Goodbye, Mold!

Goodbye, Mold!

Removing the moisture source is the first step in combatting mold. Photo source: UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County

Have you seen black, gray, white, or orange stains on your bathroom tile’s grout? Does it look slimy or cottony? Well, you guessed it—that’s mold. There are good molds – yogurts, cheeses, and antibiotics – and bad molds, like the kind that grows in the bathroom.

Mold and mildew refer to a fungus that flourishes in warm, humid, indoor environments. Florida’s heat and humidity supply the ideal habitat for molds of all kinds. Because mold reproduces by releasing spores into the air, mold can go undetected until it has grown into a colony, as in our grout example. Certain molds really are toxic, however, and not only cause health problems, but also damage building structures, furniture, books, and other items.

Health Impacts of Mold

Exposure occurs by touching mold or inhaling air containing its spores. Exposure may cause allergic symptoms and health problems, ranging from sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose to chronic sinus problems, nosebleeds, asthma, skin and/or eye irritation, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and even memory loss.

How to Prevent Mold

Mold is a part of nature and there is no way to keep it entirely at bay. However, we can limit its growth by keeping our house:

Cool – Keep the temperature below 77°F inside your home if you think mold might be an issue.

Dry – Keep the relative humidity below 60%. You can purchase an inexpensive humidity meter (hygrometer) from a hardware store.

  • Dry wet surfaces or items as soon as possible. Do not leave anything wet for more than 24 hours.
  • Wipe down shower walls with a window squeegee or towel right after showering.
  • Fix leaks.
  • Pull the shower curtain across the tub/stall to allow the curtain to dry.
  • Run the bathroom exhaust fan while you are showering and up to 15 minutes after you finish or open the bathroom window to allow moisture to escape.
  • If bath towels remain damp in your bathroom several hours after bathing, hang them in the garage or outside to dry. This reduces moisture in the bathroom and keeps towels from souring.

Clean – Keep your house clean to minimize nutrients for mold.

  • Wipe countertops to remove any food residue.
  • Refrigerate perishables. (This also reduces foodborne illness risk).
  • Clean bathrooms – pay special attention to the shower/tub area and sink to remove soap scum and dead skin cell residue that some molds feed on.
  • Change the air conditioner filter monthly.

Mold Removal

When you find mold inside your home, it means there is a moisture problem – leaky plumbing, a roof leak, or water entering around a window or door. Fix the source of the problem or mold will continue to be a problem. If you cannot find the source, if there has been a lot of water damage, or the moldy area is larger than 10 square feet (about a 3 ft. X 3 ft. square), it is recommended to get professional help.

To clean small areas, scrub the moldy surface with a solution of dishwashing or laundry detergent and water, or a mild solution of bleach and water. Wear waterproof gloves and protective goggles to protect your skin and eyes from direct contact with the mold. Wear an N-95 respirator (available at most hardware stores) to avoid inhaling the mold spores. After cleaning, dry the wet area thoroughly to prevent further mold growth.

For more information on controlling mold and mildew, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Resource: Keeping It Clean: Controlling Mildew

Source: “Keeping Your Home Healthy,” Taking Good Care of My Home, UF/IFAS Extension.

 

Exploring Your Health Indicators: Cholesterol

Exploring Your Health Indicators: Cholesterol

doctor speaking with a patient

Openly discuss the physician’s care plan and seek answers to questions.
(Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)

The American Heart Association notes that cholesterol is “not inherently bad” and continues by explaining how cholesterol is necessary to “build cells, make vitamins and other hormones.”

Cholesterol is not only derived from your dietary intake, what you eat, but also your liver makes cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol, low density lipoprotein or LDL and high density lipoprotein or HDL. The LDL or ‘lousy’ cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis, the build up of fat in the arteries. The HDL or ‘helpful’ cholesterol aids with removing the lousy cholesterol out of the arteries and taking it to the liver for it to be removed from the body.

Being proactive with one’s health and knowing your numbers, one can better maintain a higher quality of life and potentially suffer less infirmities.

Join us for the upcoming Exploring Your Health Indicators Webinar Series to gain knowledge of your blood tests results. The May 11 program will explore cholesterol. The May 25 program dives into inflammation and diseases. And the June 8 program will wrap the series with kidney and thyroid health indicators. Register once for all the sessions and if you miss a session, a recording of the program will be emailed to you. Invest an hour to gain knowledge that can greatly benefit your health.

Exploring Your Health Indicators     Registration:  https://tinyurl.com/zw28bt4z

Tuesday, April 27, 2021, 2-3 EST/1-2 CST – Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Tuesday, May 11, 2021, 2-3 EST/1-2 CST – Cholesterol

Tuesday, May 25, 2021, 2-3 EST/1-2 CST – Inflammation and Diseases

Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 2-3 EST/1-2 CST – Kidneys and Thyroid

Exploring Your Health Indicators: Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Exploring Your Health Indicators: Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

According to the American Diabetes Association, “the national cost of diabetes in the U.S. in 2017 was more than $327 billion, up from $245 billion in 2012.” Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates 7.3 million adults ages 18 and up are undiagnosed diabetics.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of medical conditions that include high triglycerides (a fat in the blood stream), low HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) also known as good cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abdominal obesity defined as a waist circumference of 35 inches of more for women and 40 inches or more for men. A person with three or more of these conditions constitutes metabolic syndrome and increases one’s chances for developing cardiovascular disease.
By being proactive with one’s health and knowing your numbers, one can better maintain a higher quality of life. Managing just one of the above in a healthy manner can aid greatly with improving one’s overall health.

Join us for the upcoming Exploring Your Health Indicators Webinar Series to gain knowledge of your blood test results. April 27 will cover diabetes and metabolic syndrome; May 11 will explore cholesterol; May 25 dives into inflammation and diseases; and June 8 will wrap up the series with kidney and thyroid. Register once for all the sessions and if you miss a session, a recording of the program will be emailed to you. Invest an hour to gain knowledge that can greatly benefit your health.

A State of Mind: Your Mental and Emotional Health

A State of Mind: Your Mental and Emotional Health

Have you thought about your mental and emotional health lately? If you haven’t, it’s a great time to take some time to invest in you. Emotional wellness is the ability to handle and overcome challenges and obstacles that we often must deal with in everyday life. It doesn’t mean you will always be happy, but you are aware of and in control of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions when you have negative feelings or setbacks. Research shows that emotional health is a skill. There are many ways to improve and maintain your emotional health so you can adapt to changes as they happen.

Tips for Emotional Wellness:

Spend time with loved ones to strengthen your relationship.
Photo credit: UF/IFAS

  1. Stay positive. Purposely develop a positive mindset and hold on to the positive emotions and appreciate the good times as long as you can. Focus on your outlook. Ask yourself: What gives me inner peace? What gives me purpose? Remember to forgive yourself and others for making mistakes.
  2. Reduce stress. Stress can push you to your limits. It can also motivate you with a rush of energy when needed. It is important to eliminate long-term stress, if possible, and strive for balance. Learn what relaxation techniques work best for you. Deep breathing, meditation, and exercise are healthy ways that could provide release. Set priorities and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.
  3. Take care of your physical health. Plan to eat healthy meals, get enough rest, and exercise. Your physical health directly relates to your mental health. There are so many things we want to fit into a day but there’s not always enough time. Establish set times to help keep you on track. Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol, and stimulants, especially late in day when it could affect your nighttime routine.
  4. Strengthen your relationships. Build strong connections with your partner, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. These social relationships help us to find purpose and meaning. Join a group focused on a favorite activity or hobby. Take a class and learn something new. Volunteer in your community and share positive habits with others. Others can have powerful effects on our health and link us to opportunity.
  5. Think before you act. Be aware of your emotions and reactions so you can harness them when you are triggered, or something is bothering you. Notice what makes you happy, sad, or mad, and take a few minutes to think before you address or try to change a situation. It’s okay to express your feelings to others and not keep everything within. We must be mindful of how it comes across or affects the other person. Take a walk or some deep breaths and allow yourself to process during a difficult time.

How you feel can affect your daily activities and relationships. People who have good mental health can still have mental illness, so remember to consult your doctor for ongoing concerns. There could be chemical imbalances that need the right kind of treatment. There are also counseling and support groups that can help when you need extra support. It’s up to you to start making healthy choices and taking control of your overall wellness. I hope you feel encouraged and take steps to develop resilience in the face of adversity. For more information on healthy living or other Extension-related topics, you can contact your Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Sources:

https://www.nih.gov/health-information/emotional-wellness-toolkit

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_mental_health

Sleep Well

Sleep Well

person sleeping on desk at work

No sleep at night, tired at work.
Photo Source: E. Mudge

Experiencing sleeplessness?  You’re not alone. Keep reading for things you can do to help you sleep well.

On average, Americans get less than seven hours of sleep a night. The hormone melatonin regulates the rhythms of our daily biological “clock,” which includes an optimum 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, there are oh so many, many things that inhibit that melatonin from doing its job correctly.

And when this rhythm breaks down, our overall health is at risk. Lack of proper sleep has been shown to increase risk for illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, as well as learning disabilities and mental illnesses like dementia.

So, what is keeping us from sleeping well?

Who has time to sleep?

There is so much work and fun to be done in a 24-hour day, that we often shelve sleep to lowest priority. “If I can get another hour’s worth of work done, I’ll catch up on sleep later” seems to be the modern mantra.

All those lights are great, but…

The bluer the light, the more it messes with our bodies’ cues to sleep. A candle flame with no blue light – no problem. Tablets and smart phones and televisions with lots of blue light can disrupt our sleep by about 60-95 minutes.

To sleep well, try some or all of these tips:

  • Make sleep a priority. Schedule it as part of your regular routine. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night.
  • Sleep with a night light that has a red light bulb. (Don’t put a red scarf over your lamp shade. This is a fire hazard.)
  • No caffeine after noon (from coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.).
  • Take a warm, soothing bath or shower within an hour of going to bed.
  • Try Epsom salts in the bath and calming lavender, sandalwood, or juniper scents in the bedroom.
  • Drink a cup of warm tea with valerian extract (a common ingredient in “sleepy” teas).
  • Set your thermostat to a cool 62° to 69° during sleep time.
  • Sleep on freshly laundered sheets.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least one hour prior to bedtime.
  • Stop eating at least two hours before bedtime.

Though it may seem like we need to go full speed ahead 24-7, we just can’t. And we should stop trying. We need good rest and sleep to help our body recuperate from the day.

So, try some or all of the techniques above to sleep well.  Let me know how it goes.  Zzzzzz.

For more information on sleep and your health, see what the CDC has to share  Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Your Pets Can Help Improve Your Health

Your Pets Can Help Improve Your Health

Did you know that over the past ten years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been a partner in research to determine the physical and mental benefits of having a pet? It turns out that pets not only steal our hearts, but they can contribute to better cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness to their owners. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Pets can also help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. This was helpful to many people suffering from loneliness during the pandemic. In fact, between March and July of 2020, there was a surge in pet adoptions and some shelters could not meet the demand. Since people had more free time, less socializing, and lots of alone time, many people found a pet was just what they needed to fill that void.

Black and Tan cat with green eyes

Cali, a tortoiseshell cat, posing to get attention.
Photo Source: Melanie Taylor

Although many of us are slowly returning to the normal stresses of daily life, a pet can still give us those same health benefits. Just think about it: on those stressful days with busy work schedules, running kids around town to their activities, etc., what’s better than being greeted at your door in the evening by a dog with a wagging tail or a cat’s purr as they snuggle with you? Of course, do not forget those unique pets, such as birds, bunnies, hedgehogs, reptiles, fish, and lots of other furry and scaly friends of ours.They all greet you in their own special way.

On a safety note, always remember pets can carry harmful germs that can make us sick even when the pet appears healthy. People with compromised immune systems and pregnant women should always take extra precautions when interacting with pets. Some tips on staying safe and healthy around your pets are to always wash your hands after handling your pets and be sure to maintain your pet’s health by regular visits to the veterinarian. Also, practice good pet hygiene by keeping pets out of the kitchen, cleaning their toys, beds, food, water/food bowls, etc., regularly sanitizing areas the pets frequent, and, of course, cleaning a cat’s litter box daily and picking up dog poop outside and disposing of it properly. When pets are added to your family, always teach your children how to properly interact with the animal(s). Small children should always be supervised when interacting with any pets.

Orange cat with toy

Sonny, a tabby cat, enjoying play time with his mouse toy.
Photo Source: Melanie Taylor

On a fun note, if you are a pet owner, you already celebrate your pet(s) everyday, but there is an annual day of celebration for our pets. National Pet Day is April 11, 2021. This is an extra special day to give your pet extra snuggles and maybe even an extra treat. Be sure to use this day to remember why your pet is so special to you and your family. Reminisce about your pet memories while giving him/her extra attention and maybe even share your special memories on social media. People love seeing pictures of pets. It makes everyone’s day brighter. Here are the top four ways people report making National Pet Day special for their pet, 1) I give my pet a special treat, 2) I tell my pet “I love you”, 3) I buy or make a special gift for my pet, and 4) I let my pet sleep in my bed with me. (https://nationaltoday.com/national-pet-day/)

So, be sure to remember your pet this National Pet Day in April.

To see the importance of pets in our lives and families be sure to check out the interesting insights below from surveys about people and their pets.

Interesting Insights about People and their Pets:

  • 95% of pet owners say their pets are part of the family.
  • 94% of families with an autistic child benefited from having a pet.
  • 67% of households in the United States have a pet. Americans spend approximately $75 billion a year on pet care and products.
  • 44% of people reported they would rather cuddle with their pet than their partner.
  • 22% of Americans are attracted to people who treat their pet like a family member.
  • 11% of Americans hang out with their pets (ex. watch TV, read books, etc.).
  • 10% of owners are allergic to their pets.
  • 10% of Americans consider their pet to be their best friend.
  • 10% of Americans talk to their pet in a special voice.
  • 10% of Americans carry on conversations with their pet.

As April approaches and spring weather arrives, be sure to get outside with your pets and enjoy some stress relief, feel the sunshine on your face, smell the fresh blooms, and take in the beauty of nature around you. It will provide positive health benefits for you and your pet as you take a long, relaxing walk together. If your pet is an indoor only pet, be sure to sit in the floor and play with your pet like you did when they were kittens, etc. They will love the extra time and closeness with you. No matter what type of pet you have, be sure to let them bring you happiness and relaxation, and you, in turn, can help them live their best pet lives possible.

Sources:

Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC):

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html

National Today:

https://nationaltoday.com/national-pet-day/

The Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/12/adoptions-dogs-coronavirus/