Transgender Teen Wins DMV Lawsuit

Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in South Carolina will now be allowed to take license photos that reflect their everyday appearance, following a settlement announced this morning in a lawsuit filed by transgender teen Chase Culpepper.

The seventeen year old filed the federal lawsuit last September, accusing the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles of sex discrimination and violating her free speech. In the spring of 2014, she arrived at the DMV office in Anderson, S.C. wearing mascara and eye shadow, ready to take her driver’s license photo. She says department officials promptly told her she had to remove the cosmetics before taking the photo because they were a “disguise.” Culpepper, who now identifies as a transgender young woman but used male pronouns at the time, says she often wore makeup and women’s clothing.

Under the terms of the settlement, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles agreed to change its policy to allow people seeking drivers’ licenses to be photographed as they regularly present themselves, even if their appearance does not match the officials’ expectations of how the applicant should look. The department also promised to send Culpepper a written apology and train its employees in how to treat transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in professional settings. The changes to policy are scheduled to go into effect in May.

Family Fall Traditions

Fall is here and with it comes cooler temps and the changing colors of the leaves.  It’s a great time of year to introduce your children to seasonal fun they can look forward to every Fall season.  Here are a few family friendly fall activities you can make a tradition with your family.

~Visit your state park or reservation and hike the walking trails.  Pack a picnic lunch and have a fun and educational adventure.   As you explore the trails you can teach your child about nature and why the leaves change.  They can learn and burn off some energy while getting exercise with the family.  Teaching your children to enjoy exercise and learning at a young age can set the stage for healthy and productive habits they form in the future.

~Visit a local apple orchard if there is one in your area and pick your own apples. Many local farms offer special events for children that include hayrides, horse rides, and more.  Once you leave the farm, you can continue the fun by finding recipes to make with your apples.  Making some homemade applesauce or a fresh apple pie keeps the fun going and provides an extra special treat for your family.

~Head to your local pumpkin patch and pick out a few pumpkins.  Many farms have special events for kids with corn mazes, pony rides, petting zoos and other fall festivities.  You can teach your kids how pumpkins grow and then take them home to decorate for fall.

~Scavenger Hunts can be great outdoor fun for kids.  Make a list of things to find like pine cones or yellow leaves and head to the park or back-yard.  Share in the excitement as they find each item and discuss what you could do with these things (like make a craft project).

~Planning a Fall themed craft project at home can be a lot of fun.  Have the kids help rake the leaves in search for the “perfect” ones for their projects.  They’ll get exercise, learn how to be a helper and then get to make a fun craft with their find.  A five minute internet search will provide you with ideas and afterwards you can have fun decorating the house with the new decorations together.

~October is National Cookie Month and the only thing children like more than eating cookies is making them!  This can become a wonderful family tradition and you can choose a different cookie recipe to make each year or a special one that you only make this time of year.

~Camping out whether it’s in your backyard or in the living room, can be a fun event for the whole family.  Shut off the TV’s or ipads, grab some flashlights and take turns telling spooky stories.  Kids have wonderful imaginations so it’s great to see what they come up with and encourage them to be creative.

~Have a bonfire or light up the fire pit.  You can make s’mores or roast some hotdogs on sticks while enjoying some family time outside.

Parents are tasked with the tough job of helping to encourage and shape people into who they will become as adults.  Spending family time with your kids will help them have self-confidence as well as strengthen the family bond.  Whether you are on a budget or not, it doesn’t matter what you make together, what matters is the time spent together and the memories made.

Exploring Vascular Diseases Part II (Aneurysms)

Vascular disease is any condition that affects the circulatory system and ranges from diseases of your arteries, veins, and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation.  With every beat of our hearts, oxygen rich blood is pumped through blood vessels called the circulatory system to every part of the body.  Arteries carry blood away from the heart to the rest of our body while veins return it.  When any part of the circulatory system is weakened by disease, there is a loss or shortage of blood flow to various parts of the body which can lead to anything from pain in the legs to aneurysms or loss of limbs.  Seventy percent of all amputations are not due to diabetes or trauma but because of some form of vascular disease.  We’re going to explore the numerous conditions that fall under the category of vascular diseases, the effects, and causes and how to avoid or treat them.

An aneurysm can occur in the blood vessels of the heart (aortic) or the brain (cerebral) and is an abnormal bulge in the wall of a blood vessel.  They usually develop at branching points of arteries and are caused by constant pressure from blood flow. They often enlarge slowly and become weaker as they grow, just as a balloon becomes weaker as it stretches.  There are two types of aortic aneurysms; a thoracic aortic aneurysm (part of aorta in the chest) and an abdominal aortic aneurysm.  Aortic aneurysms most commonly occur in the aorta -the main blood vessel is leaving the heart.  Small aneurysms lead to an increased risk for atherosclerotic plaque (fat and calcium deposits) at the site of the aneurysm, an increase in the aneurysm size which will cause it to painfully press on other organs, a blood clot may form at the site and dislodge leading to stroke or heart attack and an aneurysm rupture; because the artery wall thins and is fragile at the site of an aneurysm and may burst under stress which can also be life threatening.  They may run in families, but people are rarely born with a predisposition for aneurysms.  They usually develop after the age of forty.

It is difficult to detect an aneurysm early since smaller aneurysms usually don’t have symptoms and smaller ones don’t generally pose a threat.  When an aneurysm grows and ruptures- it can become fatal.  Aortic aneurysms are more common in men and those over the age of 65.  They were the primary cause of 10,597 deaths in 2009.  Aortic aneurysms often cause no symptoms at all but if present, symptoms are a tearing pain in chest, abdomen, and/or middle of the back between the shoulder blades.  Thoracic aneurysms may cause shortness of breath, hoarseness, cough (due to pressure on the lungs and airways), and difficulty swallowing (pressure on the esophagus).  Rupture of an aneurysm can cause loss of consciousness, stroke, shock, or a heart attack.

Risk factors for aortic aneurysms include atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), high blood pressure, stress, excessive weight, local injury to the artery, smoking, aging and untreated syphilis.  Some congenital abnormalities can cause aortic aneurysms such as Marfan syndrome or bicuspid aortic valves which are present at birth and can cause weakness of the artery walls.

An estimated 6 million (1 in 50) people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm.  The annual rate of rupture is approximately 8 – 10 per 100,000 people or about 30,000 people in the United States.  There is a brain aneurysm rupturing every 18 minutes in the U.S.   Brain aneurysms are more common in women.  Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 40% of cases.  Of those who survive, about 66% suffer some permanent neurological deficit.

A brain aneurysm is usually located along the major arteries deep within brain structures.  Some aneurysms are due to infections, drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine that damage the brain’s blood vessels, or direct brain trauma from an accident.  They may be associated with other types of blood vessel disorders, such as fibromuscular dysplasia, cerebral arteritis or arterial dissection, but these are very unusual. As an aneurysm enlarges, it can produce headaches or localized pain. As it grows larger, it may produce pressure on the normal brain tissue or adjacent nerves.  This pressure can cause difficulty with vision, numbness or weakness of an arm or leg, difficulty with memory or speech and seizures.

Risk factors of developing a brain aneurysm include older age, high blood pressure, smoking, arteriosclerosis, drug abuse, particularly the use of cocaine or methamphetamines, stress, head injury, heavy alcohol consumption, certain blood infections and lower estrogen levels after menopause.

As with most diseases of the human body, eliminating risk factors will cut your chances of such diseases developing.  While you can’t control all risk factors for an aneurysm; lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, avoiding drug and heavy alcohol use and controlling high blood pressure will cut your risk.

Other ways to help prevent an aneurysm include maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise.  Many foods contain vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy and control stress.  Choose a diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and non-meat protein sources. Avoid excess fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. Eat smaller portions and consider eating several smaller meals throughout the day, rather than two or three big ones.  Maintaining good cardio health and doing some light strength training to maintain a healthy body weight.  Exercising at least 30 minutes every day will help you avoid an aneurysm or prevent one from rupturing.  Regular exercise is also a great stress reliever.

If you experience any symptoms of an aneurysm, seek medical care immediately.  If you have a family history of aneurysms, discuss regular screening with your doctor.

Dangers Of Vitamin Or Mineral Overdose Part I

Most people don’t realize there’s no real advantage to taking more than the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals and many don’t recognize there may be disadvantages. While the general theme of our blogs are about eating healthy and the vitamin and mineral content of specific foods, sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad for our health. Routinely getting an overload of vitamins and minerals can hurt you. It is very hard to overdo it from diet alone and rare when combining a healthy diet with a standard multivitamin but is not uncommon if you combine the one or both with other supplements. Let’s explore what is too much of some vitamins and minerals and why.

Vitamin C cannot be stored in our bodies so it’s rare to overdo it on this one but getting more than 2000 mg a day can be harmful. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 60 mg but too much on a regular basis can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, heartburn, headache, insomnia and kidney stones.

Iron can be stored and when consistently getting too much, it builds up in our organs causing severe medical conditions. The RDA for iron varies somewhat depending on age and whether you are pregnant but for most its 18 mg. Getting over 45 mg a day is very harmful to your health and can even cause death unless you suffer from anemia. The side effects come in stages and begin with irritability, lethargy, explosive abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting, which can sometimes contain blood. Late stage side effects consist of seizures, a decrease in blood sugar levels, fever and liver damage. Symptoms of liver damage can include bleeding and jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and white portion of the eyes. Too much iron may also cause scaring in the stomach and intestines, which can lead to a blockage in the digestive tract. Death usually occurs because of a buildup of iron in the heart, liver and endocrine glands, such as the pancreas.

Zinc is not stored in the body and the RDA for adults is between 8-11 mg. Too much can cause digestive upset, including diarrhea and abdominal pain. Very large doses of zinc — 225 milligrams in a single dose can also cause you to vomit. Too much zinc also interferes with your body’s ability to absorb copper from your diet and some antibiotic medications. If you take zinc supplements in the form of nasal spray, you might experience other side effects. High doses of nasal zinc can affect the nerves in your nose, causing anosmia — a loss of your sense of smell.

Vitamin A can be stored in the body making it easier to overdo it when you have some in reserves for when your body needs it. The RDA is between 700-900 micrograms or 2,300-3,000 IU. When too much is taken you can become sick and skin yellowing can occur. Children are more sensitive to an overdose and too much taken while pregnant can cause severe birth defects.

Selenium is stored in the body and the RDA is 55 micrograms. It is not recommended to take more than 200 micrograms daily. An overdose of selenium may cause bad breath, fever, nausea, and liver, kidney and heart problems. It also greatly increases your risk of skin cancer and diabetes. At high enough levels, selenium could cause death.

While a healthy, balanced diet and daily multivitamin is recommended, it’s important to know the risks of taking vitamin and mi

Health Benefits of Lemongrass

Lemongrass has long been widely used in Asian countries for its medicinal properties and also for cooking. It’s a tropical herb in no relation to lemons other than its strong lemon-like aroma and taste. While the aroma from the plant is widely used as a natural mosquito repellent, most in the US don’t enjoy the many other benefits of this fragrant and edible plant.

Lemongrass is packed with cancer preventing antioxidant power houses vitamin A and C. Vitamin A ensures a healthy immune system, healthy skin and healthy mucous membranes. It also promotes strong bones and teeth, promotes good vision, and healthy soft tissues.

Vitamin C is important for a healthy immune system, healthy skin, proper wound healing, regulating blood sugar levels and prevents the signs of aging. It also prevents cancer, lowers cholesterol, prevents heart attack and stroke, lowers risk of neurological disorders, improves blood flow and helps us better deal with stress.

Lemongrass also contains folic acid which plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including cell repair and maintenance, DNA synthesis, amino acid metabolism, and the formation of leukocytes and erythrocytes. It prevents birth defects, obesity and various cancers, including colon cancer, as well as preventing heart disease.

It also contains magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and manganese. Magnesium helps with the transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.

Zinc ensures a healthy immune system, prevents cancer, proper endocrine function and helps with maintaining proper hormone levels. It also supports a healthy reproductive system, improves cardiovascular health, prevents diabetes, boosts brain function and prevents depression.

The health benefits of copper include proper growth of the body, efficient utilization of iron, proper enzymatic reactions, as well as improved health of connective tissues, hair, and eyes. It’s also important for preventing premature aging, increasing energy production, regulating heart rhythm, balancing thyroid glands, reducing symptoms of arthritis, proper wound healing, increasing red blood cell formation, and reducing cholesterol.

Iron is important for carrying oxygen to blood cells, healthy skin, proper brain function and muscle health. Potassium helps regulate heart rhythm, maintain water balance within the body, lowers cholesterol and reduces blood pressure. Calcium promotes strong bones and teeth, helps with weight management, prevents cancer and promotes heart health. Manganese promotes healthy bones, bone metabolism, and helping to create essential enzymes for building bones. It’s also important for the formation of connective tissues, absorption of calcium, proper functioning of the thyroid gland and sex hormones, regulation of blood sugar level, and metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

It’s amazing that with all these benefits in one plant and yet it’s still not a popular staple in the average American diet.

Staying Healthy While Traveling

Whether you are flying or on a road trip, one thing no one wants to bring home with them is a cold. When traveling, you are prone to be in places with far more germs than you would be exposed to under normal circumstances. Here are some tips on staying healthy while traveling.

One of the biggest challenges of travel is protecting against colds and flus. Being on an airplane with a bunch of people coughing and sneezing or a rest stop is a great way to get sick. But frequent hand washing (or use of hand sanitizer) can make a real difference and help keep you well. Keep some hand sanitizer in your bag for those times when a faucet and soap aren’t available and try not to touch your face after touching any surfaces such as handrails and door knobs.

Eating healthy foods will give your body the necessary vitamins and nutrients it needs to keep your immune system running smoothly. Bring healthy snacks or purchase meals that will give your body a boost rather than greasy or preservative filled foods that will make your body feel sluggish.

Getting exercise will keep your body happy but can be a challenge while traveling. Hit the hotel fitness center for a quick walk on the treadmill. If you are traveling to a place with restaurants and attractions close by-choose to walk to your venue rather than drive or catch a cab. The less time you spend in areas with potential germs such as rental cars or cabs the less you are exposing yourself to.
Getting adequate rest is just as important as eating well and exercising. Our bodies need to recharge in order for our body systems to run at optimal levels and they can’t do that when we are short changing ourselves on sleep.

Be flexible because things don’t always go the way we want them to when traveling. Delayed or canceled flights to mix-ups at the hotel can put a damper on our plans. But rather than struggle against things that are beyond your control, why not use these unpredicted events as opportunities. During a flight delay, catch up on those phone calls you’ve been putting off, or write that email or blog post you’ve been procrastinating on. Stress bogs our body systems down by using more energy to combat the stress which leaves less energy for the rest to run smoothly.

Being prepared by keeping snacks with you instead of planning on eating at the airport or rest stop will help if plans don’t go smoothly. You can avoid getting over tired or shaky if your plans go awry by planning ahead with a few healthy snack choices that will give your body a boost and hold you over until you can get a full meal.

The last thing anyone wants to deal with while traveling is a cold so it’s better to plan ahead and make a conscious effort to keep yourself healthy rather than just hoping for the best. It’s never fun to suffer through a cold on the flight or ride home but it can be avoided with a little effort. Happy Travels!

Health Benefits of Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese is an extra-hard dairy product made from cow’s milk. Its sharp, nutty, slightly salty flavor is a popular accompaniment to Italian cuisine. It boasts an abundance of health benefits along with a wonderful flavor. It requires a long process of ageing so that the proteins in parmesan can be broken down into peptones, peptides and free amino acids, in effect the protein has been pre-digested; making the it readily available which puts very little strain on the metabolism.

Our bodies use protein to repair and maintain itself. A major part of your skin, muscles, organs, blood and glands, protein exists in every cell in your body. A 2-ounce serving of Parmesan cheese contains about 20.3 grams of protein, which is 41 percent of the daily value. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein also improves brain function, prevents disease, helps maintain blood pressure, improves cardiovascular health and improves sleep.

Parmesan cheese is also rich in calcium which is essential to your body’s proper growth and development. It prevents osteoporosis, is heart healthy, prevents cancer, helps with weight management and plays a crucial role in other bodily functions, such as nerve transmission and muscular function.

It’s also rich in Vitamin A which aids in good vision, particularly in low light. Sufficient vitamin A is also needed for healthy skin, teeth and body tissue. It also boosts our immune system health, prevents cancer, helps develop the nervous system, prevents signs of aging and keeps our reproductive systems running smoothly in males and females.

It contains phosphate which is essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates, and is widely distributed in cell membranes. It is also required for muscle contraction and the mineralization of your teeth and bones. A 30 gram serving will boost your phosphate intake by one third, and also provide you with a quality amount of calcium which is shown to regulate body fat storage.

Many people are instantly put off by the fat content of cheese. In fact those who love cheese totally ignore it, and those who are conscious about their weight believe that the benefits of cheese are outweighed by the fat content. It is important to be aware that fat is a fundamental part of nutrition. Muscular activity is dependent on fatty acids and, again, because of the changes that occur during the ageing of Parmesan, much of the fat is in the form of short chain fatty acids, these compounds are absorbed more easily and supply energy very quickly to the body; in fact, they are treated by the body in much the same way as glucosides.

Parmesan cheese has a lower fat content than most other cheeses and does pack a healthful punch of benefits to add to our diet.