How healthy is your home? Let’s detox your dwelling.

There are so many environmental factors that contribute to our overall health. Have you given your home the once over for harmful chemicals recently? 

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have released an Environmental Wellness Toolkit so you can toss out the bad stuff, and make room for the good. Here’s how they suggest you “detox” your dwelling: 

  • Clean with “Safer Choice” or non-toxic products.
  • Dust using a damp rag.
  • Use a wet mop to clean floors.
  • Vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Open a window or use a fan to improve air circulation when you’re cleaning.
  • Have and maintain a good ventilation system in your home.
  • Wash your hands and your children’s hands often.​​

Did you know that so many everyday items contain endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with the body’s immune system and affect fertility or neurological function? You’ll find these chemicals in a wide range of products like facial moisturizer, dish soap, plastic bottles, detergents, pesticides and cosmetics. 

Next time you’re stocking up on household basics, or considering switching to pure beauty-style brands, flip over the product and read the smallprint. You’re looking to avoid the following ingredients: Phthalates: DBP, DEHP; Parabens: methyl, propyl, butyl, ethyl-parabens; Anolamine: DEA, TEA, MEA; Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): Aroclor, Askarel, Chlorextol; flame retardants Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): tetra-, penta-, Hexa-BDEs. 


One of our Nano researchers stopped by the local drugstore recently and asked sales staff to guide them around the store for healthier choices, checking labels as they went. It took a while, but they emerged with products that don’t break the bank and won’t wreck the body (or the environment). To get more information check out this guide from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Exploring the new Apple Watch Series 5 health and wellness features

Apple announced its new Apple Watch Series 5 on September 10. It boasts a few new updates, including an always-on retina display, premium case finishes and a built-in compass. 

However, the best new health and wellness features are in the latest WatchOS, which is included with the Series 5 Watch. The WatchOS 6 update is also currently available for Series 3 and 4 Watches, but you need to update your iPhone to iOS 13 first.

The first notable feature is the Noise app, which is only available on the Series 4 and 5. It enables you to view the decibel levels in your surroundings in real time and set up notifications to alert you when the levels are getting to the point where hearing could get damaged. Many of us at Nano are feeling especially grateful for this feature with the Austin City Limits musical festival just around the corner (now we can at least make a more informed decision about how close to the stage is really worth it). If you’re concerned about privacy issues, Apple has stated it will not record or save any audio.

Another long-awaited feature is for women only. The Cycle Tracking app allows women to track their monthly cycle, including flow level, symptoms and spotting. It can predict when your next period is due to begin and will notify you when it is approaching. The app also has the option to log fertility metrics like basal body temperature, and can notify you with fertile window predictions.

The new OS update also includes some great upgrades for the Apple Watch’s existing fitness- and health-tracking features. The Activity app on the iPhone will be able to track trends on your activity metrics over 90 days and compare them to the past year, including move, exercise, stand minutes, distance, cardio fitness (VO2 max), walking pace and running pace. The Workout app also has a new current elevation metric for Outdoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Cycle and Hiking workouts, which adds a helpful data point to any outdoor activity, and you’ll also be able to continuously view the Stopwatch app on your watch face during workouts.

It’s hurricane season – is your first aid kit ready for action?

At the time of writing, Hurricane Dorian is battering the East Coast and it got us thinking at Nano about disaster preparedness. Those of us who live in earthquake territories, or near high-risk fire areas, are always told to have a proper First Aid kit and an Emergency Plan. But how many of us do? Or even know what we’ll need when the worst happens? 

Luckily our friends at the Centers for Disease Control have compiled a great guide. So check out this list (and keep scrolling if you’re looking to trick out that First Aid Kit in your kitchen). 

What about the First Aid Kit you keep promising yourself to re-stock? Did you buy it a few years ago and kept plundering it for Band-Aids, so it’s somewhat depleted? 

We called our contacts at the American Red Cross and they sent us this link for their 115-piece kit which contains everything you’ll need for the usual cuts, scrapes, sprains, swelling and more. It also contains a quick First Aid reference guide in case the Wi-Fi goes down in a storm and you can’t reach Google. 

Want to build your own kit from scratch? Here’s a list of the basics to have on hand:  

  • aspirin
  • antibiotic ointment
  • antiseptic wipes
  • bandages
  • cold compress
  • emergency blanket
  • gloves (non-Latex)
  • scissors
  • tape 
  • thermometer
  • trauma and gauze pads
  • tweezers

Finally, make sure you, and your loved ones, have a proper plan. The Department of Homeland Security has a helpful document you can print out here. Don’t be overwhelmed. Scroll down past the information to page 6. There you can fill in the details of everything from ICE (in case of emergency numbers), evacuation location, utility company helplines, doctor’s emergency contact and medical insurance numbers. 

Print it out, put it on the fridge, scan in digital copies and make sure everyone in your family knows what to do in the event of a disaster.   

Be safe. Be healthy. Be prepared!

Navigating drug-free pain management options

Painkillers are useful medications for common discomforts like headaches or backaches, and their occasional use is fine. However, prolonged use of painkillers can cause an increase in tolerance to the drug, resulting in a need to increase the dosage. This is especially true for people who suffer from chronic pain.

According to a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 50 million adults in the United States live with chronic pain and 19.6 million live with high-impact chronic pain. Chronic pain has been linked to a dependence on painkillers, specifically opioids.

Depending on the location and severity of your pain, the following alternative treatments may be able to help you manage your pain drug-free. You can find additional information at The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Movement-Based Therapies

Activities like exercise, yoga and physical therapy can strengthen muscles, support joints, improve alignment and release endorphins.

Nutritional and Herbal Remedies

An anti-inflammatory diet and supplements can help ease chronic pain by boosting the body’s natural immunity, reducing pain-causing inflammation and soothing pain.

Mind-Body Medicine

Meditation, guided imagery, and biofeedback can help reduce stressful, pain-inducing emotions and focus attention on something other than physical pain.

Physical Manipulation

Massage, chiropractic manipulation, and osteopathy on areas with musculoskeletal pain can help restore mobility, improve circulation, decrease blood pressure and relieve stress.

Energy Healing

In Chinese medicine, chi is the electrical energy emitted by the body’s nervous system. Acupuncture, acupressure, and reiki can relax the body and mind, produce natural painkillers and activate natural pleasure centers.

It is important to remember that not every alternative therapy is right for everyone. When choosing an alternative treatment, remember to keep an open mind and explore different therapies. Additionally, work with your doctor to find a good balance between alternative and traditional medicine.

Could technology replace our doctors?

New technologies are empowering patients to easily manage their healthcare more and more each year, and doctors are beginning to adopt new tools to communicate with patients more efficiently and coordinate care with data from a variety of sources.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is continuously evolving and is becoming adept at performing clinical tasks, such as disease diagnosis and cancer screening, faster and more accurately than humans. As the algorithms improve, so will tools for technology-enabled care.

The question is – will AI shift from assisting physicians to replacing them?

In 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine predicted big data, combined with powerful algorithms, would transform the medical field. It also stated machine learning and AI will disrupt medicine by:

  • Improving the ability of health professionals to establish a prognosis
  • Displacing much of the work of radiologists and anatomical pathologists.
  • Improving diagnostic accuracy

The ability of AI to convert data into knowledge will soon enable people to screen themselves. A team at Stanford University developed an algorithm to diagnose skin cancer, using a database of about 130,000 skin lesion images from 2,000 different diseases. The team is working on moving the algorithm to mobile devices, making accurate cancer diagnoses available to patients outside a doctor’s office.

As algorithms continue to improve, medical professionals will adopt more AI technology to assist with diagnosis and treatment. 


Elliott Fishman, MD, professor of radiology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, believes machine learning will lead to improved patient care. “If you ask me who will benefit from AI, it’s the patients,” says Fishman. “That’s why I’m so excited. Better care for our patients. What can be better than that?”

Keep track of your medications for better care

It’s easy to miss a dose of a daily medication or take it at the wrong time. Taking medication can become such an autopilot activity that occasionally wonder whether you took your medication or just thought about taking it. For those who take more than one medication or are responsible for administering medications to others, the struggle is real.

Tracking your medications is especially important for those taking multiple prescription and over-the-counter medications. You can avoid potential side effects, dangerous drug interactions and running out of your prescriptions by getting organized and building a schedule. 

If you take only one medication, just setting an alarm on a mobile phone or smart watch can help you remember when it’s time to take it. A schedule can get complicated for those who take multiple medications, and the common pill box may not do the trick.

A physical checklist, like the printable worksheet from the National Institute on Aging, is one of the easiest methods for tracking your medications. Create a thorough medication record by including the following information:

  • Physical descriptions of pills, like shape and color
  • All names for a single medications, including brand and generic
  • Dosage times and specific requirements
  • How long to take medication and any refill dates

Tracking your medications is important for making sure you take the right medication at the right time – but it also helps you create a medication record, which is important for working with your doctors to manage your overall health. Apps like Nano can help you take tracking a step further by providing additional information, syncing across devices and creating a shareable version of your medication record to help you doctors make clearer, more informed decisions about your healthcare.

The ABCs of headaches

Almost everyone has experienced a headache at some point in his or her life. It is one of the most common medical complaints, but it can still be difficult to describe. The pain can be throbbing or squeezing and can span the whole head or be localized to one part of the face or skull.

Head pain can be classified into one of three types: Primary headaches, secondary headaches and the more rare cranial neuralgias or facial pain. 

Primary headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of primary headache. They are painful and can impact your daily activities. Over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can usually relieve sporadic tension headaches. However, if you experience chronic headaches, preventative medication may be required. 

Migraine headaches are a common type of primary headache affecting both children and adults. Treatment is focused on stopping symptoms and preventing future episodes. Pain relieving medications can be taken during migraine episodes, and preventative medications should be taken regularly to reduce the severity and frequency.

Cluster headaches are rare, commonly affect men in their late 20s or older, and recur daily. The pain from the first episode must be managed, and the subsequent headaches must be prevented. Some migraine medications, lidocaine and oxygen are common initial treatment options.

Secondary headaches

Secondary headaches are caused by underlying structural or infectious problems in the head or neck, including dental pain, sinus infections and more serious conditions like meningitis. Secondary headaches also include those associated with substance abuse, including hangover headaches. 

Preventing headaches depends on the type and severity of previous headaches. You can prevent some secondary headaches by avoiding their causes, like excessive drinking. For other types of headaches, you’ll need to keep track of symptoms, duration, severity and any possible triggers. As you track your headaches, a pattern will emerge, enabling you to avoid triggers and prevent future headaches.

Preventive care: the secret to staying healthy

Many of us only think of visiting our doctors when we feel ill – but prioritizing preventive care is actually one of those most critical things you can do for your lifelong health. Think of it like the routine maintenance your car needs to run smoothly and have a long lifespan. But instead of oil changes and tire rotations, your routine maintenance should include yearly check-ups, screenings for chronic diseases and updated immunizations.

Why is preventive care so important? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if everyone in the United States received the recommended clinical preventative care, more than 100,000 lives could be saved each year. 

Early screenings for diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease make treatments more successful and help lower the cost of long-term care. Preventive care also promotes healthy lifestyles through counseling on smoking, weight loss, healthy eating and reducing alcohol intake.

The following lists include some of the critical preventive care services available.

For everyone:

  • Immunizations
  • Depression screenings 
  • Obesity screenings and counseling 

For adults:

  • Blood pressure screenings 
  • Type 2 diabetes screenings 
  • Alcohol misuse screenings and counseling 
  • Diet counseling
  • HIV screenings and counseling

For women:

  • Breast cancer screenings
  • Contraception counseling
  • Cervical cancer screenings 
  • Check-ups for pregnant women
  • Counseling for nursing moms
  • Osteoporosis screening 

For children:

  • Well-baby and well-child exams
  • Vision and hearing screenings
  • Autism screenings at 18 and 24 months
  • Behavioral assessments
  • Developmental screenings

Most medical insurance providers cover 100% of preventive care, so budget does not need to be a barrier to routine health screenings for you and your family. 

For more information on the preventative care benefits, check with your insurance company or visit healthcare.gov.

Bacteria vs. virus – what’s the difference?

Bacterial illnesses and viral ones may make you feel equally bad, but knowing the distinctions between the two can be important for monitoring and understanding your health. 

Here’s the nutshell version:

  • Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms and can thrive in soil, plants, water, living and dead organisms, including humans. They reproduce independently through binary fission.
  • Viruses do not have a cellular structure, nor can they replicate outside host cells. They are pathogenic and can infect all living organisms, including bacteria.

Ok, neat – but how does this impact your health?

Some bacteria are beneficial to humans. However, we can contract bacterial infections a number of ways, including consuming contaminated food and contact with an infected person. Most bacterial infections like strep throat and sinus infections are easily treated with antibiotics. 

Viruses invade a host cell and reprogram it to reproduce the virus’s genetic structure. The host cell then bursts, releasing more copies of the virus that can attack other cells. This replication cycle is why it is very difficult to treat viral infections. Antiviral medications can help individuals infected with influenza or HIV. However, a typical viral infection must simply run its course.

What about the impact on public health?

Most people don’t understand the difference between bacterial and viral infections, so the unnecessary use of antibiotics has promoted the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate more than 2 million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, of which at least 23,000 die.

The takeaway? 

Bacterial and viral infections can have similar symptoms, but they are very different in terms of treatment. Always take precautions to avoid infection and consult your doctor before taking any medication.

Are you tracking your health? Here’s why you should.

Raise your hand if you are wearing a health or fitness tracker right now. These tiny, wearable computers are becoming more common and collect data on an array of things that matter to our health. 

If you’re not tracking your health, let’s talk about why you should – and what aspects of your health can be helpful to monitor. There are many factors that impact our bodies and overall health, so keeping a health journal can help you build a baseline and monitor changes over time.

Fitness

This one is a no brainer. A simple calendar can help you set goals, create a plan and keep yourself accountable. Additionally, your smartwatch or fitness tracker can help you stay motivated by monitoring your steps or logging that sweaty yoga class you like. A Harvard Medical School article on the subject notes that seeing your activity levels over time motivates you to keep building on your accomplishments – and that the added benefit of tracking your heart rate during exercise can help you keep track of the intensity of your workouts.

Mental health

The University of Rochester Medical Center suggests keeping a mood journal to check in with yourself daily. This can be as easy as jotting down a one-sentence review of your day. You can then use it in conjunction with your sleep and fitness tracking to identify triggers for stress, depression and anxiety.

Sleep

Most fitness trackers on the market have the ability to track your sleep and report on the number of hours you slept and when you woke up at night. If you want to change your sleep habits, keep a sleep diary and log information such as nighttime snacking and screen time.

Tracking your everyday activities can help you create a picture of your overall health. It also keeps you aware of your actions and choices, helps you stay motivated and keeps you accountable to your personal goals. 

What are you waiting for? Let’s get tracking!