive needs to perform them.

Joint cracking, specifically that of the knuckle variety, has been a habit of mine since I was twelve. I do it during tests, I do it when I go out, I even do it in my sleep. I live to crack and crack to live. I can’t explain it, it just feels right. The sound of it makes some of my friends cringe, but I don’t even notice it anymore. It’s like chirping birds or the sound of the ocean; just part of the fabric of my life!

I realize that I sound like an insane person. Such a realization leads me to wonder: why do some of us become so obsessed with releasing carbon dioxide from the synovial fluid in our joints, and what is it doing to us? And am I crazed enough that I should sign up for this nutty forum?

There are different reasons that people find joint manipulations to be so satisfying, but the most common theory lies in the idea that it offers a physical release of stress. Our friends over at Jointcrackers point to this reason, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and pain relief. Some say that they feel a pressure in their joints that can only be relieved by cracking, a sensation that some users feel may be purely psychological. Some Jointcrackers love the need to crack, while others are on the forum to find ways to ditch the habit.

Whether you are trying to quit or not, chances are you catch some flack when you crack. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve heard “That’s going to give you arthritis!” when I absentmindedly indulge in a pop or two. But good news for me, and possibly you! Studies cited in articles like this one at Discovery all say that there is no correlation between knuckle cracking and arthritis. However, the Washington Post says avid crackers should be wary of damaging ligaments and weakening their grips over time. These effects are far and few between, and can be helped by cutting back on the crack—if you can.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Shedding Light on SPF

-Marissa Tomko

I brush my teeth seven times a day. I consider salads to be a food group. I think nail care is very important, and I tell people about every little pain I feel just in case I randomly lapse into a coma and the doctors need to figure out what caused it.

That is just the beginning of the list of peculiar health obsessions that I picked up from my dad. But they’re not all weird. One actually important habit I picked up from my old man: compulsive sunscreen application.

The sun emits two types of rays that reach the earth: UVB and UVA. UVB, or ultraviolet B rays, are short wave rays that highly contribute to sunburns and skin cancers. Most sunblocks are used to protect you from UVB rays. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, this is because up until recently, it was thought that they are more dangerous than UVA rays. However, this is not the case. The CDC notes that UVA rays are the most common rays that warm the earth, and that they increase our chances of getting skin cancer. UVA rays are long wave rays that cause aging effects in the skin, such as wrinkles. It is also the main ray responsible for that golden tan so many of us long for, which over time, can cause skin cancer. Tanning salons use UVA emitting beds, and lounging in one ups your chances of getting melanoma by 75 percent after just one use—that’s pretty scary.

I know what you’re thinking—all of this ray knowledge makes you feel powerful. In fact, I know you’re reading this on your smart phone and are in the sunscreen aisle at the supermarket right now! But what kind of SPF do you buy? And what does SPF even mean?! I too, have asked these questions, and would love to shed some (sun)light on the answers.

SPF stands for sun protection factor. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sunscreens must have an SPF label, as dictated by the FDA. The SPF label tells you what percentage of UVB rays are being absorbed or deflected by the sunscreen inside. (Because of this, it is important to look for broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA rays.) The EPA recommends that you use an SPF of 15 or higher if you plan on being exposed to the sun for more than twenty minutes. SPF 15 protects you from ninety three percent of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 sunscreen will absorb or deflect ninety seven percent.

I don’t get serious very often. But when it comes to sun protection, I turn into a mom. (Love you mom!) No matter who you are or what color of skin you have, it is imperative that you cover up and protect yourself. I love a day in the water or a nap in the sun as much as the next guy, but I love my health more. So when you slip on your aviators for your next adventure, slather on some sunblock, and throw on a ball cap and a button up. Your old-age self will thank you.

The Chronicles of Zipfizz: One Woman’s Story

-Marissa Tomko

Zipfizz did me dirty.

This self-proclaimed “healthy energy mix” comes in powder form with the intent that the user mixes it with water to his or her desired dilution. It does not boast that its energy comes from caffeine—one serving only contains 100 mg, which is less than one-third of the caffeine found in a grande sized Starbucks blend. Instead, Zipfizz is proud of its all-natural mixture of vitamins, particularly the 41,667 percent recommended daily intake of B-12. Yes, you read that right: 41,667 percent. The mix is only ten calories (which I love) and is artificially sweetened (which I hate). Now that you’ve learned a little bit about this beverage, back to my story . . .

In the name of research, I decided to replace my habitual cup of afternoon coffee with this strange-sounding energy drink. After knocking back my grape-flavored concoction, I awaited the natural burst of energy that I was promised. While I was waiting, I fell asleep.

I rolled over, looked at my phone, and shot up into the air like a cat that just got hosed; I had exactly five minutes to make the quarter-of-an-hour journey to my meeting for this very publication. I pulled on some boots, swished around some mouthwash, and muzzily wandered to campus.

When I arrived, I gave an exasperated hello to my fellow Pulse writers, and collapsed into my seat. I was sad that Zipfizz hadn’t affected me; I wanted it to be my new thing because carrying around the vile that the powder came in made me feel really cool! If I could go back to that moment, I’d look myself in the eye and say “Oh my dear, sweet Marissa. You don’t know what you’re in for.”

The time came to meet with my fellow writers and our editor, so I stood up—that’s when it hit me. For lack of a better medical term, I felt high. My mind was airy, my arms were jittery, and every time I spoke I wanted to face-palm myself. As I giggled my way through my meeting, I pondered if this was a normal reaction to be having. After all, I’m not exactly the poster child for having an average amount of energy. Or sleep. Or caffeine. With these variables in mind, I did a little bit of research when I got home. After perusing the internet and texting some friends, I came to a conclusion that Zipfizz has about a thousand different effects, and no two people that I talked to had identical experiences.

Maybe I’m just crazy and my Zipfizz episode was all in my head. Or maybe I’m crazy for a different reason in that it makes me feel like I’m on pain killers—I don’t know. In any case, all I can say is if you want to know if this product works, try it! As for me, I’ll continue to run some Zipfizz experiments to see if the life of excessive B-12 is the life for me.

Don’t Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part III: Red Bull

-Marissa Tomko

If you follow “Don’t Worry, Be Healthy,” you’re probably well aware of the fact that I love caffeine. After all, you know what they say, you should write about what you know!

So far, I’ve talked about the way caffeine works and given a little bit of background on coffee. But what’s next you ask? Here’s a hint: it gives you wings.

If you’re not a college student, have never taken a long drive, or have never been into a 7-11, then maybe there’s a chance that my hint means nothing to you. But as for the rest of you, you know what I’m talking about—Red Bull.

I have been a fan of this beverage since I was a freshman, and in the past two and a half years, I’ve heard it all: “They’re full of sugar,” “You drink too much caffeine,” and “Did you know you don’t need that much taurine in your diet?” I am fully aware of all of these things, and my guess is that you are too. I could write about how energy drinks are bad for you, and list the negative health effects you may or may not experience when drinking them. But what I find to be more interesting is why we still drink them, despite what we know about them. It all comes down to one thing: killer advertising.

In my opinion, Red Bull has one of the most effective advertising campaigns out there. It doesn’t sell a drink; it sells a lifestyle. The brand appeals to the adventuring, extremist, free-spirited athlete in all of us. The Red Bull website has next to nothing to do with that skinny silver can that I love to drink from; it’s full of sports videos, action photography, and the latest remixes. Red Bull’s Twitter profile is slightly more geared toward the actual beverage, but its main purpose is still to sell a persona. The bio on the social media site reads: “Red Bull is the only Energy Drink that #GivesYouWings. Likes: F1, racing, skate, surf, snow, moto, BMX, MTB, X Games, wake, music, art, culture, gaming. Fun.” The feed is full of inspiring thoughts, crazy videos, and has snow-covered mountains as a background picture—that right there sold me!

I know, I know—you think I’m a sucker for advertising. And maybe I am. But this campaign does more than sell a product. It taps into the person inside of us that we love the most: the fun-loving, dancing, carefree one that we wish we could be all the time. Even though drinking a Red Bull doesn’t make that come true when we’re studying or driving home on the interstate, it is sure to remind us that that person is still there, and that the possibilities are endless.

The Meyers-Briggs Personality Test

-Brianna Huber

I’m an INFJ. What are you?

No idea what I’m talking about? No problem. Just head on over to the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

The MBTI is a personality test developed by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter, author Isabel Briggs Myers. The test uses theories developed by psychologist Carl Jung to classify people’s personality ‘type’ using a series of four dichotomies: extroversion (E) vs. introversion (I), sensing (S) vs. intuition (N), thinking (T) vs. feeling (F), and judging (J) vs. perception (P). The meanings of these terms in relation to the MBTI differ from their meanings in everyday use.

Introversion vs. Exroversion

Introverts are more inwardly focused on thoughts and ideas while extroverts are outwardly focused on people and objects. Introverts seek depth in their experiences, while extroverts seek breadth–e.g. an extrovert wants to learn many things, while an introvert wants to gain a thorough understanding of a particular topic. Extroverts gain energy from interaction with other people, while introverts need time alone to recharge.

Sensing vs. Intuition

These are two information-gathering (perceiving) functions. Individuals who fall into the “sensing” category tend to prefer solid facts and information that can be perceived with the five senses. People in the “intuition” side of the scale are more trusting of abstract and theoretical information that can be used to connect pieces of a bigger picture. “Sensing” folks are rooted in the present, while those who lean toward “intuition” are more likely to be looking toward the future and how current events might play out.

Thinking vs. Feeling

This is a dichotomy of decision-making (judging) functions. These functions are used to make decisions based on information gathered by a person’s “perceiving” function(s). “Thinking” individuals tend to use logic and look at a situation from a distance and come to a decision through detached rationality. “Feeling” individuals are more empathetic and want to experience a situation firsthand before making a decision about it. Thinkers operate based on rules and what makes sense, while feelers operate based on how pieces of a system fit together and what decision is likely to produce the most harmonious outcome.

Judging vs. Perceiving

According to the theories behind the MBTI, people have a preference toward either the sensing/intuition dichotomy or the thinking/feeling dichotomy when relating to the outside world. From what I understand, this dichotomy shows whether a person prefers to remain open and flexible to new information, or prefers to make clear decisions based on the information they obtain.

Based on the above information, if I am a INFJ type, that means I am inwardly focused and need to be alone to recharge rather than thrown into a social situation when low on energy (Introversion). I am comfortable with abstract concepts and making connections between events and bits of information (iNtuitive). I sympathize with others and prefer to experience a situation up close or firsthand before making decisions about it (Feeling), and I like to actively process and make decisions about information rather than take it in passively (Judging).

The two sides of any one dichotomy aren’t mutually exclusive. I also prefer to have concrete facts when I make decisions, and I try to remain open-minded and fairly objective when faced with new information if the situation calls for it, but the MBTI simply classifies me based on which side of the dichotomy I lean toward, even if it’s only slightly. On a more specific level, the version of the test linked at the beginning of this post rated me as having a 33 percent preference for introversion, a 25 percent preference toward intuition, a 50 percent lean toward feeling, and a 44 percent lean toward judging – in other words, I’m more strongly polarized on the latter two dichotomies than I am on the first two.

Once you have a Myers-Briggs type determined for yourself (I suggest taking several different tests to see which result you receive most consistently since the results can vary slightly) you can use it to determine what kind of job you might be happiest doing, who else you’re likely to be romantically compatible with based on their type, and it can also come in handy when explaining your personal modus operandi to others.

I think the test is really interesting and it’s fun to encounter people with my same type. Now that you’ve read what the MBTI is all about, go take the test yourself and come post your result in the comments.

Don’t Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part II: Coffee

-Marissa Tomko

There was one dark spot in my otherwise bright and sunny morning today—and I liked it. It sucked me in as I sleepily stumbled down my stairs toward its bitter lure, welcoming the way in which its steam burned my face. Black as night, I consumed it: my morning cup (or should I say pot) of coffee.

Legend has it that coffee was first discovered in the thirteenth century by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. As the story goes, he noticed that his goats were especially energetic after eating the berries that grew on a certain type of tree. He spread the news to the nearby monastery, where monks used the coffee berries to prolong their prayer time. While the credibility of this story is questioned, the origin of coffee can certainly be traced back to Ethiopia.

Since those spunky goats, coffee has become a profitable crop grown around the world in what is called the bean belt. It lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, with Hawaii being the only state in the US to grow the bitter bean. Be that as it may, the US has turned coffee into a $30 billion industry; CNBC estimates that our country drinks 400 million cups of coffee a day.

Mayo Clinic suggests that 200-300 milligrams of caffeine a day isn’t bad for you, but that drinking upwards of 500 milligrams is not healthy. To put that into more comprehensible terms, consider that a grande-sized coffee from Starbucks has 330 milligrams of caffeine. I don’t know about you, but when I do the math, I exceed my recommended dosage. In my defense though, I spread my intake throughout the day, save a recent work experience where I downed about 565 milligrams in twenty minutes. Needless to say I learned my lesson.

Coffee addicts often hear about the negative consequences of their habit: insomnia, anxiety, withdrawal headaches, and blood pressure spikes. But what about the positives? I will never forget the moment I read in a Newsweek article that claimed that women who drink four cups of coffee per day reduce their risk of becoming clinically depressed by 20 percent. Upon further investigation, I learned that those four cups also decrease my risk for liver cirrhosis by 80 percent, particularly alcoholic cirrhosis. While I drink alcohol responsibly, I interpreted this as a sign to drink my favorite caffeinated beverage with reckless abandon (thus my overdose in the workplace).

Sometimes you wake up smiling on the right side of the bed, and sometimes you don’t. In any case, I urge you to take a cue from those crazy Ethiopian goats, and kickstart your day with a fresh cup of joe.

Image by puuikibeach from http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/3299635718/

Don't Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part I

-Marissa Tomko

The list of things that I love more than caffeine consists of one item: my mom. If you aren’t her, then I’m sorry if that was harsh and unexpected. I guess I’m just at a point in my life where I’m honest about my priorities.

Unlike my mom, whom I’ve relied on since, well, forever, I’ve had a dependency on caffeine since I was 17 years old. Most of my sweatshirts are dribbled with coffee stains, and you can usually bet that the straggling Red Bull cans around my house after a night out are mine. In the past four years, I think I’ve gone a total of five days without caffeine, and when I think about them, all I can recall are screaming headaches, hostile moods, and a life of reclusion under my duvet.

I’ve always been aware that my addiction is unhealthy, but even the most disapproving conversation or accidental overdose during a long day at work hasn’t even slightly swayed me into thinking that I need to change. I have a healthy diet, I exercise regularly, and I don’t smoke. What more do you want from me?!

But even after hundreds upon hundreds of daily pick-me-ups, I still don’t really know how caffeine works or what it’s actually doing to me. That’s why I’ve decided to write a short series on the caffeinated beverages in my life. I want to know where they come from, what they consist of, and the different effects they cause. Will any alarming discoveries deter me from my ritualistic drinking? Probably not, but at least I’ll be an informed citizen.

In this introductory post, I’m just going to give a quick rundown on how caffeine works: Our bodies produce energy because of a chemical called adenosine. By connecting to phosphates in the body, it creates adenosine troposphere (ATP). When that molecular bond is broken, energy is released. When adenosine connects to its receptors in the brain, there aren’t any available to create ATP, and we get tired. When we ingest caffeine (the molecule shown above), it bonds with the receptors, thus forcing adenosine to hang around with phosphates, which boosts the energy in our bodies!

That’s not all though! Caffeine also effects the pituitary gland by telling it to emit the hormones that create adrenaline. This quickens your heart beat and causes you to feel kind of crazy and energized. The pituitary gland also produces dopamine when it senses caffeine, which is the chemical that makes us feel good and happy—I’ll drink to that!

Don’t be latte for my next installment on—you guessed it—coffee!